How GPS Works in a Mobile Phone

GPS is one of the latest and most innovative developments in the world of communications.  Due to the nature of the technology, which thrives off radio signals delivered by a network of satellites orbiting the earth, it is easily able to extend its functionality to mobile phones as they work in similar fashion with cell phone towers.

Many of the cell phones today have GPS capabilities that allow them to perform a wide range of useful functions.  Connecting with emergency response teams, location tracking and navigation are just some of the abilities cell phone owners enjoy.

From Space to Your Phone

Navigation systems in general are supported by the aforementioned constellation of satellites.  24 hours a day, 365 days a year, these satellites are orbiting the earth in cyclic patterns.  A minimum of four satellites are accessible to any single point on the earth at any given time, which enables them to start tracking the device.  Once the device has been activated, the satellite signals are automatically transmitted.

The exact location of your cell phone is determined through a process known as trilateration, in which three satellites work collectively to narrow down location points.  During this process, a fourth satellite compiles the information and determines a match.  Distance calculations are based on how long it takes the signals to travel between the satellite and GPS receiver.

Mapping capabilities are then displayed on your screen via the cell phone network’s database.  The accuracy of these maps will all depend on how frequently your provider makes updates to its database.

Improved Accuracy through Your Mobile Phone

In order for any GPS unit to function properly, there must be a clear line of sight between the sky and the receiver.  Because this is not always possible, it is very common to receive inaccurate readings or no signal information at all on a sat nav device.  Using your GPS-enabled cell phone in a building, near a tall building or in the obstruction of trees may result in these signal problems.

To achieve better results, many of the newer cell phones rely on Assisted GPS, as this enhanced technology uses a cellular network’s assistance server in addition to the satellites.  Using cell towers, the phone relays satellite data to the server.  Because the server has the ability to process incoming data at higher rates than sat nav receivers, the information is transmitted faster, which often results in better accuracy than what the device could achieve on its own.

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