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(Educated guess) More than likely because the antennas used have a radiation pattern of 60 degrees. Thus 6 are required for full 360 degree coverage. Clarification If you look at the top of a cell phone tower, you will see the vertical arrays that constitute the antennas, usually with the form of long vertical rectangles or boxes, sometimes arranged in parallel groups. A more detailed inspection would reveal that the vertical arrays are separated 120º from each other. This means that each array is pointing to the center of its hexagonal cell. Hence, each cell is covered by six arrays from six separate towers, one at the apex of each of its six angles. Each provider can use a fixed set of frequencies, which forces them to assign a limited number of frequencies to each adjacent cell; the frequencies start repeating on the non-adjacent cells. Similarly, each antenna array can serve a limited number of subscribers at any given time. All this means that when traffic increases within a cell (more users), the only way of coping with the extra traffic is to reduce the area of the cell so it serves less subscribers. This is done by adding more towers to form smaller cells, hence the constant demand for cell tower sites. When a cell is fractioned in smaller cells, the antenna arrays that serve the new cells are lowered and their power is reduced so their emitted energy does not go beyond the adjacent cells to avoid interfering with those other cells, farther cells that use the same sets of frequencies. Having the cell phone towers closer to each other means that the signal, although purposely weakened, can now reach inside elevators and concrete buildings. This also means that cell phones need to transmit in their high power setting much less time while in use, which allows for smaller handsets whose batteries last longer.

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Q: Why does the mobile phone cell - the basic geographic unit of cellular system - have a hexagonal shape?
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