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Radiation standards, questions of health and building codes. In one way or another, they all have something to do with your mobile conversations or mobile data communication. We debunk a few of the myths surrounding mobile communication. And let you know that when it comes to your health and the quality of your mobile connection, there’s nothing for you to worry about. “There is virtually nowhere in the world where the mobile connectivity is better than in Belgium.”
Martin Zizi (L) and Luc Thierens (R), VUB professor and Senior Account Manager at Multicap.
They look like contradictory powers. On the one hand, you’ve got the development of 4G, the next generation in data communication, which makes even faster connections possible. On the other hand, over the past few years, a number of practical obstacles have appeared. Such as legal requirements that put your mobile connections under pressure. “These are challenging times for the industry,” says Professor Martin Zizi from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. We give you a report on the state of affairs based on six statements.
The mobile connection was never more popular
Mobile conversations were already extremely popular, but especially the use of mobile data,for smartphones and tablets in particular, has increased exponentially in Belgium. “Technology like this is now a reality,” says Martin Zizi. The popularity of mobile data has reached great heights, not only with consumers, but also with companies. “Personally, I’m shocked by the interest in mobile data communication from Belgian companies and their desire for higher capacities and increased bandwidth. We get a lot of questions about 3G and 4G,” says Luc Thierens from Multicap, a specialist in mobile data communication. “Users want to run certain projects, such as mobile camera surveillance, and are counting on good video streaming for it. Or they want hotspots based on 4G to be available.” Both, applications for people and for machines (M2M), are becoming more and more of a normality, and the wireless technology used for them is diverse. “Even a standard like Wi-Fi has become extremely popular as a professional solution. The trend towards BYOD or Bring Your Own Device has definitely had a certain impact here. The more employees who come to the mobile business network with their own devices, the more professionally it needs to be set up.”
Your mobile connection has never been as good as now
From 2G, to 3G and now on to 4G. The reliability and possibilities of mobile connections have done nothing but increase in the past few years according to Luc Thierens. In the case of mobile connectivity, users in Belgium are quite privileged. “Virtually nowhere in the world is there better mobile connectivity than in Belgium. In some of our neighbouring countries, entire areas are completely unreachable. That’s almost never the case here,” he says. “Furthermore, the fixed connections are also of a very high quality and are well represented in Belgium.”
Mobility demands (large) investments from operators
Over the next three years, Orange will be investing an extra 150 million euro in the further
development of its mobile network. This will come on top of the 100 million euro that it already
invests annually. “A telecommunications programme of the sort demands gigantic investments
from operators,” says Luc Thierens. “They need to keep developing their networks further.
Even for the fixed networks, there are investments needed to support the mobile data traffic.
The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.”
Legal standards ensure challenges
for operators (and their clients)
While outdoor reception appears to be fine, there are sometimes difficulties when you go inside. “Some materials, such as autoclaved concrete or even wooden-framed buildings hold back mobile signals. There are even materials that can turn a certain room into an actual cage, meaning the signal can’t possibly leave the room. It’s pure physics,” explains Luc Thierens. Norms and standards for insulation and other products, such as fire doors, have their inevitable consequences. “Besides this, there are more and more questions about so-called repeaters or femto- and micro-cells, which are offered by operators.” The standards for insulation have existed for a long time according to Martin Zizi. Plus, he argues, buildings and insulation are better off with them in place. “If someone insulates better, they obviously insulate against radiation. It doesn’t mean that you need to be unreachable in your house. There are technologies, such as femto-cells, that improve mobile reachability. And besides, you’re always available via a fixed device or an application like Skype. From this, it appears that fixed connections, even in the era of mobility, are in many cases desirable and even necessary. For both, mobile and fixed lines.”
Brussels: strictest radiation standards in Europe
There has also been a lot said about radiation standards in Brussels. Nowhere else in Europe was the radiation from mobile phone towers so strictly regulated. The Brussels government has decided to ease the standards from 3 volts per meter to 6. Nonetheless, Professor Martin Zizi, as an expert and a user, believes the consequences are acceptable. “There are occasional dropped calls. But there are less and less of them. And at the same time, supposing I’m stuck in a lift, I can call with a mobile phone,” he says. “On a global level, mobile technology is just getting better.”
Intelligent mobile communication
does not bring any direct health risk
The question of mobile communication on health regularly pops up. “In the past, a great deal of attention was paid to mobile phone towers. While the devices themselves have a certain risk supposing you hold them too closely to your head too often, they also work better now than five years ago. The so-called SAR values, an indication of the radiation, are reported on every device. This means that as a consumer, you can compare and note that the radiation can differ by a factor of 20 between devices,” says Martin Zizi. SAR does not actually have any relation to quality. Low SAR devices can work just as well as those with high SAR values. It’s only the technical design that’s different. The industry has obliged itself to produce more efficient technology. And in the end, everyone can benefit from it. In general, the effects of electro-magnetic radiation are not considered to be very dramatic and are, on the whole, limited. “Some people respond differently to electro-magnetic waves than others. The real effects will only be visible in the long run and what is important is that we continue the research,” says Martin Zizi. "We cannot and do not want to go without mobile technology. At the same time, I advise using it less when there are small children around. And heavy users also need to use their devices sensibly: not always right next to their heads. I even turn my mobile phone off at night for example.”