How mobile network functions

How do cell towers work?

Cell towers can be seen everywhere around us, but have you ever wondered how they actually work and what are they made from? If you were looking for some information about cell towers or cell sites, here is a guide we prepared for you with everything you need to know about these intriguing structures.

What is a cell tower/cell site?

A cell tower is a metallic structure where electric transmission equipment sends radio waves for telecommunication purposes. Thanks to the mounted antennas, the people in the surrounding area can use wireless communication devices. The types of equipment you can find on such a site are:

  • Transmitters
  • Recipients
  • Control electronics
  • Additional power sources

Cell towers are commonly set up by a tower building company or a wireless carrier. Not only do they enlarge their network coverage or capacity, but they also offer a better reception signal in that area for their customers. The objective of a cell tower is to assist the signal reception of cellular phones and other wireless communication devices such as our tablets, laptops, and radios.

Why do we need cell towers?

When you use your cell phone to make a call or anything that requires a connection to another device, it emits electromagnetic radio waves (radiofrequency or RF energy). After the radiofrequency is emitted, the antenna from the nearest cell site will receive the information. Thereafter, the antenna of the cell tower will both receive and transmit the signal from your cell phone to a shifting center which is a telephone exchange system for cell phones. This basically links your call to either another cell phone or to a telephone network. All of this can occur within only trifling seconds!

Cell sites are truly functional in transmitting a signal to our cell phones and other wireless devices. If you’re having a problem finding a signal for your mobile phone, you may need to check if any structures are blocking a cell site from your location.

The 5 elements of a cell site

Here are the 5 noticeable parts of a cell phone tower:

The Tower’s type

Monopole Tower: it is a single steel or concrete conduit tower. It is commonly not towering more than 50 meters high and requires only one foundation.

Guyed Tower: This tower foundation requires the greatest amount of land for its construction. Most of the radio and television towers are using Guyed towers. It has a straight shape connected by wires that support and anchor its structure. The latter is connected to the ground in all directions.

Stealth Tower: Stealth towers are normally required by councils and owners. These towers are more expensive to build up than the other types of cellphone towers because they need additional material to hide their appearance.

Lattice Tower (self-supporting tower): This type of tower is normally used in heavy loading conditions and offers the greatest adjustability.

The Equipment

Typically, the tenants who join their antennae to the cell site use transceivers and other supportive equipment founded in cabinets or shelters. The wireless carriers use highly safeguarded material to protect their equipment. Alternatively, some carriers settle outdoor cabinets on concrete pads while others use prefabricated equipment shelters.

The Antennas

There are multiple antennas linked to a cell site. Furthermore, they are commonly mounted on a head frame, and normally, you should be able to find at least 3 of them mounted on the tower. That said, some cell sites have up to fifteen antennas per carrier. Indeed, the number of antennas depends on:

  • Technology
  • Antenna performance
  • Coverage
  • Capacity required


Cell sites have utilities set up at the site so that they can be used by carriers. Each initial carrier not only gets to have a direct electrical run but also on-site phone service.


Each cell site will need an access point by carriers for both ongoing maintenance and initial installations.

What’s the range with each cell site?

When you see multiple cell sites stand near one another, you may wonder what could the range of each cell site be? The range of a cell tower is not a specific data and it may depend on some following details:

  • The height of the antenna on top of the surrounding topography
  • The density of the signal in usage
  • The rated power of the radio transmitter
  • The directional characteristics of the antenna organization on the area
  • The assimilation and repercussion of radio energy by buildings and greenery
  • The local geographical, laws, and weather conditions

What about obstruction between cell sites?

When there are enough cell sites to surround a wide area, the range of each tower will be arrayed which makes them overlap from or to other areas. This can avoid obstruction problems with other cell sites. Commonly, these constructions are assembled in areas with high population density or with the most potential users. Another useful fact is that when we’re traveling somewhere, our phones can switch from one cell site to the next during a conversation. It will naturally pick the strongest signal that is nearest to you.

There it is! With this guide, you’re now a cell tower pro and understand how cell sites work, what they consist of, as well as how important they are for everyone across the world. It’s crazy to think that these giant things are the reason we are able to communicate with our family and friends within seconds, no matter where we are.

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