The most common example of a cellular network is a mobile phone (cell phone) network. A mobile phone is a portable telephone which receives or makes calls through a cell site (base station), or transmitting tower. Radio waves are used to transfer signals to and from the cell phone. Large geographic areas (representing the coverage range of a service provider) are split up into smaller cells to deal with line-of-sight signal loss and the large number of active phones in an area. In cities, each cell site has a range of up to approximately ½ mile, while in rural areas, the range is approximately 5 miles. Many times in clear open areas, a user may receive signal from a cell 25 miles away. Each cell overlaps other cell sites. All of the cell sites are connected to cellular telephone exchanges "switches", which in turn connect to the public telephone network or another switch of the cellular company.
As the phone user moves from one cell area to another, the switch automatically commands the handset and a cell site with a stronger signal (reported by the handset) to go to a new radio channel (frequency). When the handset responds through the new cell site, the exchange switches the connection to the new cell site.