Designed specifically for those with an interest in wireless telecommunications, CTIA SmartBrief is a FREE, daily e-mail newsletter. By providing the latest need-to-know news and information about all aspects of our industry, CTIA SmartBrief saves you time and keeps you smart.Sign up today!
How Wireless Works
A wireless phone is really a radio – a very sophisticated and versatile radio. Much like a walkie-talkie, a cell phone receives and sends radio waves. Those radio waves, travelling through spectrum, are used to transmit voice calls and data to your mobile device anywhere you are, anytime you want them. Mobile products and services are also used to improve efficiencies and effectiveness in a variety of other industries such as healthcare, education, transportation and energy.
Today’s wireless devices are actually miniature computers. Inside your wireless phone, there is a compact speaker, a microphone, a keyboard, a display screen and a powerful circuit board with microprocessors. When connected to a wireless network, this bundle of technologies allows you to make phone calls or exchange data with other phones and computers around the world. The components operate so efficiently that a lightweight battery can power your phone for days.
The Nuts and Bolts
Wireless networks operate on a grid that divides cities or regions into smaller cells. One cell might cover a few city blocks or up to 250 square miles, depending on the amount of network traffic a carrier anticipates in a given area. Every cell uses a set of radio frequencies or channels to provide service in its specific area. The power of these radios is controlled in order to meet federal safety standards and to limit the signal’s geographic range, which means the same frequencies can be reused in nearby cells. This lets many people to have conversations simultaneously in different cells throughout the city or region, even though they are on the same channel.
The number of users in a given area matters. The more people wanting to use their wireless devices, the more capacity is needed to provide service. That’s why more antennas are necessary in densely populated areas than in less populated rural settings.
Also, remember that wireless devices are radios and are ruled by the laws of physics. Trees, tall buildings, hilly terrain or bad weather can cause interference. Some dead spots also exist because cells vary in size and there might be slight gaps in coverage areas. Improving coverage requires adding antennas or relocating existing ones.Download the “Wireless in America” brochure
Last Updated: February 2011