In technology, cell is a term used to describe a single unit that’s part of a larger whole.


In spreadsheet applications, a cell is a box in which you can enter a single piece of data. The data is usually text, a numeric value, or a formula. The entire spreadsheet is composed of rows and columns of cells. A spreadsheet cell is analogous to a field in database management systems. Individual cells are usually identified by a column letter and a row number. For example, D12 specifies the cell in column D and row 12.


In communications and networking, a cell is a fixed-size packet of data and the basic unit of network traffic. It is the smallest possible amount of data that can be transmitted over a network connection. The term “cell” comes from the telecommunications industry, where it refers to a fixed-length packet used in digital transmission systems such asAsynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and SONET/SDH

In networking, however, there are no set lengths for cells; they vary depending on the type of protocol being used and other factors. For example, Ethernet uses cells with an 8-byte payload (7 bytes plus 1 byte for overhead), while ATM uses 53-byte cells with 5 bytes reserved for overhead information.


In cellular telephone systems, a cell refers to a geographic area covered by a single transmission tower. Cell is also a shortened form of the term cellular phone.

Storage media

A cell is a small area on the surface of a hard drive disk that contains data. The cells are arranged in concentric circles called tracks, and each track has many sectors. Each sector holds 1,024 bytes of data. 

The innermost track (closest to the center hub) has more sectors than other tracks because it stores information about how to read the rest of the disc. This track is known as the lead-in or pregap area and typically contains no user data; instead, it includes an audio recording for music discs or computer files containing instructions for reading all subsequent tracks on a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM disk.

On a DVD, a cell is a unit of playback of real-time data. Each cell is identified by a unique set of numbers. On a basic DVD, the cells would be represented to the viewer as chapters.


In a storage battery, a cell is a discreet unit capable of generating or storing current. Multiple cells are connected to deliver the total power output of a battery, though the term is frequently used interchangeably.

This article was reviewed and updated in March 2022 by Web Webster.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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