Health fears over plans for phone masts in your home


Controversial plans to install mini mobile phone masts in homes and offices in return for cheap phone calls were unveiled by O2 today.

The phone network hopes to use the masts, called picocells, to allow customers to make calls over the internet using their mobile phone.

Mobile calls made within range of the customer's mast will be converted into internet calls and sent via a broadband connection, allowing a saving on mobile bills.

"We can put the (mobile phone mast) radio into the home or office," said Dave Williams, chief technology officer for Telefonica-O2 Europe. Critics say the plans will simply add to the health risk surrounding mobile phone masts.

However, an O2 spokesman said: "The picocell will work at a lower power than normal base stations.

"There is no scientific evidence linking mobile phones with health problems and we will continue to fund independent research into this area."

The Health Protection Agency has previously advised that the radiation exposure from picocells was safe but advised caution on the question of all mobile phone masts.

It also called for more research into the area.

The agency's report said exposures in proximity to picocells have been found to be well within safe levels for the public.

However, it also called for tough new rules to be brought in governing the mini-masts.

"There is a need for clarity in terms of legal responsibilities and regulations in relation to the installation of microcells and picocells and the availability of information about their deployment," it said.

But Karen Barrett of the campaign group Mast Sanity said: "People should not buy these picocells.

"Even if on their own they do not pose a problem, having one in every living room and office means all the radiation adds up.

"People already have wi-fi connections in their homes - this is just making the problems worse."

O2 has already revealed a prototype picocell box that combines a domestic broadband internet router and a GSM mobile phone base station which O2 said could cost less than £70 when it goes on sale next year.

O2 is looking for customers to take part in trials.

Rival firms require customers to buy a separate internet phone which uses wi-fi signals to communicate with their wireless broadband network.

Experts say the fact the system does not require customers to buy a new phone could see it succeed.

"Users feel comfortable using their existing mobile phones, so using those could be the sweet, simple solution right under our noses without any of the complexity of having a wireless network," said Richard Webb, an analyst at Infonetics Research.

© 2006 Associated Newspapers Ltd


Health fears over plans for phone masts in your home

The article in last night's evening standard contains a quote from an unnamed O2 spokesman:

"There is no scientific evidence linking mobile phones with health problems and we will continue to fund independent research into this area."

This is plainly inaccurate, and grossly misleading. He might have said there's no 'credible' evidence (which would then be his opinion). But to say there's no evidence is provably false.*

Does anyone know if there's any legal implication of publishing a misleading statement such as this? Is it worth trying to get a retraction or a correction - i.e. get them to admit there is evidence, even if they don't believe it?


Also in Daily Mail where you can comment. They appear not to have added my rant!

John Elliott

You might be interested in this potential new threat.

I think they mean us when they say "Campaigners Against Stuff"

"O2 trial could see a picocell in every home Evening Standard:O2 wants to microwave our kids

O2 is to trial picocell technology which, in theory, could see every Be customer doubling up as a VoIP access point from the comfort of their own home.

The concept is pretty simple: a tiny cell site is placed in the customer’s home, similar in size to a Wi-Fi access point, which allows nearby GSM handsets to connect and then routes their phone calls over the broadband connection. Some form of restitution for the customer would be provided, perhaps a cut of call cost or credit on their account, but the details are a long way from being settled.

The model has been proposed from time to time using Wi-Fi for the wireless connection, but enabling normal GSM handsets to use the connections will make a lot more sense and O2 reckon they can get the hardware costs down to below 70 quid.

Picocells are tiny GSM transceivers which are normally used to provide coverage in buildings such as shopping centres, and other blank spots in the network. They operate on very low power; to reduce interference with the main transmitter network.

What has send the Evening Standard into it’s tizzy is the old chestnut of the health implications: the fact that it isn’t possible to prove that mobile phones don’t give you cancer obviously means that they do, and while our bodies are awash with radio signals the thought of adding any more – and in our own homes - has brought out the traditional Campaigners Against Stuff with their warnings of dire trouble ahead.

Quite how O2 will guarantee quality of service, share the revenue or ensure seamless cell handover from VoIP to circuit-switched connections all remain to be resolved: which is what the trials are for."



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