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Monday, 27 June 2011

Mobile phone and mast emissions

There are about 70 million mobile phones in use in the UK and these need base stations (sometimes called masts) in order to work.

Mobile phones work using radio signals in a similar way to radio and television. The system is based on geographic areas known as cells. When you make a call, your mobile phone sends a signal to the nearest base station that controls a cell. The base station then transmits the signal through mobile and fixed line networks to connect you.

Cells vary in size depending on location and demand.  A large base station may be able to carry 100 to 150 calls simultaneously while a smaller one may only be able to carry around 30 calls.  More base stations will be needed in areas where lots of people want to use their mobile phones. There are around 51,000 base stations in the UK, two-thirds of which are integrated into the design of existing buildings or structures.

Finding out about and commenting on new mobile base stations

Every autumn, the Mobile Operators Association (MOA) sends all local planning authorities a copy of plans from the main five network operators (3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone) for new base stations in their area. To find out about these plans and details of any public consultations that may be taking place contact your local council.

You can use the following link that will let you enter details of where you live and take you to your local council website where you can find out more.

You can also find out about planning applications in your area by using the planning portal.

The five main mobile phone operators, central and local government and the MOA, have put together a code of best practice that outlines how they will communicate their plans for new masts and consult with local people.

Mast emissions

Base stations send and receive radio signals to connect with mobile phones. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) sets out guidelines on the level of radiofrequency emissions (RF) to which people can be exposed.  All base stations in the UK have to comply with the ICNIRP RF guidelines. Typically, base station RF emissions are well below the levels set by ICNIRP.

Every year the Office of Communications (Ofcom) carries out audits at a sample of sensitive sites near base stations  by measuring of RF emissions. A report of the findings is then published and made available on its website.

If you are concerned about a phone mast or base station near you, you can apply to have a site considered for auditing by Ofcom. There is no charge for this service. 

An online database of where mobile phone base stations are situated is available from Ofcom.

Mobile phones and health

There has been a lot of research into the possible effects of exposure from both mobile phones and base stations. In 2000 a UK government report from the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) found that 'the balance of evidence does not suggest mobile phone technologies put the health of the general population of the UK at risk'. 

A report summarising the latest independent research findings was published on 12 September 2007 and can be found on the Mobile Telephones and Health Research (MTHR) website.

The Health Protection Agency is the main body responsible for providing advice and information on the effects of exposure from mobile phones and base stations. Detailed information about the typical levels of exposure from mobile phones and to those who live near base stations can be found on its website.

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