Q&A’s about mobile network deployment and EME

Some Q&A’s about Mobile Network Deployment and EME

What are the emission levels from a typical radio base station?

The emission levels from a telecommunications base station depend on a number of factors, including the area it is designed to cover and the number of simultaneous calls it is designed to carry. Depending on the base station, power levels will normally be between two and 150 watts. Radiofrequency exposure levels from a typical base station at ground level are normally 0.1 to 1 per cent of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s mandatory limits (the ARPANSA Standard).

If additional carriers join the site, are the emission levels increased?

Generally yes. A site with one or more carriers will have higher emission levels. However, the regulations require cumulative assessments to be undertaken for all carriers on a shared site. The cumulative exposure levels for the general public at shared sites cannot exceed the limits set by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). For each site you can view the relevant EME report using the Guest Login on the National Site Archive

How are emission levels monitored?

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) undertakes random audits of base stations as part of its regulatory function. The Australian Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) also periodically conducts a National survey of base stations and publishes the results on its website. View the results here – ARPANSA Base Station Audit

Can the emissions from a mobile phone base station affect the health of those nearby?

A lot of research has been done over the past five decades into the effects of radiofrequency (RF) signals. The weight of this research concludes that exposure to radiofrequency signals below recommended levels do not pose a risk to our health and wellbeing.

Australia’s own health authority, the Australian Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) states that “the weight of National and International scientific opinion is that there is no substantiated evidence that living near a mobile phone antenna causes adverse health effects.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also concluded that

“Despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health”

The WHO also says,

“radio and television broadcast stations have been in operation for the past 50 or more years without any adverse health consequence being established”

See WHO Backgrounder – Base Stations and Wireless Technologies

All carriers ensure that base stations comply with the National and International guideline limits in all publicly accessible areas. Access is restricted and signage is used around base stations to indicate the very limited area immediately around an antenna where it is possible for exposures to be above the National and International guideline limits. Strict Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines are in place for those carrier and contractor staff who need to work within this area.

Why are mobile phone base stations sited in residential areas?

For mobile networks to work, low powered base stations are required to be located in proximity to where people use their phones. This of course includes residential areas and around schools and where people work. If they are not located within these areas then coverage levels will be poor as will call quality. It’s important to remember that over 60% of calls to 000 are made on mobile phones so it is important to have access to services. Some people believe that having buffer zones around community sensitive sites is a good idea but this may result in phones requiring further power to make the calls which may result in higher exposures levels in the area.

How close can members of the general public get to a base station antenna and not exceed exposure limits?

Base stations are designed so that no member of the public would be able to gain access inadvertently to the limited area near the antenna where there is the possibility that exposure limits could be reached. At the same time, its important to remember that the pole or tower simply supports the antennas and does not emit radiofrequency signals. Nor does the equipment shelter or cabin which is used to protect transmitters and ancillary equipment. There are also strict OH&S procedures in place for carrier staff and others who need to work near the base stations.

How can anyone be sure that research will not show in years to come that mobile phone antenna systems are harmful to health?

Research into the effects of radiofrequency signals goes back more than five decades years and this enormous body of research has been analysed by scientists from all over the world. The consensus of opinion is that there is no substantiated evidence linking adverse health effects to mobile phone technologies within national and internationally recognised guidelines.

It is worth noting that when exposure guidelines are defined, they are based on preventing a known adverse health effect to which additional safety factors are added. People should also keep in mind that when scientists or expert groups refer to a biological effect, this does not necessarily mean an adverse health effect. For example, drinking a glass of water or even listening to music will produce a biological effect and we experience these effects throughout our lives.

Who can I ask for an independent view on the safety of mobile phone base stations?

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides advice to the general public on such issues. Their website offers a series of electromagnetic emission fact sheets that cover the Radiofrequency Exposure Standard, public health issues related to electro magnetic emission, mobile phone networks and base stations, broadcast towers, potential interference issues, mobile phones and children and Australian research into electro magnetic emission (EME).

The Australian Communications and Media Authority also deals with enquiries from the general public about the use of radio and interference issues.

Will a base station interfere with other electrical equipment like computers, TV’s or radio?

There are National and International standards governing all forms of electronic equipment regarding the interference that such equipment produces and, in turn, its immunity to interference from outside. Any equipment compliant with these standards is unlikely to suffer or cause interference.

However, if you do experience any interference problems, please contact the relevant site carrier. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will also investigate issues raised regarding interference in its management of the radiofrequency spectrum.

Will a mobile phone base station affect hospital equipment? Why are we told not to use mobile phones in hospitals?

A mobile phone base station, whether nearby or on the hospital roof, should not interfere with any equipment. However, using a mobile phone close to some sensitive electronic devices could possibly result in interference.

Can mobile phones cook popcorn or an egg?

There have been a number of stories on the internet and circulating via email. And of course, all of them are hoaxes. Find out more here; Mobile Myths – Fact or Fiction?

What should I do if I’m unhappy about a proposed mobile phone base station in my area?

As part of the community consultation process, all carriers advise interested and affected parties of any proposed telecommunications facilities in their immediate vicinity. If you at any time feel that carriers have not acted responsibly, or you wish to make a general submission against the proposal, you will need to follow the instructions provided by the relevant carrier. The Consultation Process is undertaken as part of the Communications Alliance Deployment Code and carriers provide clear instructions and contact details for this process.