How Cellular network connection works

How Cellular network connection works

Alright, so let’s talk about how cellular network connection works. This is one topic that is a bit long. I’ll try to exclude all of the technical mumbo jumbo and stick to the main process so that you can get a good grasp of how the system works.

This is a topic that in all honesty, I’ve been looking at for almost a month now. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do a video on as well, something hands on.

Read: From 1G to 5G, here’s a full history

What is a cellular network?

A cellular network is a connection of cell sites or base towers that enables wireless connectivity between smartphones and other devices.

Cell sites

Cell/base towers, network masts or more correctly, CELL SITES are everywhere. Without them, cellular networks wouldn’t work.

So where does the word cell come from? Why do we even call things that concern smartphone communication cellular?

It is something that I was thinking too until recently. As a graduate of physiology, the only cell or cells that I knew were biological cells found in plants and animals.

Later on, I got to find out about terror cells from books and movies. Some churches have cell fellowships. So the word cell seems to have multiple meanings.

But I’ll take us back to Biology. A cell is the basic unit of life. It’s also the same way that a cell is the basic unit of cellular communications.

Communication equipment are very expensive, so network providers looked for ways to arrange them to get the most efficiency out of them.


They did this by dividing geographical areas into hexagon shaped cells with each cell having it’s own cell tower. This is where the name “cellular” comes from.

How Cellular network connection works

These cell towers or cell sites are mostly connected to other cell towers using Optical Fibre Cables which are usually buried underground or even under the ocean floor. The OFC are how cell towers are able to communicate, not just with other cell towers but also with network operators.

Cell towers can also communicate wirelessly using microwaves thus eliminating the need for cables. These microwave connections are usually for close proximity communications as opposed to long distance communications.

How Cellular network connection works

With that out of the way, let’s get back to cellular communication. We can demonstrate how it works using a call.

How Cellular network connection works

Initiating a call

Now when you pick up your phone to make a call, your phone generates an electromagnetic wave that is sent to the nearest cell tower that you are connected to.

This is usually done by the SoC, which passes the instruction to the modems. The modems then push the instructions to the antennas on your phone which broadcasts the call as electromagnetic waves.

The nearest cell tower which your phone is connected to, picks up the electromagnetic waves from your phone and converts them into high frequency light pulses.

These light pulses are then sent to a big box at the bottom of the mast known as a transceiver box. This box processes the signal (light pulses) and sends it out into the optical cable fibres (OFC) underground.

Receiving the call

This light pulses should travel to the destination cell tower where your friend is located. The destination cell tower picks up the light pulses from the OFC and converts them to electromagnetic waves which it’ll radiate or spread into its cell area.

The phone of the recipient should hear those signals with the antennas and forward the information to the SoC. The SoC gives the phone the instructions to ring and pauses all other activities on the phone.

Ta-da! The phone should begin to ring.


Transmission of sound 

Let’s assume that our call recipient answers the call, when you speak into the phone, your voice will be picked up by the microphone and and converted into a digital format.

When we say digital, we’re talking about binary or 1s and 0s. Your voice in digital format will be converted again to electromagnetic waves.

The phone’s antenna will send these waves to the cell tower.

The cell tower would instantly convert it into light pulses and send via the underground optical fiber cable to the recipient’s cell tower.

The recipient’s cell tower would convert it back to electromagnetic waves and broadcast to his/her phone.

Their phone’s antenna would pick up the electromagnetic waves and convert it to digital and then audio sounds for them to hear.

All of these happens in fractions of a second. Faster than you touch your nose right now. No matter the position of your hands.

If the call recipient should say something, the process is repeated all over again.

Their phone’s mic catches their voice, converts the voice to digital and later electromagnetic waves. The waves are sent to their cell tower.

Their cell tower converts it to light pulses and sends it into the OFC which travels to your own cell tower and is broadcast to your phone and you hear their voice.

When you speak, the process repeats itself.

Read: Effects of poor network on phones

In conclusion

So you can see that cellular communications are not wireless as advertised. Not even in the slightest. They require wires or in this case optical fiber cables.

I remember the QKZ AK6 IEM review that I posted on YT and someone commented that we do not need wired accessories.

He went on to state that soon charging will be wireless so why should he get a wired IEM. I smiled. If only he knew that the entire world is connected with wires.


This is the our communication that carries calls, data, internet ,sms, emails, video etc. This is how it looks like.

If you’re very observant, you’ll have noticed labourers digging trenches along the road in your city to lay cables.This is especially when a network provider is rolling out a new network communication standard.

With that we’ve come to the end of this post, how cellular network connection works.

Next up, we’ll look at how does your cell tower know where to locate your friend?

Please leave comments, lemme where you got easily and where you don’t find clear.

To join our communities and keep the conversation going, check out the following:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *