Feb
03
2008

GSM

Up until the introduction of GSM mobile phones to the UK in 1992, you’d have been hard-pressed to detect any pulsed microwave signals leaking into the average home.

Of course analogue mobiles have been with us since the late 80s, but in 1990 only 2% of the population owned one – now of course the UK has more phones than people.

Before the introduction of GSM, anyone with a radio scanner could listen into the unencrypted mobile calls whizzing about in the ether. With a specially modified Motorola 4800x luggable phone, linked to a PC, you could even target specific numbers. Of course, cloning of mobiles was also rife.

GSM allowed more calls to be squeezed into the available bandwidth by turning your conversation into 1s & 0s and then employing compression & encryption. So GSM & all subsequent radio technologies have, in a way, been direct beneficiaries of Moore’s Law and lower cost microprocessors.

In the UK, GSM phones operate in the 900MHz & 1800MHz bands – Vodafone & O2 @ 900MHz & Orange & T-Mobile @1800MHz.

The handsets only transmit when you’re talking on them, apart from a periodic burst when they’ll tell the nearest mast where they are. When in use, the handset will adjust its power output to suit conditions and conserve battery power – if you’re stood 100M from a mast, then less transmission power is needed.

All in all it’s a pretty well designed system. If you use the phone’s Loudspeaker function, so that the phone is 1ft away from you, you’ll be minimizing any possible potential harm to your head – each time you double the distance you half the power absorbed.

Bluetooth headsets are better than having the mobile itself stuck to your ear, although you will look a prat if your wear it all the time!

Wired headsets can decrease exposure, but only if you’ve got ferrite-chokes attached to either end of the lead, otherwise you can get a standing-wave effect in the cable – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone using one of these though.

Unless you live very near to the main beam of a mast, you’re going to get much more exposure from the phone itself while you’re using up all those ‘Free Minutes’.

A study early in 2008 found that talking on a mobile within an hour of going to bed can wreck the quality of your sleep.

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