I have an iPhone 7 which I bought directly from Apple, and my SIM contract is with Three here in the UK. I have been using this phone happily since September, I had noticed the mobile data connection flips between 3G and 4G which I thought little of at first. I figured 3G = HSPA/+ and 4G = LTE.

However, the other week I was with a friend in the US who had recently got a 7 plus. She is with AT&T and I noticed that her phone was most often displaying LTE as the connection type. I thought this was odd as I had never seen this on my own iPhone 7 and had presumed that 4G meant LTE. I did a little googling and found some discussions which claimed that on iOS the 4G mean HSPA+ and 3G means regular old 3G. In this case I was double confused as my carrier, Three, supposedly has a 4G LTE network and so I should see LTE from time to time.

I understand that Three does not have an LTE-Advanced network, only regular LTE. So is this perhaps the distinction and confusion? 4G = LTE and LTE = LTE-Advanced?

Could somebody perhaps clear up what is going on? Do I need to contact my carrier to change the network connection settings on my phone? If I can make use of the iPhone 7's faster mobile data tech then I would like to as I am a very heavy data user. The reason I went with Three was for their unlimited data tariff.


As requested by owlswipe. A photo showing Speedtest saying the network is "Three LTE" with the network icon at the top left saying "4G" which it did throughout the test. I am on 40th floor of a tower here so speeds aren't fantastic...

Speedtest shows "Three LTE"

  • Let me know if my answer solves your question or not; if not, leave a comment below it and I'll be happy to help more!
    – owlswipe
    Jan 21, 2017 at 18:30
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure the US is the only market where HSPA+ is referred to as “4G,” due to the marketing BS we had to endure during that transition. In the rest of the world, HSPA+ has a “3G” indicator and LTE is marked as “4G.”
    – user11633
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


Most carriers support LTE on just about any modern smartphone, including iPhones going back to the iPhone 5. Indeed, Three rolled out LTE back in 2014.

Your friend is correct that 4G (HSPA+) is not the same as LTE. In general, LTE has shorter range but enables significantly faster data speeds than plain old 4G (hence its name, Long Term Evolution).

To enable LTE, go to Settings -> Cellular Data Options -> Enable LTE and choose either Data Only or Voice and Data.

More information:

Edit: Based on OP's evidence, it seems that on 3 UK, LTE is referred to as 4G, so indeed the status bar will never show "LTE", just "4G", even while on a 4G-LTE network. As long as the speeds hold up to LTE-quality, you're probably getting LTE. This is likely a regional difference, determined by the language on your phone.

  • Thanks for your answer, but I have always had LTE Voice and Data enabled, and yet I have never seen my phone connect to the LTE network.
    – Luke
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:34
  • @Luke Huh. Can you check Three's signal map to make sure you're in an area where they have LTE coverage?
    – owlswipe
    Jan 23, 2017 at 12:08
  • yep, central London, totally covered.
    – Luke
    Jan 23, 2017 at 17:30
  • 1
    @Luke Indeed Apple does have different language settings for UK English vs US English, so this holds up. And given that your 4G speeds are so fast, it probably is LTE. I guess case closed! I'll amend my answer but you can make your own and accept that if you'd prefer.
    – owlswipe
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:20
  • 1
    @Luke I would be interested to see what would happen if you switched your phone's system language to US English, maybe it would start showing LTE.
    – owlswipe
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:23

This site is temporarily in read-only mode and not accepting new answers.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .