We’d be lost today without our super-efficient network of base stations, which are responsible for transmitting data to and from your trusty smartphone. Some of these base stations are eyesores perched on top of buildings, while others are so cleverly hidden that you’d never know they’re there. Regardless of appearance, to work the most effectively most are positioned in a lofty location. Ranging from minute microcells to giant macrocells, these come in a range of shapes, sizes, and capabilities to provide coverage. It’s helpful to take a closer look at the basics of base station technology, along with upcoming trends, to understand how this service works.
What is a base station?
Every time you use your cell phone to make or receive calls, connect to the Internet, or send and receive texts, you’ll need to communicate with a network. The base station is the piece of equipment that enables this type of communication. Base stations connect mobile phone users by transmitting and receiving signals, to facilitate the flow of data over the network. Cell phone towers can reach heights of 15 km, with higher positioning allowing the station to cover a wider range.
Small cells are a growing trend in base station technology. They provide the provider with the ability to cover smaller ranges as needed, using less power in each station. This is particularly useful in urban areas, where there’s a high demand on the network that a larger macrocell wouldn’t be able to handle on its own without cutting out. Most operators use a combination of sizes to prevent this from happening. A user walking through a city may connect to a larger base station atop a hillside in more remote or open areas, then to a smaller base station that’s attached to the nearest traffic light when walking through more pedestrian-dense areas. This will depend on the city’s infrastructure as well as the networking needs.
A more efficient option
Along with reliability, efficiency is another big concern for network providers, who want to create base stations that use the least amount of power while providing the most seamless service. Some, like Nokia Networks, are looking at renewable power sources like solar or wind energy to power their mobile towers. Others are using lithium-ion batteries. The size of the base station, as well as its location, have an impact on its power needs, so alternative forms of energy are a trend along with the use of small cells.
The bottom line
The future of base stations and cellular service depends on a variety of factors. Efficiency, performance, and user needs all factor into this developing technology. When users are on the go, radio signals can drop off without an efficient network of base stations in place. Service can also drop if too many users are trying to access the same station at the same time. For this reason, technology keeps improving to fill these gaps in the network and ensure that users get the clearest, most reliable, and most efficient service possible.