Do Cellphones Have Built-in Modems?

Do Cellphones Have Built-in Modems?

We are in an age where we use our mobile phones for various purposes, such as connecting to the internet. But because not all of us have great mobile data plans, some use only one device as a mobile internet hotspot and then allow many different devices to connect to it. This procedure is usually the case when people are on the go or when they are traveling. So, that is when the question arises, do Cellphones Have Built-in Modems? 

Cellphones do have built-in modems, but they are not usually called modems. Instead, they are usually called Baseband Processors or Radios that can communicate with other devices through radio frequencies to connect to the internet via the phone’s mobile data capabilities.

With how the world is now trending towards the mobile age, there is a need for our Smartphones to have amazing mobile internet capabilities. They can easily connect to the internet while allowing other devices to connect as well. That’s why cellphones have modems and can allow other devices to connect to the internet through them by using mobile Tethering or a Mobile Hotspot.

Always Stay Connected With Your Mobile Device

Always Stay Connected With Your Mobile Device
Always Stay Connected With Your Mobile Device

In the age we live in, there is a need for us almost always to stay connected to the internet in some way because a lot of what we do regularly relies on it, including IoT. While we are online at home or in the office, there is almost always a need to also stay connected on the go, in the car, or are simply outside any area with a Wi-Fi network.

Not everyone has a superior mobile cellular data plan or has enough data allocation to connect to the internet at all times. As such, if we have a cellphone and it has unlimited data, we can use that device to connect to the internet with all of our other devices.

Wi-Fi networks are now very common wherever we go today, considering that most homes, offices, and establishments have it. We can stay connected on the road or sometimes in remote areas, such as forests, or camping outdoors. This ability is where our mobile internet connection comes in as our smartphones use cellular signals to connect.

What is a Modem?

What is a Modem?
What is a Modem?

A Modulator-Demodulator or “Modem” is a translating device that receives information from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) either through a Cellular Network on a Cell Phone or through telephone lines, coaxial cable, or optical fiber in a building or your home and converts it into a digital signal.

The traditional modem in a home or building allows a computer or another device, such as a router or switch, to connect to the internet. The modem converts analog signals from a telephone or cable wire to binary code digital data that computers can understand. The modem also converts the reverse digital data from a computer or other device into an analog signal sent over standard telephone lines.

In Cell Phones used with Mobile, Cellular Networks, modems are called Baseband Processors or radios that communicate with other devices through radio frequencies. 

What are Baseband Processors or Radios?

What are Baseband Processors or Radios?
Vanitha Kumar with Qualcomm’s X65 Baseband Processors Chip.

A Baseband Processor or (BP) is a mobile Semiconductor Device or chip in a smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, or other mobile device that convert digital data into radio frequency signals and manages all the radio functions.

A baseband processor allows devices to connect to wireless cellular networks. It is used in conjunction with a Central Processing Unit or (CPU) and typically uses its own RAM and firmware. It allows mobile devices to access phone calls and the internet without wires or physical connections.

Without a baseband processor, there would be no cellular connectivity (your phone wouldn’t work) on a Mobile Phone or Tablet. The BP manages the radio signal generation, transmission, and control functions such as modulation and converting data into radio waves, encoding, and frequency shifting. 

Mobile Tethering vs Mobile Hotspot 

Mobile tethering and hotspots are similar, but they work differently. 

  • Mobile Tethering connects one device without Wi-Fi to another device that has Wi-Fi. 
  • Mobile Hotspot, uses an adapter or device and allows computer users to hook up to the internet from wherever they are.

If tethering is used over a WLAN network, it is a mobile hotspot, and you can see how closely related they are. This network will allow the mobile device to be used as a Cellular Router. Mobile hotspots can also use security and be protected by a  PIN or password. 

Please see some of our other interesting articles like “How To Get Reception On Your Cell Phone In Remote Areas?” and “What Can Your Smartphone Do Without Cell Service or Wi-Fi?”

What Is Mobile Tethering?

What Is Mobile Tethering?
Use a mobile hotspot on your Galaxy phone or tablet – Samsung

Tethering is accessing a computer or other electronic device with cellular network access through another computer or mobile device such as a smartphone. Mobile Tethering is specific to mobile devices.

When we say “Tether,” that means tying something to another thing using a rope. So, when we walk our dog, the dog is tethered to us through its leash. The same concept applies when it comes to mobile tethering. Many mobile devices come with software that offer tethered Internet access.

