There are more than 8.3 billion mobile phones in use today and its amazing how many people have no idea how they work. Technology can often seem like magic, but wireless communicate is far from magic, it is the result of decades of hard work from people around the world.
Whether you’re working in an office, traveling or relaxing at home, communication with your colleagues, relatives, and friends is now something we consider essential and during this post we explore what it takes to power that phone in your pocket to connect you with the world.
There’s no doubt the wholesale shift to mobile is on, with landlines quickly becoming outdated technology of the past. When my wife and I built out home about 4 years ago, we chose not to include a landline for a home phone, as we live on our mobiles and would get internet via FTTP. In many offices, the same conversation is happening across Australia and the globe as remote working was really forced upon us by Covid-19.
As we leave behind 2G, 3G and even 4G to focus on 5G and eventually 6G mobile networks, it is clear mobile connectivity is here to stay and only gets better over time, so its really time you knew how it all worked.
What’s Mobile Technology?
Mobile technology, also known as cellular technology, is a technology that goes where you go. It consists of portable communication gadgets, computing devices, and network technology connecting the communication and the computing gadgets.
In the strictest definition of the word, a mobile phone is a type of radiotelephone that transfers data through a network of masts linked to the main telephone public network. It’s a two-way wireless radio that consists of a radio receiver and a radio transmitter.
Here’s how mobile phones work.
Mobile Phones use wireless technology
Although they serve the same purpose, mobile phones and landlines work differently. Landlines are just like toys you can make by connecting two tins with a string. The words you speak or the sound you produce travel through a string or a wire connecting two devices. The difference between a mobile phone and a landline is that while a landline uses a wired connection to transfer sound, a mobile phone can receive and send calls without any wire connection. They work with the help of electromagnetic energy or radio waves that transit invisibly through space.
For a mobile phone to work, you need to have a mobile plan which includes mobile data as well as voice calls. There are many options from different carriers, but a prepaid plan is a popular option, to ensure you (or your kids) don’t go over their limit). It is also possible to get post-paid plans where you use data, then pay the bill at the end of the month.
How does Mobile Phone sound travels?
When you speak through a mobile phone, a microphone in the device converts your voice into electrical signals. These signals are then converted into data (a series of ones and zeros) which are then broadcast using radio waves, beamed out of the mobile phone through the mobile’s antenna. Mobile phones connect to radio mobile towers and often multiple at once. Using triangulation, they can determine which you are closest to and your radio waves travels through the air to the nearest mobile tower.
The mast receives the radio waves and transfers them onto its base station or radio receiver, which coordinates that activity inside the parts of the mobile phone network. From the radio wave receiver, the sound is routed onward to its destination.
How do Mobile Phone towers work?
Positioned high above the ground, often on top of buildings, are high-powered antennas. These receiving towers enable you to make and receive calls, send sms and mms messages and use mobile data. These towers are connected to telecommunications infrastructure on the ground, routing through the networks of telecommunication operators.
These cell towers are often elevated to increase the chance of the antennae receiving and transmitting the radio waves. Cell towers often transmit and receive signals from multiple angles, however that signal can be impacted by object between you and the tower, so while transmission is possible through the walls of buildings, due to the penetrating frequencies used, you can find yourself inside a concrete/steel structure that requires internal repeaters to boost the signal.
How do Cells work?
A mobile phone works under the cell principle and it communicates with the cell that has the strongest signal. The network operator divides a region into small areas(cells), and each area contains an antenna, base station, and mast. Each cell provides mobile network coverage for a specific region.
The topography and population distribution determine cell positioning and as we move into an era of high-speed, more directional 5G mmWave technology. More cells are installed in urban centers to cater to the high population than the low population in rural areas and in recent years we’ve seen big improvements to locations like sport stadiums that were frequently flooded when events were held.
Mobile phones often contain antennas that are capable of transmitting on multiple bands. An antenna works by converting electric signals to a radio wave transmitter or a receiver. An antenna is a metal designed to transmit and receive specific radio wave frequencies.
A mobile phone requires both the inbound signal and the outbound signal to function. The connectivity between a mobile phone and its cellular network is dependent on both signals. It’s also affected by other factors such as the nearest cell tower and the distance between the mobile phone and the nearest tower. A poor signal, commonly indicated by fewer bars on your phone, indicates signal interruption or a long distance between your phone and the cell tower.
The arrival of mobile phones over the past couple of decades and smartphones over the past decade +, has dramatically changed humanity forever. We now get to communicate in our personal and professional lives from basically anywhere on the planet.
Finally, mobile phone technology is here to stay, and it holds a lot of features to make our lives easier.