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What is a GSM Antenna?

Robert Grimmick
Robert Grimmick

A Global System for Mobile (GSM) antenna is a type of antenna commonly used in mobile phones and cell towers. Global System for Mobile Communications is the most common type of cellular network worldwide. The antenna in a GSM phone allows the device to communicate with another GSM antenna on a cell tower, which then relays the signal to another tower or to another cell phone. GSM service can be used on a number of radio frequencies, depending on the region and technology used. Many modern phones with GSM antennas support a variety of these frequencies so that they can be used while traveling.

Most modern mobile phones have an internal GSM antenna, usually contained in or near the bottom of the phone. Some older phones have an external pull-out antenna or a small bump of an antenna on the top of the phone. Both internal and external GSM antennas work in the same way.

SIM cards, which are used in GSM phones.
SIM cards, which are used in GSM phones.

Many smartphones have other antennas for additional technologies, such as wireless Internet connections. GSM also can be used to transfer data, for use in email or Web browsing on mobile phones. Many phones have a GSM antenna that is compatible with third-generation (3G) technology for much faster speeds.

Cell phone carriers use much larger antennas as part of their cell sites. These can be mounted high on a tower or structure. A cell phone often is within range of more than one cell site, and it selects one to use for a call or data transfer based on signal strength and congestion. Carriers sometimes will hide a large GSM antenna or disguise it to make it look more appealing.

A GSM antenna also can be found in a laptop, a netbook or a Universal Serial Bus (USB) device. In these cases, the antenna is meant only for data. It usually will use 3G technology to deliver quick wireless Internet service over a GSM network.

GSM antennas can relay signals between cell towers and cell phones.
GSM antennas can relay signals between cell towers and cell phones.

In areas with poor coverage, special devices are designed to increase or extend the cell phone signal, typically for more reliable indoor use. These devices, which can be called femtocells, microcells or GSM booster antennas, have larger antennas than those found on mobile phones but smaller than those of a traditional cell site. The device uses its larger antennas to reach distant cell towers, and it provides a strong signal to nearby phones that otherwise would receive a poor signal or no signal.

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Discussion Comments


This article has some excellent information, thanks so much for it.

I always wondered what happened to the antenna that used to be attached to every cell phone. I definitely remember the huge cell phones that were as big as your face when you held them up to your ear. The antennas on those phones were so flimsy. I must have broken at least two or three of them off my phones.

I always thought that technology had developed so much that antennas were no longer needed on cell phones. I never thought that manufactures had actually built the antennas into the phones.

Thinking that shows how little I actually know about cell phone technology. Thanks for schooling me! I will now go and surprise my husband on how much I have learned.


Reading this article reminds me of a childhood experience that I had, relating to GSM antennas.

I am a young adult, so I grew up in the era when mobile technology was rapidly developing. I remember riding in the car with my mom, and I asked her why a tree that I saw was so funny looking. She laughed a little, and told me that it was not a tree, but a cell phone antenna. She then said that it was disguised as a tree so that it would not be such an eye soar to the rest of the neighborhood.

I was fascinated by this. Afterwards, my siblings and I would play a game when riding in the car. Whoever could spot out the most fake trees during a car ride would win. Thinking back on it, it was actually a lot of fun!


Thanks for the good info. It reminds me to tell other readers that if they do more than casual surfing on the Web, they should make sure they get the best service and highest speed connection available for the phone.

I had an experience in which I had to use the phone quite often for business. I needed to log into secure accounts on the web and was unable to no matter how often I tried. I found out it was because I kept being timed out on some sites due to the delay in the signal while it was being passed around to get the best connection.

I often had the same problem with my laptop wireless connection. Now, most of my work of that nature is saved for the home and office computers.

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    • SIM cards, which are used in GSM phones.
      By: Scanrail
      SIM cards, which are used in GSM phones.
    • GSM antennas can relay signals between cell towers and cell phones.
      By: mdorottya
      GSM antennas can relay signals between cell towers and cell phones.
    • Most GSM antennas today include receivers and transmitters for both voice and data.
      By: fusolino
      Most GSM antennas today include receivers and transmitters for both voice and data.