To understand why your community needs a wireless infrastructure upgrade, it's helpful to understand what's actually happening every time you pull out your wireless device.
Your phone or wireless device establishes a connection to a nearby cell site—even if you’re not using it. This could be a tower, a rooftop antenna, or small cell.
The voice, text, and data you send from your phone is converted to digital packets and transmitted through radio waves to the cell site.
An antenna at the cell site picks up the signal and routes it to nearby equipment that belongs to your wireless carrier.
A switch at the cell site then routes the signal to the carrier’s network through fiber optic cable.
Web and data traffic are routed through the Internet, while phone calls are routed through the publicly switched telephone network.
If it’s going to another cellular device, the encoded digital packets are routed to the site that’s currently connected to the destination device.
The process is then reversed with the signal going from the cell site to the destination device where the digital packets are decoded in a way that can be seen, read, or heard.
What's the difference between towers and small cells?
Both towers and small cells play an important role in delivering the wireless services you depend on. While they serve similar functions, they are also different in a few key ways.
While cell towers are more familiar and recognizable, small cells are easy to miss. They’re often attached to utility poles, signposts, or streetlights.
Because small cell nodes are lower powered and cover a relatively small geographic area compared to towers, they can be placed closer together.
Because small cells use multiple nodes, placed closer together, wireless users are more likely to get the direct line of sight connections that fast data speeds require.
A fiber-connected SCS network uses radio spectrum more efficiently—which increases capacity and allows it to accommodate more simultaneous connections.
My community already has a tower. Do we need small cells?
As screens get larger and smartphones become more capable, many of the online activities we used to do on computers are now being done on cellular-connected devices. We’re also adding tablets and wearable devices like smart watches to the mix—all demanding fast data speeds for streaming video, social media, gaming, and more. The best way for wireless carriers to keep up with all of this extra demand is through network densification—increasing capacity by creating new sectors and deploying more cell sites. By expanding our network of small cells, your carrier will be able to add more speed and capacity without interfering with the high-powered signal of the nearby tower. This all-of-the-above approach is called a heterogeneous network or HetNet.