Cell Towers and the Rise of 5G Networks: Radiation in Telecommunications

Mobile phone users in Australia are constantly on the rise. Australia’s fast mobile internet speed means convenience for many—quick bills payment, shopping, binge-watching, you name it.

5G is also on its way, with Australian telecom Telstra forecasting 95% coverage by 2025. Now what does that mean for the community? 

5G speed will be a lot faster, having the potential 7.5 Gbps against the current 10-40 Mbps of LTE.  However, 5G requires a denser network to handle the traffic. That means more mobile base stations or cell sites. Does that mean more radiation, too?

How do cell towers work with radiation?

Cell phone towers or base stations are either free-standing or mounted. Usually 50 to 200 ft high, a cell tower can be installed on buildings, water tanks and trees. 

These receive and transmit radiofrequency (RF) waves, a non-ionising type of radiation. That means these can’t go through objects or directly damage DNA inside our cells unlike X-rays.

These RF waves travel parallel to the ground on the same level as the tower, with some downward scatter.

When you make a call, your phone emits RF waves and is received by the nearest cell tower’s antenna. In a matter of seconds, the tower then transmits the signal to a switching center which connects you to another mobile phone.

Do cell towers harm our health?

In the electromagnetic spectrum, ionising radiation (X-rays, gamma rays) has the highest frequency. The radiation that cell towers emit is in the middle of the spectrum and there is no strong evidence that this can cause severe health effects. 

Base station antennas have higher energy than land-mobile antennas but lower than radio and TV broadcast stations. And as the distance from the stations increases, the amount of energy decreases. 

In other cases like having a cellular antenna on a roof, the radiation frequency might increase but is still low. Same case in a building with a base station outside.

Photo from the National Cancer Institute

Although RF waves are classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, none of the conducted studies concluded that RF waves specifically cause tumor formation.

Monitoring Radiation in the Telecommunications Industry

Even if RF waves from cell towers and mobile devices are basically harmless, experts have tips if people want to be safer and reduce their exposure:

  1. Text instead of call.
  2. Use hands-free devices.
  3. Limit the length of your calls.
  4. Call from a location with good reception.

Radiation exposure is a fair concern in communities with cell towers. Any cell tower company that intends to build one should consult the people living within the location. It’s always important to assure people of their safety. This goes the same when a phone tower is built in your workplace. You can ask your employer to monitor the radiation levels in the vicinity.

SensaWeb provides real-time radiation monitoring in real simple data visualisation. Connect with us here or through our email address: info@sensaweb.com.au. You can also call us at +61 415 409 467.

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