FAQs & Resources

Health & Safety FAQs

Antennas on cell sites are designed so that the vast majority of the RF energy emitted from the antennas is directed outward from the source. Most macro site antennas are mounted on monopoles or on building facades & rooftops – usually at 50’ to 150’ above ground level. This, and the fact that radio waves generally dissipate over distance, means the general public experiences significantly lower levels of allowable limits than required by the Federal Communications Commission.

Street-level measurements of RF emissions are typically 150 times — and more — below the FCC limit. As the FCC explains, “Measurements made near typical cellular and PCS cell sites have shown that ground-level power densities are well below the exposure limits recommended by RF/microwave safety standards used by the FCC.” FCC RF Exposure Guidelines

According to the FCC: “While it is theoretically possible for cell sites to radiate at very high power levels, the maximum power radiated in any direction usually does not exceed 50 watts.” According to the FCC

There is certainly a lot of information – and misinformation – available today on this topic and it can be difficult to review and interpret it. Although there are isolated studies that suggest facilities may pose a health risk, the safety limits adopted by the FCC are “based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the Federal Government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students.”

The studies that we rely on are considered statistically sound and are accepted by the scientific community worldwide. T-Mobile can provide reputable third-party and independent sources who have conducted studies. Some of them are:

• The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
• The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
• The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
• The American Cancer Society
• The World Health Organization

FCC Questions & Answers

EMF stands for “electromagnetic field.” It is a naturally occurring phenomena – it is one of four fundamental forces of nature (gravity is another). EMF fields are natural frequencies that are harnessed by any cellular license holder (like T-Mobile) to transmit wireless signals.

According to the World Health Organization, “Electromagnetic fields are present everywhere in our environment but are invisible to the human eye. Electric fields are produced by the local build-up of electric charges in the atmosphere associated with thunderstorms. The earth’s magnetic field causes a compass needle to orient in a North-South direction and is used by birds and fish for navigation.”

What WHO says about EMF

Enhanced 9-1-1 (also called E 9-1-1) is a federally-mandated program that seeks to improve the effectiveness and reliability of local emergency services by providing emergency dispatchers with valuable information when a 9-1-1 call is received by the Public Service Answering Point (PSAP).

Wireless phones are important to members of the public when they want to call 9-1-1. Wireless calls to 9-1-1 account for more than 70% of all emergency 9-1-1 calls made in the United States. There are more than 400,000 wireless 9-1-1 calls made every day in the U.S. That number is constantly growing as more people use their wireless phones to call for emergency help, to save lives and to help fight crime.

T-Mobile’s fact sheet about Personal & Public Safety provides more details about how we partner with local jurisdictions to make sure that Enhanced 9-1-1 calling meets all United States government requirements.

Currently, the FCC requires location accuracy to within 100 meters for 67% of calls and 300 meters (or just under 1,000 feet) for 95% of 9-1-1 calls. T-Mobile complies with this Service Rule.

A roadmap agreement reached by the wireless industry and public safety advocates in late 2014 will lead to more accurately locating indoor 9-1-1 callers, as well as providing a vertical estimate for callers in high-rise buildings.

While the industry is working with stakeholders to determine the vertical metric by mid-2018, it may leverage existing indoor technologies – such as WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons – to provide an indoor dispatch-able location.

By 2022, the great majority of indoor calls to 9-1-1 will provide either a dispatch-able location or a vertical location estimate component.

Enhanced 9-1-1 is regulated by the FCC and initiated by jurisdictional request. There is close coordinated between the jurisdiction and T-Mobile to make sure that the most up-to-date features are provided to the local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

The deployment of E9-1-1 requires upgrades to local 9-1-1 PSAPs) plus coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and
local wireline carriers.

Property Values

Experts in the field of real estate report that the availability of cell service is an important feature to current home buyers. Michael Estrin of Bankrate.com noted, “Today, (home) buyers want to know about the home’s technology. They want to hear about cell service and Internet, not cable and telephone.”

The City of Portland, Oregon added, “The argument that property values are affected by wireless sites (positively or negatively) has very little documentation other than anecdotal sources. City staff is aware of arguments on both sides of this issue.”

Another useful link is a mid-2015 Wall Street Journal article: How Fast Internet Affects Home Values: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB11064341213388534269604581077972897822358

Our decision to locate a new cell site is based on scientific criteria. In making our decision on where to locate a new site, T-Mobile undertakes a rigorous engineering analysis of available RF signal coverage and future expansion needs.

To choose a potential site, terrain data within the service area is entered into a computer, along with a series of variables, such as proposed antenna height, foliage and building data, population density, available radio frequencies and wireless equipment characteristics. From this information, engineers determine an area for the optimum location and height of the antenna to maximize coverage within the cell.

T-Mobile also looks at different usage patterns of our customers, including the ability to make and hold calls inside buildings and vehicles. Many times a user can make a call on the street, but not be able to make or hold a call as they enter a building. Network data is scientifically measured to determine the amount of traffic at individual cell sites, including the number of dropped and blocked calls. Plus, field technicians, engineers and third-party researchers conduct “drive tests” to collect real-time statistics. These tests simulate the customer experience and provide critical data on signal strength and call clarity.

T-Mobile works hard to build and modernize the least obtrusive, most technically feasible sites to provide reliable service. When modernizing and upgrading sites, we are most often not changing the structure, but using the same structure while replacing antennas and radio equipment with updated technologies.

When we build a new wireless facility, we try to find existing structures (e.g. industrial, commercial, municipal buildings and structures) before a new freestanding facility is planned. T-Mobile also places a priority on sharing space on an existing carrier’s facility before considering building a new facility.

The need to provide reliable wireless coverage to customers often requires that T-Mobile mount antennas on structures that are taller than most of the surrounding structures in an area. For good, reliable communications, the laws of physics mean better coverage when there is an unobstructed line-of-sight radio signal path between a customer’s phone and the cell site. This often can only be achieved by installing antennas on tall structures.

T-Mobile works with communities to make antenna and supporting structures visually unobtrusive, but they simply can’t be invisible.

Local Jurisdiction FAQs

In January 2015, the FCC published extensive new rules that take critical steps to promote and streamline the deployment of wireless infrastructure. Explaining these new rules in a nutshell is difficult. Here is a link to the FCC’s Wireless Infrastructure Report and Order: https://www.fcc.gov/document/wireless-infrastructure-report-and-order.

T-Mobile performs rigorous research and considers a number of viable sites before selecting the specific location for a new wireless facility. Our new site development process includes the following:

  1. Radio design engineers develop a “search ring” — a map outlining the geographic boundaries where the new site will ideally be located.
  2. Trained personnel conduct an analysis of potential sites for a wireless facility within the search ring and eliminate parcels unsuitable or not zoned for telecommunication facilities.
  3. Property owners whose parcels are suitable for a wireless facility and can be zoned to permit this use are contacted to see if they are interested in leasing their property to T-Mobile.
  4. A list of potential parcels and landlords are submitted to the radio design engineers, who select the best site option.

T-Mobile believes that conducting alternative site analysis is critical to the municipality and community, especially when siting in residential areas. We are thorough in our analysis of alternative sites and always work to select the site that will provide optimal coverage while minimizing impact.

In March 2015, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors; National League of Cities; and PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, jointly released a model ordinance for use by jurisdictions. Click on the link below to view the document:
Model Wireless Ordinance

Fact Sheets

Enhanced 9-1-1

Cell Sites & Public Health

Property Values & Wireless Sites

Technology Choices