eli5 How does Cell service work


Like what is it exactly and how does it connect to the internet, etc

In: 7

All around the landscape are broadcast towers with antennas on them that [look like this](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Cell-Tower.jpg). The telltale sign is that triangular shape with the vertical slats on all three sides. Look around your neighborhood and try to spot one. If you get good cell service, there’s guaranteed to be one close by!

These towers use those funky antennas to send pulses of light out in all directions. These pulses are in the microwave range, so they’re a little more energetic than typical radio waves, but still way too low frequency to be visible to your eye.

Your phone has an antenna inside that can be stimulated by these microwave pulses, allowing it to “hear” the tower and decode its messages. It is then able to use its own antenna to “shout” a reply back to the tower. Shouting back at the closest tower, which could be several kilometers away, loud enough for it to hear from such a tiny device as your cell phone is very power intensive, which is why using mobile data drains your battery so quickly compared to turning it off.

How does it connect you to the Internet? The tower will either have a direct wired connection to the Internet, or it will have a connection back to the mobile carrier’s local headquarters which is then connected to the Internet. Since your phone and the tower can send basically any data between them that they want, the tower can share its Internet connection with you by taking the data your phone shouts at it and forwarding that data to the Internet, and forwarding back all of the replies. The end result is something kind of like Wi-Fi, except the tower is WAY bigger and way more powerful, so the signal extends across entire neighborhoods instead of just through a couple rooms of your house.

It’s like wifi, except the router is a tower and it uses different frequencies to communicate through the air.