Numerous residents of San Francisco are raising health concerns about small cells that the wireless industry is presently deploying throughout the United States in preparation for the rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks, CBS reports. Some people have been petitioning the city council the prevent unchecked deployment but local officials largely have their hands tied based on the latest revision of the Telecommunication Act which prevents health-related scrutiny of wireless infrastructure, citing studies from 1996. Not everyone is convinced by such arguments, though experts remain adamant that small cells don't pose any kind of health risks.
"I know scientifically that putting up these cell phone towers is safe," said Bill Quirk, a member of the California State Assembly and former NASA research scientist. Dr. Gunnar Heuser rejects that notion, citing research he conducted on members of the International Association of Firefighters. According to his findings, some firefighters suffered from memory loss and physical weakness after small cells were installed on their stations, suggesting any type of radio waves can cause brain cell damage. Mr. Quirk allowed fire stations to be exempted from the deployment efforts, with wireless carriers now being unable to install more small cells on them. Despite the legal precedented, he's adamant the move won't allow for more such exceptions, citing firefighters' extraordinary lobbying efforts as the main reason for what he says was a one-time decision. Health concerns about RF energy emitted by smartphones have long been raised in all parts of the world despite no known harmful effects of such emissions ever being proved. Mr. Quirk remains keen to continue facilitating small cell deployment efforts in California.
Small cell sites are expected to serve as the backbone of 5G networks due to the nature of the millimeter-wave spectrum, another crucial component of the upcoming technological revolution. Despite allowing for improved speeds, capacities, and latencies, mmWave emissions struggle with penetrating buildings and rain, in addition to being easily absorbed by foliage. That state of affairs prompted most telecom giants in the country to turn to small cells, shoebox-sized stations designed to help bounce RF signals in urban areas. The first 5G consumer-ready network in the U.S. will start being deployed by AT&T late this year. Numerous wireless carriers in the country should offer nationwide 5G coverage by 2020, according to recent estimates.