Cellular Network vs. Satellite Communications

“If satellites exist, then why would mobile phone operators bother to install transceivers everywhere?” flat-Earthers asked this a lot.

The logic is that if using a satellite can get you a vast coverage area, then spending a lot of money and effort to install towers everywhere does not make any sense. Usually, they would follow-up and conclude that “satellites don’t exist.”

They are wrong. Satellites do exist, and there are good reasons why mobile phone communication utilizes cellular architecture.

A cellular network is divided into several cells. Each cell has a small range and serviced by a set of transceivers. The following are the reason for this arrangement.

First, a set of transceivers is allocated a frequency that is different from the neighboring cells. The same frequency can be reused in another, but not the adjacent cells. To illustrate this, we can divide the area to be serviced into hexagonal shaped cells like in the illustration, and it would only require four sets of frequencies to service unlimited users and area. Furthermore, users can utilize more of the bandwidth, allowing them to use a high-speed data connection, for example.

In the case of the satellite-based communication, a set of frequency must be divided to all the users in the service area of the satellite, and the amount of bandwidth available to a single user would have been tiny.

Second, the distance between transceivers and mobile phones is not far and thus does not require high power transmission. As a result, mobile phones do not need a lot of power and can be made very small.

Conversely, satellite phones require more power and are huge in comparison.

Third, a cell can be created inside obstructed locations, like inside buildings, or even underground. And a very dense area can be divided into smaller microcells to improve quality of service.

In contrast, satellite phones are only usable under the sky. Inside buildings, they are practically useless.