Wireless 101

What you need to know about wireless

Cellphones work by using radio waves, called spectrum, to send and receive calls, text messages, emails, videos, and more. Data is sent to a nearby tower or small cell, which then redirects it to the right carrier, location, and device.

The next generation of wireless—5G—promises to move data faster than ever before, enabling innovations limited only by our imagination.

Share your

Data travels over Spectrum

Infrastructure connects your data

Networks direct your data

Your data is received


Wireless networks operate on grids that divide cities or regions into smaller sections, which use a set of radio frequencies to provide service in specific areas.


Wireless antennas link wireless users to the internet, the local telephone network, or another wireless network. Traditional wireless cell (or macro) towers are typically tall structures (sometime up to 150 to 200 feet tall), often located along highways. Today, there are roughly 150,000 towers across the country that transmit your data, , texts, or phone calls.

Wireless providers are increasingly deploying smaller antennas—called small cells—to power 4G and 5G networks. Small cells are approximately the size of a backpack and installed on utility poles, streetlights, and the sides of buildings.

Small cells can transmit from a few feet to a little under a mile and are an important tool that providers are using to improve network performance. To handle growing mobile data demands, hundreds of thousands of small cells will need to be installed in the next few years.


Data travels over spectrum, which allows your wireless device to send and receive information instantly. The more advanced functionality of modern phones, such as streaming music and videos, and downloading apps, in combination with the high demand for wireless services, requires larger amounts of spectrum to transport information than what’s needed for voice calls alone.


ACTwireless believes that ALL American consumers should have equal access to affordable wireless communication in today’s rapidly-evolving marketplace.

Today, we benefit from wireless services like ride-sharing apps and video calling. But these groundbreaking innovations also have a major impact on the accessibility community. Apps are helping break down barriers for the hard of hearing and deaf communities with innovative solutions like connecting to hearing aids to offer further assistance.

Ride-hailing apps make travel a more independent and safe experience for low-vision and blind individuals. Video calling makes it possible for deaf individuals to communicate with sign language. Other apps can offer real-time speed to text during conversations, or provide captioning services for hard-of-hearing individuals during events, like Broadway shows.

To encourage the developments of new accessibility services and products, we support a positive regulatory environment, which is crucial to ushering in next-generation wireless—5G.

Related Blogs