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What Are Cellular Radio Networks & How Do They Work?

What Are Cellular Radio Networks & How Do They Work?

Posted by Dennis Findley on 6th Dec 2018

Introduction to Cellular Radio Networks

Cell phones have been a part of our lives for so many years—the very, very first cellular phone call was made all the way back in 1973. We’ve come such a long way.

Of course, it would be a couple of decades before they would achieve ubiquity in the ‘90s—but the fact remains that once upon a time, it would be a mark of insanity to be walking down a street seemingly talking to yourself. Today, it’s an extremely common sight.

That said, most people know only the extreme basics of cell phone communication: the cell phone connects to a cell site (also known as a cell tower) that’s within range and switches in real time to other cell towers as the user moves. But the rest of the knowledge remains somewhat elusive to the layperson.

In this article, we explore some of the different wireless radio technologies at work in cellular networks and cellular radio systems.

What is a Cellular Frequency?

Cellular radio networks make use of a frequency range known as UHF, or ultra high frequency. UHF extends from 300 MHz to 3 GHz, and is shared by a variety of terrestrial applications like Wi-Fi, over-the-air television, and Bluetooth.

Different cell phone technologies use different frequency bands. Frequencies used may also vary depending on carrier and international region.

Common Cellular Radio Network Buzzwords

As you try to understand how cellular technology works, you might run into a lot of acronyms and abbreviations. Here’s a list of definitions to help you understand all those terms.

  • LTE (Long Term Evolution)

    • LTE is the current standard for wireless mobile data communication and is what is often known today as 4G. Like UMTS, it was developed by 3GPP and is designed to be an upgrade over existing 3G infrastructure. LTE features up to 300mbps download speeds and has much less latency, or lag than 3G.
  • GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)

    • GSM is a set of standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe technologies for second generation (2G) digital cellular networks.
  • UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)

    • UTMS is a standard for mobile cellular communication which was developed by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) and is what is typically referred to as 3G. Throughout its various releases, UMTS has gotten progressively faster, starting with a maximum 384kbps rate with the original 1999 release, all the way to 42mbps with HSPA+ (Evolved High Speed Packet Access), sometimes known as 3.9G.
  • GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)

    • GRPS is a standard that complemented 2G networks by providing a channel for mobile data. Sometimes referred to as 2.5G, GPRS allows for limited Internet connectivity with data rates of 56-114 kbps. Due to this relatively slow data rate, most of the first widespread GPRS devices had WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browsers that allowed them to view limited versions of webpages. GPRS allows for implementation of MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), which allows users to send pictures, short video clips, audio clips, and much longer messages than SMS is capable of.
  • Multiplexing

    • Multiplexing refers to the technique of having several signals transmitted over a single channel, where a channel may be a wire, a fiber-optic cable, or, in the case of cellular technologies, a section of radio frequency.
  • CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)

    • CDMA is a type of multiplexing that allows several devices to transmit information over a single transmission channel. CDMA is implemented in mobile phone communication standards such as cdmaOne, CDMA2000 (the 3G evolution of cdmaOne) and WCDMA (the 3G standard used by GSM carriers). However, individually, these standards shouldn’t be described as CDMA in its entirety, but rather as different implementations of it.
  • TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access)

    • TDMA is a variant of the greater technology called time-division multiplexing. TDMA involves taking a frequency channel and dividing it into tiny time segments. Each of these segments is then assigned to a user, and then all the users transmit one after the other in their own allocated slots. TDMA is the multiplexing method of choice for 2G networks.
  • 5G (Fifth Cellular Generation)

    • 5G is the cellular communication generation of the future. As the fifth generation, this new portion of the radio frequency spectrum is expected to deliver huge benefits to latency and data speeds. Autonomous vehicles, medical industries, sports, and more are all limited by 4G LTE, and 5G opens a big opportunity for each of these and more. As 5G trials have been carried out the cellular providers are realizing that high frequency 5G cannot reach inside of buildings. This fault is one that is concerning but solvable by using a 5G compatible cellular signal booster or microcell.

What Cellular Frequencies Are Used in the U.S. and Canada?

When choosing a phone from an overseas manufacturer or a phone that is otherwise developed for the international market, it may be worth checking if its supported radio bands include those used by US and Canadian carriers.

Frequency Band 1900(PCS): AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro PCS in the U.S. Telcel, Telus, Rogers in Canada

Frequency Band 850(Cellular): AT&T, Verizon Wireless in U.S. Telcel, Telus, Rogers, TIGO in Canada.

Frequency Band 700(SMH): AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Canada in the future.

Frequency Band 1700(AWS): T-Mobile, Cincinnati Bell Wireless in the U.S. WIND Mobile, Mobilicity in Canada.

SureCall Cell Phone Signal Boosters

Whether you know how cellular networks work or not, it’s frustrating when your signal gets weak. The truth is that cellular networks aren’t any different from other radio frequencies—they can still be blocked by different materials, and they do have limited range. With SureCall cell phone signal boosters, you’ll be able to boost your signal in a variety of frequencies, most importantly those used by 3G and 4G networks in major carriers.

A bad signal at home is a problem that’s annoying at best, and harmful at worst. Check out our in-home cell signal boosters now and get your safe and reliable solution to signal loss.

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