Simply stated, when we tether our devices through mobile tethering, we are broadcasting the phone’s mobile signal as a Wi-Fi network so that other devices can connect to the internet using the smartphone’s mobile data capabilities. In essence, the other devices are tethered to the smartphone through mobile data tethering as the smartphone turns on its hotspot capabilities.

So, in essence, turning on our smartphone’s mobile hotspot capabilities and connecting another device to its internet connection is basically what mobile tethering is all about. And this has helped us a lot because not everyone has a smartphone with a data plan, or not everyone has a device with mobile data capabilities.

How Does Mobile Tethering Work?

When we talk about mobile tethering, the smartphone becomes a portable Wi-Fi hotspot similar to how Wi-Fi modems work in our homes. In that sense, they can allow other devices with Wi-Fi capabilities to connect to the phone’s internet connection.

So, if you have never tried this before and you opened your Wi-Fi connection when you are in a public place such as on a bus, you may have noticed that you detected another person’s phone as a Wi-Fi network. This perceived availability happened because someone turned on their phone’s mobile hotspot capability to use it as a way for other devices to connect to the internet.

What happens in tethering is that you are forming a connection between one device and a smartphone’s mobile hotspot capabilities. You can even make a physical connection by using a USB cable, but the point is that most of the time, tethering works through a wireless signal through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. While wireless connections may be more convenient, you can still make use of a physical connection by connecting your phone to a laptop through a USB cable and allowing the laptop to use the phone’s mobile data connection.

What Is a Mobile Hotspot?

What Is a Mobile Hotspot?

You can connect up to 10 mobile devices depending on the smartphone with a mobile hotspot. Mobile hotspots serve as mobile internet networks by converting a cellular connection into a Wi-Fi signal that other devices can use. Internet connection is likely to be slower the more devices that are dividing the cellular data signal.

Mobile Hotspots are security and password-protected, have a limited range, and are often used for laptop and tablet connections for internet access. Mobile hotspots can deploy an internet connection to nearby devices through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB.    

If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, mobile hot spots can eat up your data. Any connected device can use up your plan’s total data. Mobile hotspots can come as a single small device, or there is likely one in your mobile phone already. 

How To Activate Mobile Tethering or Mobile Hotspots 

Now, suppose you want to turn on Mobile Tethering on your smartphone. As discussed, the good news is that almost all Mobile Phones on the market today are built with baseband processors capable of broadcasting their connection through radio signals.

So all you need to do for Mobile Tethering with an Android Phone is go to your Settings and then tap Wi-Fi and the Internet. There, you will see the tethering option, which will allow you to turn it on so that your phone can act as a mobile hotspot. It can be named “Bob’s Hotspot” or “Personal Hotspot,” but the concept is the same.

If you are an iOS Tethering user, you can go to your in Settings, and then you will be able to see “Personal hotspot immediately.” Tap on that, and then you will be allowed to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot by tapping on “Allow others to join.”

Again, be aware and take note that your mobile data is used a lot quicker when there are more devices connected to the smartphone, in addition to quicker battery depletion. It would help if you also considered that turning on mobile tethering would slow the internet connection down because you are splitting the phone’s mobile data connection.

Do Cellphones Have Modems?

Do Cellphones Have Modems?
iFixit iPhone 13 Pro Full Chip ID with Qualcomm SDX60M 5G modem

As mentioned already, mobile data tethering is allowing our cellphones to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, so their signals will be broadcasted as a Wi-Fi network for other devices to see and use as a connection. So, in a sense, you are using the cellphone as an internet modem so that other devices can wirelessly connect to it. But, considering that your smartphone can do that, does it have a built-in modem?

Yes, smartphones have built-in modems, but they are not the kind of modems you see in your standard modem at home. Instead, smartphones act as modems and broadcast their mobile data connection for other devices to see as a Wi-Fi network. The cellphone can act as a modem through radio signals or baseband signals when broadcasting its connection as a Wi-Fi network.

We have other interesting articles: “Is Mobile-Powered Smartphone Desktop Computing Good or Bad?” and “10 Reasons Why Your Phone’s Storage Keeps Filling Up.”


Tethering explained – all you need to know

How do you use your cell phone as a modem?

How the Internet Works on Mobile Devices

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John Mortensen

As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, geologist, or scientist. I became a project manager which is involved with many of those things. I am a project manager and tech writer who researches the latest alternative and green technologies. We write helpful articles about green electronics and green technology products. AI, extreme weather, electric vehicles, are all in our future and we want to know the best way to deal with the effects of these on the power grid and emergency preparedness.

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