Meaning of G, E, 2G, 3G, H, 4G in Mobile Internet Signal Bar

Gone are the days when mobile phones were used mainly for voice calls. Now mobile phones have become smart and millions of people are using Internet through their smartphones. In different countries, the quality and speed of mobile Internet differs depending upon the progress of telecom industry.

In your Android smartphone, the strength of mobile Internet signal is shown using alphabet letters like G, E, 2G, 3G, H and 4G near the signal bar. These symbols are visible right next to the signal strength indicator. Have you ever wondered about the meaning of these symbols / letters? Well, today I will tell you about the meaning of letters G, E, 2G, 3G, H and 4G in context of the mobile Internet.

SEE ALSO: Tips for saving mobile internet data

Following image shows the signal bar of a typical Windows based mobile phone. This article informs you about the icon number 2 —which denotes the type of mobile connectivity you’re getting:

Mobile symbols in the top bar of a Windows phone.
Mobile symbols in the top bar of a Windows phone.
Meaning of G in Mobile Signal

Letter G stands for GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). It indicates the slowest speed of Internet data transfer in your mobile phone. When you see G near your signal strength indicator, it is certain that your net connection is working at the slowest speed.

GPRS is considered to be the second generation (2G) mobile technology. It is the slowest and oldest among all mobile technologies. It is mainly good enough for sending text messages using apps like WhatsApp. Data rates in GPRS are between 56 and 114 kbit/second.

If your mobile signal is weak, you might get even slower speed on Internet. There are ways to boost mobile signal strength and thus the Internet speed.

Meaning of E in Mobile Signal

Letter E stands for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution). It is also called Enhanced GPRS. This technology lies somewhere in between 2G and 3G technology. So, some people refer to it as 2.5G.

Meaning of Mobile Signal Symbols and other indicators on your mobile phone screen.
Meaning of mobile signal symbols and other indicators on your mobile phone screen.

EDGE is faster than GPRS but still not good enough to browse the Internet. It takes lot of time in loading websites when your signal bar is showing E letter alongside. Typically EDGE provides a data rate of 400 kbit/second but in ideal conditions data rate of upto 1 Mbit/second can also be achieved.

This technology also lies somewhere in between 2G and 3G. Those who call GPRS as 2.5G, they refer EDGE as 2.75G.

Meaning of 3G in Mobile Signal

3G means the third generation of mobile telephone technology. It uses the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System and is based on GSM standards.

Typically 3G provides data transfer rates 384 kbit/second. But depending upon how it is implemented in various networks, the data rate can go upto 42 Mbits/second.

Usually 3G is faster than EDGE and you can easily browse websites and stream music.

Meaning of H in Mobile Signal

H stands for HSPA (High Speed Packet Access). It is an enhanced form of 3G technology. HSPA provides higher data transfer rates than the basic 3G.

Tabular comparison of data speeds offered by various generations of mobile technology.
Tabular comparison of data speeds offered by various generations of mobile technology. Image source .

Note: In the above comparison chart, all the data speeds are given in terms of bits (e.g. kilobits, megabits etc.) In order to get the speed in terms of bytes (e.g. kilobytes, megabytes etc.) you would need to divide the shown figures by 8. One byte = 8 bits. 

HSPA can provide peak data rates of up to 14 Mbit/s for downlink and 5.76 Mbit/s for uplink.

High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is a further enhanced version of HSPA. HSDPA supports download speed of up to 99.3 Mbit/s.

When you see letter H near the signal bar in your mobile phone, you can stream music and even YouTube videos without much interruption. But if you want to download a movie, it is going to take a very long time!

Meaning of H+ in Mobile Signal

This is enhanced HSPA. It is faster than basic HSPA (as explained above). Relatively speedier data transfer in H+ will make your video to download or stream much more smoothly.

At present, 4G technology is not very widely available. So, in most parts of the world, HSPA+ is the fastest speed you can get through mobile Internet.

Meaning of WCDMA

WCDMA is also a 3G technology. It stands for Wide-band Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA). Interestingly, this technology is actually used in the GSM systems. WCDMA in GSM increases the data transmission speed by using the air interface of CDMA. International Telecommunications Union has adopted WCDMA.

