The world in which we live in is connected from hemisphere to hemisphere by an invisible web of constantly flowing information that we can neither touch nor see. It is thanks to this web that we can communicate with people half a world away and access an infinite library of knowledge in the palm of our hands. I’m talking of course about the Internet.
The Internet as we know it is partly held together by a backbone of hundreds of thousands of cell towers, serving as hubs of wireless data transmission spread across the landscape of our cities and countrysides. Cell towers are giant antennas that transmit cellular data from service providers to cell phone users, allowing wireless access to the internet from any mobile data-capable device.
While almost all of us own and use cell phones, most of us don’t think or know much about the cell phone towers that enable our untethered data use, silently standing guard from miles away. Here are 5 interesting facts about cell phone towers that may surprise you:
1. There are more than 308,000 cell towers in the U.S. alone.
Cell towers have become a ubiquitous presence not just in the U.S., but all around the world. Often hidden or camouflaged for the aesthetic pleasure of passersby, cell towers are usually shared by multiple service providers. Worldwide, there are more than 4 million towers providing service to the 4.68 billion cell phone users on earth.
2. There are cell towers in Antarctica
Antarctica has its own intracontinental cellular network, connected to the rest of the world by satellite. Even if that satellite link were to go down, the continent’s cell towers would still allow for local calls to go through.
3. Concealed towers exist that reduce the eyesore of conventional towers
Some residential or commercial areas don’t like the idea of having a cellular behemoth crowding their backyards and have passed zoning regulations prohibiting these bulky eyesores. It’s for this reason that camouflaged cell towers have been developed. They are often constructed to look like trees, street lamps, chimneys or even modern art.
4. Cell towers can triangulate a device’s location
A mobile device’s precise location can be calculated as long as it is connected to at least 3 cell towers. An approximate location can be inferred as long as a device is connected to at least 2 towers.
5. False cell towers are being used by law enforcement agencies
Technology that mimics cell towers is being sold to law enforcement agencies that allows them to set up false towers at key locations. These towers trick cell phones into connecting to them instead of to real towers, allowing for device data to be harvested en mass.