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see cellular telephonecellular telephone
or cellular radio,
telecommunications system in which a portable or mobile radio transmitter and receiver, or "cellphone," is linked via microwave radio frequencies to base transmitter and receiver stations that connect the user to a conventional
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(CELLular telePHONE) The first ubiquitous wireless telephone. Originally analog, all cellular systems today are digital, which has enabled the cellphone to turn into a handheld personal computer (see smartphone and cellphones vs. smartphones). A cellphone is also called a "mobile," "mobile phone," "handset" or "cell."

Introduced in the mid-1980s, cellphone sales exploded worldwide in the 1990s. By 2008, with three billion units in use, the cellphone became an addiction for many people, who would never leave their house without it (see nomophobia). By 2012, there were more than 300 million cellphone subscriptions (including smartphones) in the U.S. Although third-world countries adopted cellphones without ever having landlines, by 2016, half the homes in the U.S. relied only on cellular technology.

Major Carriers
In the U.S., the major cellular carriers are Verizon Wireless (formerly Bell Atlantic Mobile and Alltel), AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular), T-Mobile and Sprint (merger of Sprint and Nextel). The largest companies outside the U.S. are China Mobile, UK-based Vodafone and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NTT).

Cell Technology
Geographic areas are divided into a number of slightly overlapping circular "cells." Each cell contains a base station, which is identifiable by its transmitting and receiving antenna located on a tower at the top of a hill or building. The base stations connect to the landline telephone system of the country and to the Internet.

The multiple cells combined with low power transmitters allow the same frequencies to be reused with different conversations in different cells within the same city or locale. The primary digital cellphone technologies are LTE, GSM, CDMA and TDMA. See 3G, PCS, AMPS, LTE, GSM, CDMA, TDMA, WAP, feature phone, cellspace, cellular network extender, screaming cellphone and cordless phone.

The Cells
The cellular system uses multiple base stations to cover a geographic area. As the mobile phone user travels from cell to cell, the call is automatically "handed off" to the next station. The more cells, the greater number of customers can be handled at the same time, because the same frequencies are reused within each cell.

First Cellphone in U.S.
Introduced in 1983, this Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cost USD $3,995 and weighed two pounds. (Image courtesy of Motorola, Inc.)

Could They Have Imagined?
As Europeans began to use their new-fangled Ericsson phones in the late 1800s, could they have imagined today's smartphones? Photo taken at Antoni Gaudi's famous "La Pedrera" apartment house in Barcelona.

A Cellphone to Die For
This is an example of a "fantasy coffin" in the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. Popularized in the mid-1950s by Ghanaian artist Kane Kwei, each custom-crafted coffin was built to illustrate an important aspect of the deceased's life.
References in periodicals archive ?
Grab Hotline reached out to Simon and gave him the cellphone number of Yabut's operator, who is also his wife.
Brawley said if cellphone users are concerned about this data in animals they should wear an earpiece.
The outrageous advertising by cellphone companies is partially responsible for this.
Although final figures were not available at the time of this writing, the combination of the new technologies and targeted search initiative has already produced 226 cellphones, 522 cellphone chargers, 74 weapons, three Wi-Fi hotspots and 8.
This is while based on reports released in November, only 3 percent of cellphones on sale in Iranian shops are legal.
Using the cellphone when stopped in traffic or at a red light remains illegal; the car must be parked, police said.
The antenna delivered a power density equal to that measured at 39 meters from a local cellphone tower.
If the person is moving, the cellphone will emit a signal every few seconds to ensure that it is in contact with a cell tower or another network, depending on the distance travelled over a given time period.
Downloading and maintaining the app on their smartphone entitles the user to an automatic USD5 credit off their cellphone bill every 30 days.
Nearly 2 in 10 drivers reported taking pictures with their cellphone while driving.
Fearon's cellphone did not breach section 8 of the Charter.
Planes are equipped with devices-some past versions were dubbed "dirtboxes" by law-enforcement officials-that trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.