Meaning of 4G in Mobile Signal

If you see 4G near the signal bar in your mobile phone, you’re lucky! It means you’re using the fastest mobile Internet connection available on the globe at present.

4G is the fourth generation of mobile technology. It is also called LTE (Long Term Evolution). 4G connection works as good as a wi-fi connection of your home or office. With such a connection you can do everything on your mobile that you can do on your desktop.

Just to round it all up, the bars in signal indicator show the strength or quality of the signal you’re getting at your present location. Also, mobile phone makers often use a dull color (like gray) to show weak / absent signal and a bright color (like green and blue) to show good signal.

Tiny arrows in the signal bar show that the data transfer is taking place. The radar like icon shows the wi-fi connection.

I hope this information was useful for you. Please feel free to ask should you have any questions on this topic. I will be happy to try and help. Thank you for using TechWelkin.

100 thoughts on “Meaning of G, E, 2G, 3G, H, 4G in Mobile Internet Signal Bar”

  1. Hi there great article. But I would like to know why when sometimes I turn on my 4G enabled smartphone I automatically start with an E Yet after a couple of minutes it changes to H or H+. Yet sometimes this does not happen and have to restart my phone. I hope you can help

    1. Hi Matthew, it depends on how strong signal your phone is getting. Letters indicating mobile signal strength keep on changing according to the availability of signal at the point where phone is located.

  2. I am using moto g2 mobile.I have inserted 2 airtel sims and having 3g data balance in 2 sims.But when I turn on mobile data in sim1 I am getting H signal but when I am using in 2nd sim I am getting only E and not H.can u please explain me???

  3. I am using moto g2 mobile. I had 3g internet offer.when I turned on the mobile data I am getting only H and not H+.What is the reason??

  4. When I use MTNL 3G in my Samsung S3 phone, it is not getting H ie it is not working in 3G mode. When I change GSM mode it is working with E signal. Where as if I am using same sim in other phone I get 3G speed ie H. Can you tell me what may be the reason

  5. Thanks Lalit for the explanation about the “H” which this morning suddenly appeared by the signal strength icon on my moto G 2 nd mobile. Had no idea if it was a good or bad indicator. ?

  6. Very useful article. Thanks for the same.

    When we see the E or H or H+ etc sign on the mobile, who actually generates the signal / how is the signal generated?

    How to know that the speed at a particular time is actually E/H/H+ etc.

    There is always a difference between data counted by mobile and service provider. Is there any sure-shot way to count the data downloaded/uploaded?

    1. 1) Your mobile internet service provider generates the signal.
      2) E, H and H+ signs are there to give you an idea about connection speed.
      3) We don’t know how service providers calculate the data usage, so the possibility of difference in calculation will remain there.

  7. Thank you sir. It’s a very useful article about the mobile indicators. Thank you for providing this knowledge.

  8. Dear Lalit
    I have a 4G supporting phone and 3G connection. Getting h and h+ speed in my area. I have a doubt, if I will activate 2G plan in my 3G sim. what will be the data speed?

    1. Binoy, there are no fixed rules about getting a particular speed. Data speed depends on several factors and it varies from area to area. If you’re concerned about the actual speed you’ll get in your area, the best way is to ask a friend who is using the same plan. If that’s not possible, you can ask the mobile service provider.

    1. It’s a good question Rishi! In context of mobile Internet, the term “broadband” is basically a marketing term. In simple words, broadband means a high-capacity Internet link. We can not really say if 2G is broadband or 3G is broadband because it is all relative. 3G is “broadband” in comparison with 2G and 4G is “broadband” in comparison with 3G. Although Broadband has a technical meaning, but in connection with mobile Internet, it is mainly used as a marketing term.

  9. Thank you for this description. Please tell me whether I have understood correctly: Phones are nothing to do with 2G, 3G or 4G and to whichever Access we subscribe that will be indicated next to the Signal Strength!! or are the phones are designed only to receive 2G or 3G or 4G ?

