How do telephone mast have so many phones connected to them at once?

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A router will get slower the more devices connected to it but masts can handle 10’s of thousands of connections at once.

In: Technology

You mean like compared to the router in your home?

Cell towers, edge/core routers (the huge 6 figure routers used at your ISP), etc have a maximum capacity too, they’re just, of course, much higher than your $100 router at home, and the ISP/phone company hires engineers to try to make sure their equipment doesn’t exceeds a threshold where you’d notice it becoming slower.

There’s a few different reasons.

– There’s rarely “10s of thousands” of phones connecting to a single cell site. A single cell tower in an urban area covers about a 5 mile radius. While there might be 10,000 users in that radius, they’re not all going to have the same carrier so they won’t all be talking to the same tower. In the instances where there’s a whole lot of people in a concentrated area, like a sports arena, you’ll find cell service sucks shit.
– cell towers are not “a single radio transmitting in all directions”. Most cell sites have multiple antennas and multiple base radios. They’re usually arranged in a 120 degree sector arrangement. Look at a tower and you’ll usually see a triangular shaped antenna basket with 3 panel antennas on each side.
– bandwidth/channels. Your home router has a single channel allocated to it. A cell site has a lot more. Some channels are “control channels” that are low rate data just for the phones to register to and stay connected. When you get a phone call, the cell controller allocates you an additional channel for your phone call
– the protocol the phones use to talk to the tower is very ordered and structured. Each phone is given a time slot to transmit in, so phones don’t step on each other. Your home wireless system is very chatty and not as well ordered.