MUMBAI: Freedom from the alleged deadly intensity of electro-magnetic radiation from cell phone towers may come at a price for consumers, especially in the city, where tower density is comparatively higher.
A recent department of telecommunication (DoT) directive to reduce levels of radiation to 1/10th may force telecom operators to increase towers or base transmission stations of lesser radiation levels, rather than putting up fewer high-radiati-on towers.
This, experts said, would increase capital expenditure of operators, which consumers may have to compensate by paying higher tariffs. Each station comes at Rs 3-5 lakh and requires costlier maintenance. But sources said companies will have to first appeal for a higher tariff before the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), following which the authority will take a decision after hearing consumer appeals.
Against high-radiation towers fitted as densely as 300 metres from each other in Mumbai, telecom firms may have to go in for lower power stations or towers beyond a minimum 500-metre peripheral distance from each other.
The distance between towers has been specified in the natural habitat by the environment ministry, which is supposed to be 1,000 metres from each tower. But for dense urban localities like Mumbai, having highrises, no specific distance is recommended.
IIT professor Girish Kumar said each tower should radiate maximum two watts of power and be placed 500 metres from each other. “”Consumers can fit repeaters of maximum 0.1 watt capacity in offices or homes for safer radiation levels,”” he said.
Though bringing down radiation levels is welcome, he said, it will not reduce below 450 milliwatts, which is still high. “”Cell phone firms will not obey this directive of reducing levels. They will only assure consumers that radiation levels are lower than what is prescribed. We need a strong monitoring force to get it implemented,”” said Kumar. He said the notification could be a ploy to show the betterment of society but will result in more towers mushrooming, and consumers will have to pay for infrastructure and maintenance through bills.
Kumar said health problems occur after 15 years if the power is .1 watts, but with .45 watts (or 450 milliwatts), it takes few years. “”With 10 watts, it’s a matter of one or two years,”” he said. But Rajan Mathews, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India), said levels were in compliance with international standards., thus achieving safest levels
The survey was by several institutes, including the wireless communication laboratory of IIT Madras and was sponsored by COAI and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, Mathews said.
TRAI eye on city
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has started setting up its office in Mumbai to keep an eye on telecom, broadcasting and cable services in the western region. It recently appointed Madan Mohan, a senior Indian Telecommunication Services officer, as its advisor for the region, which comprises Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. Monitoring quality and standards of services through audits and surveys, and ensuring compliance of tariff-related guidelines by telecom, broadcasting and cable operators, will be the office’s main responsibility, besides development of consumer advocacy groups and coordination with telecom enforcement and resource-monitoring cells of the department of telecommunication.
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