    1. Phones are specifically designed to work with certain frequencies. You can not use 4G services on a phone which is just 3G enabled.

  10. Hi,
    You have shown that 4g (lte) download speed can go to the max of 100mbps but AirTel 4g is claiming a max of 42.2mbps. Are they fooling people or there is something wrong going on?

    1. Hi Arka,

      As mentioned in the article, 100mbps is the theoretical limit. It is just the upper limit, it does not mean that service providers will necessarily provide this speed under 4G. 4G will not go beyond 100mbps but it can stay below this limit.

  11. Dear Expert, I have a basic Nokia (Microsoft) handset which I want to use for talking and sending SMS only. However I see E on the screen, and my balance gets deducted on its own. It seems I am communicating on the internet, although I am not using applications like Facebook etc. Only once or twice I had done that out of curiosity. Is there a way to disable E from my handset. Thanks.

    1. You should turn off the mobile Internet on your phone. You’ll find option to do this in your phone’s settings. Also, because you don’t want to use it at all, you should call your cellular service provider and ask them to terminate the mobile Internet service.

  12. I am trying to get a stronger signal in my house, and am looking into booster. If I stand on my roof I get the edge network and a few bars of cell signal.
    my question is, with the correct booster set up, can I change the “E” to the “H+” I receive if I walk down the road a bit.

    1. First of all you must ensure that your cellular service provider is giving you 3G data connectivity. If you’re getting 2G, then EDGE is the best speed you will get most of the time.

  13. Thanks for the good information. I will share it with my friends. So far nobody know this much of information, good to see this.

  14. Hi Lalit

    Thanks for providing such important info. I only use the cell phone —but today I have the knowledge about the networks use. Such needful info. thanks

    I will share this article with everyone.

    1. No, phones are manufactured to support certain specifications. You would need a 3G enabled phone.

  15. I switched my network mode to WCDMA and I am able to connect to 3g network. But when I started data connection I am not able see any indicator sign (3G, H, H+). I have a working BSNL 3G plan.

  16. I have a 3G dual sim smart phone, both sim cards are of Vodafone.
    Now while one sim is perfectly working with 3g. The other sim card, when activated, shows only E. How to solve this?

    1. The most probable cause of this is that the second SIM perhaps has only 2G access. Contact Vodafone customer care. They can best explain the situation as it is their network.

  17. Sir, when i see on my phone symbol of G I am not able to call anyone and nobody is able to call me due to this G symbol. But sir when there is E symbol my phone works! What’s the problem sir? Give me solution.

    1. Dear Sazia, there is no connection between mobile Internet symbols (like G and E) with the voice calling capability. But if you’re facing such a problem, it must be connectivity issue in your area. Please speak with your service provider about it.

  18. I’ve a 4G mobile. I’ve already activated 3G but it only shows 2G. Can you please tell me what’s the problem.

    1. Senthil, you should contact your service provider for such problems. You get the kind of mobile Internet that your service provider gives you. It also depends on the connectivity infrastructure in your area.

  19. Thanks sir Best way to make understand. I wish blessings of Almighty shower on you

    1. You can not change a 3g phone into a 4g phone. In order to use 4g services, you would need to buy a 4g enabled mobile phone.

  20. my mobile is Asus Zenfone and network connection is Airtel. in my place 3G facility is available, but in my moblie when i switched to 3g the entire network will down. i couldn’t make any call at that time, showing no network. How can I fix this problem. i hope u can help me with this

    1. Yadu, such problems are very specific to your mobile Internet provider. You should call Airtel customer support.

  21. hello mr. lalit. i have a doubt related to 3g and 4g. i m going to buy a mobile phone having 4g facility. but phone specification shows sim 1 for 3g and sim 2 for 4g. My question is if i don’t have 4g signal then can i use 3g in sim 2 slot which was configured as 4 g. Or will it work for 4 g facility only. plz answer me on mail as well.

    1. 4g includes 3g capacity. So, 3g services should work if 4g signal is not available.

