The Serpent

// Cursing the Internet since 1998

My Mobile Adventure

A completely backward argument...
Posted January 29, 2003 Mobile

Everyone worries about mobile phone masts. They worry of radiation, aesthetics, and all sorts of other interesting things that prevent Telco’s placing large metal rods in the ground.

I love this debate!!

I’ve never really been interested in the pros and cons of installing a new mobile phone mast, only ‘if it’s built… my phone sounds better.’

That’s good enough for me. Only there’s ALWAYS someone (at least 3,000 if your in the south of England) who will have a problem with it. Understandably people don’t want phone masts for two reasons:

  • It looks ugly
  • We are scared it my hurt us

The latter usually outweighs reason and people get cranky. Quite understandably too. A mobile operates on two frequencies, depending on which network you use, some use 900MHz; others use an even higher 1800MHz. There are only a handful of devices that reach these extremely high radio spectrums using Microwaves. Yep, you guess it, microwaves are one of them.

Microwaves have shielding, phones do not. So effectively, using your phone is like holding a mini microwave next to your head without the shielding!

Once again, the mobile phone mast debate explodes. This happened a few years ago remember? But that died down. The latest report shows that mobile phone masts pose extremely little threat to adults, though children should limit their use, and preferably not play on them.

The typical human stance on this matter is simple. If there’s no immediate effect – it’s ok. The same argument smoker’s use. The difference is, it took years to finally understand that smoking is extremely bad for you, though people still do it.

So what’s this got to do with my little mobile mast debate? Ah yes, I remember now… if using your phone emits very high amount of radiation, then surely the phone mast emits more. Yes I hear you say. Mobile masts process up to 200 simultaneous calls from a radius of over a few miles.

It’s all well and great to be afraid of mobile phone masts, however where I live, using my phone can be quite hard.

Here was my idea…

O2, Friend or foe

I’ve only had 3 mobile pones in my life. I’m not big on getting the latest phone, or keeping up with the mobile technology market, but recently my Nokia 3310 decided to die in true 3310 style (battery lasting 2 seconds after fully charging), so I got a new phone.

Since the market moves so quickly I decided to get the latest phone at the time, nothing too fancy, but something small, good looking and has cool things I like, such as a colour screen, WAP and loads and Java capability (explained later…).

The perfect phone was the Nokia 6100!

So I looked for prices of my Nokia 6100, they started at £200+. Currently being with Vodafone on Pay-as-you-go, I decided the only way I can get this phone is to go contract.

I looked around the typical high street stores, Carphone Warehouse, O2 Retail, Phones4U etc, but all of them started with contracts of £50+.

Then the perfect tariff came along on O2’s website! Without going into the boring details of what I get, it was cheap and I can send as many text’s as I want.

Only one problem was I then moved house. Right next to a vodafone base station…. And no O2 base station in sight.

Having never being close to O2, only sharing the same taste in music from their adverts (we love DJ Shadow!!), I decided to introduce myself as a lonely desperate user needing more coverage… you know… just to see what they do!

With my struggling one bar of signal on my phone and no bar when it rains (go figure!), I decided to contact O2. They didn’t really know what to do; they would certainly not build a base station for one request, and my new little town is not the kind of place where people want another base station. Visions of me going alone on the local green with a board stating ‘Build more base stations!’ would certainly attract the local paper, however I wanted to do this a little more discreetly.

Then a ray of light! Chichester – a town 25 miles away, forced O2 to remove 2 base stations that were not planned for. I politely suggested to O2 that I would gladly let them place the antennas in our little village, due to my high stature in the village (yeah right!); the aging locals would welcome a new ‘BBC2 amplifier’. Much to my regret, O2 politely denied my request simply stating, ‘it’s not that simple’.

Give me a couple of miles of coiled wire and a nail the size of BT’s tower and I’ll show you how simple I can make it.

I think they appreciated my enthusiasm though.

So back to square one with one bar of signal dipping up and down.

I then decide to check O2’s overly complicated website for information on coverage. After searching, I find this page, a helpful map shows me my road is right in the ‘No Coverage’ zone, with my new neighbour being in ‘average’. My next plan is to visit O2’s corporate site and see if I can convince then to tell me their secret plans of proposed new base stations.

After getting their customer service email address from the site, I emailed them with my problem, eagerly waiting a reply, O2’s web server finally responded!

"System Administrator" postmaster@O2.COM
Undeliverable: Network Coverage Query

Lovely. O2 don’t have a working customer service email account. I tried a few other variations of this address to see if I could get lucky and low and behold, I got lucky!

After speaking to some unknown representative, O2 didn’t really appreciate my over-interest towards their future base station locations, considering I emailed them from my BT account, I can understand why.

So take two, new address… new name, and a better response!

Basically, without copying and pasting the whole reply, the gist of it tells me that I need to be interested in stock, shares\partnership bla bla in order to request the exact locations of new base stations, and perhaps if im aquatinted with some Dutch company I’ve never heard of (now known to be KPN!) I might get somewhere. However I can be told that they are planning an estimated 1,000 new stations over the next year, with improved coverage for all their lovely little drones- I mean customers! Or something like that.

So that didn’t get me very far. Little coverage, and no knowledge of if\when my new base station will arrive.

Time to get more involved.

I must have hit a positive nerve in the O2 community because someone finally offered me some helpful advice.

Kaal Mastenfabriek

No, I have no clue how to pronounce that either, but this is the company that can save me! Based in The Netherlands they make and sell mobile phone masts, with a difference, there’re shaped like trees!

The website was a little unhelpful since its purely written in Dutch, however I learnt that the average mast for my area, based on size, strength and equipment will cost around £15,000 - £19,000.

You see, after checking the requirements Telco’s have to conform to when installing new network masts, I discovered that the general public, backed my Oftel and a WAD of cash, can actually place private mobile phone masts.

This then sparked another note to O2, and what a result I got! O2 will maintain and support my mobile mast, if I decide to splash out on one. I’ll think I’ll keep the real trees for now, but at least I know im not completely helpless!

So thank you to all the lovely O2 staff (except that Naino bloke) that dealt with my somewhat unusual requests, which resulted in a satisfactory answer. All I need now is a lot of cash and local planning permission to erect a new ‘BBC2 amplifier in my back garden’.

Any donations…?

My Mobile Adventure
Posted January 29, 2003
Written by John Payne