What Does Handover Mean?

A handover is a process in telecommunications and mobile communications in which a connected cellular call or a data session is transferred from one cell site (base station) to another without disconnecting the session. Cellular services are based on mobility and handover, allowing the user to be moved from one cell site range to another or to be switched to the nearest cell site for better performance.


Handovers are a core element in planning and deploying cellular networks. It allows users to create data sessions or connect phone calls on the move. This process keeps the calls and data sessions connected even if a user moves from one cell site to another.

Techopedia Explains Handover

There are two types of handovers:

  1. Hard Handover: An instantaneous handover in which the existing connection is terminated and the connection to the destination channel is made. It is also known as a break-before-make handover. The process is so instantaneous that the user does not hear any noticeable interruption.
  2. Soft Handover: A substantial handover where the connection to the new channel is made before the connection from the source channel is disconnected. It is performed through the parallel use of source and destination channels over a period of time. Soft handovers allow parallel connection between three or more channels to provide better service. This type of handover is very effective in poor coverage areas.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.