  22. Is it possible that i will do 4G recharge in H+ support 3G mobile phones. Because 21mbps hspa+ Mobile never give above speed in 3G plan so I only want to know that if I will recharging 4G plan in above phone so is it support that recharge.

    1. Hi Anit, you must have a 4G enabled phone to enjoy 4G data features. There is no point of going for a 4G plan while you use a 3G phone.

  23. hi lalit, many times my mobile network shows RH+ or RH. what is the meaning of this. Is ‘R’ stands for roaming? firstly i confirm u that i m not in roaming and using idea 3g

    1. Arshad, “R” indeed stands for Roaming in case of mobile signal. If you believe you are not on roaming and still you’re see the letter R next to H or H+ , then you should inform and clarify this with your service operator.

    2. Hello brother…I am also using idea..and i have same signal like u…Idea was tied-up with vodafone for 3G services on intra-circle roaming agreement…Check your network name while this signal will arrive..It will shows VodafoneIN|Idea….I hope u understand…Thank u

  24. hi,
    i would like to ask if you know how to connect smart phone to a HDMI tv. I have been wanting to play on my smart phone with the tv as my screen but don’t know how to make it happen. I am a little bit confuse of what cable to buy on the market.

    1. As I explained in the article, Letter E stands for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution).

  25. Hi. I always have 4G network when am outside. But when I was walking by a certain block, I was getting E signal. Then, back to 4G. Why happened that? What makes to change network? Thank you in advance for your reply.

    1. Hi Javi, as you roam around, your mobile phone comes in the range of different transmitting towers. These towers may have varying degrees of capacity. That is one of the main reasons why mobile Internet connection changes.

  26. Hi ! My phone shows H sign but still I get very low speed, I am not even able to use facebook properly. Can you please tell what is the reason for this?

    1. Hi Ravi, for such a problem, either you would need to speak with the mobile internet service provider or your phone’s manufacturers.

  27. Thanks for this information… But what do I do to make the edge and 3g on my blackberry screen get big like EDGE and 3G… Pls help me on this.

  28. very impressive information helped me to know abbreviations after having 3G &4G technology in Pakistan

  29. It is a great information Mr.Lalith. Iam using mobile phone since last 10 years, but today I get such an information.God bless you thank uuu

  30. GB Das Mohapatra

    Thank you a lot Mr. Lalit for such a detailed work out.Normally the service providers hide or give superfluous information due to some impracticable problem. Now you have clarified on the issue. Thank you again.

  31. Thank you so much for your help really so many people don't know about these issues great job you have done you really nice and better person for this society thank you so much

  32. The article is really informative. We use some of these terms on a daily basis and yet don't know what exactly it stands for or means. Thanks for sharing! :)

  33. So, if I have a 4G LTE phone and you’ve purchased a Metro PCS 4G unlimited, unllimited, “PERIOD” plan but have never seen anything but 3GH ever, even within a Metro PCS corporate store beneath their cell tower, it seems to me that Metro PCS is not living up to their advertised service. Is this true, or is there another explanation for this problem? Would I better off changing back to the less expensive 3G plan.

    1. Hi Jack! Indeed, if you’re not getting 4G service even when you’re in a well connected area, the service provider is not giving you what you’re paying for. Mobile signal strength may go down in some areas where connectivity is not that great. But if you’re standing right next to a mobile tower and still not getting 4G, it’s not worth it.

  34. i am using a 2g sim and am planning to buy a smartphone which uses 4g so can i still use my old 2g sim or do in need to get a new one

    1. Hathiram, contact your mobile service operator (like Airtel, Idea, Vodaphone etc.). To go from 2G to 3G, you don’t need to change the SIM card. But still confirm with your network operator.

  35. What does the ☆ mean, left on the signal indicator, and how can I remove it. Now my phone doesn’t play any ringtone anymore. because some stupid app. Don’t know which.

    1. Hi Will, this star symbol must be coming because of some app. If you are facing problems that you’re unable to solve, you can always format your mobile phone and set it back to factory settings.

  36. thanks for your information
    its very useful and i can find the answers of my questions in your topic

    have a good time!

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