How Cell Phones Work

By: Marshall Brain, Jeff Tyson & Julia Layton

Cell-phone Towers

Cell phone towers come in many shapes and sizes.

A cell phone tower is typically a steel pole or lattice structure that rises hundreds of feet into the air.

Pictured here is a tower with three different cell phone providers riding on the same structure. If you look at the base of a tower, you can see provider equipment.


The box houses the radio transmitters and receivers that let the tower communicate with the phones. The radios connect with the antennae on the tower through a set of thick cables.

If you look closely, you will see that the tower and all of the cables and equipment at the base of the tower are heavily grounded.

One sure sign that multiple providers share a tower is a five-way latch on the gate. Any one of five people can unlock this gate to get in.

Like all consumer electronics, cell phones come with their share of problems. Next, we'll take a look at some of them.