Telstra's phone tower software

This article, supplied by Telstra, describes that organisation's development of a software package designed to calculate emissions from mobile phone antennas.

Public concern over possible health effects from mobile phone base stations has led a to a demand for accessible and easy to understand information on the electromagnetic energy (EME) emission levels from these facilities.

A range of groups including residents, community groups, businesses, schools and local governments may want to know the EME levels that a particular base station in their area is capable of producing and how they compare to the safety standard regulated by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

Performing the complex mathematical calculations to predict these levels requires significant expertise, is time consuming and relatively costly. Variables include the base station antenna type, the configuration of the mobile phone network, the mobile frequency being used, the local topography and the height and tilt of the antenna.

A new software tool, born out of Telstra’s EME Research and Development Program, is set to change things by facilitating the provision of this information in a more timely, standardised and cost effective manner.

Telstra, which has built up expertise over a number a decades of involvement with radio frequency (RF) technology, originally developed the software for its own purposes. The EME team at Telstra Research Laboratories (TRL) wanted a computer based plotting tool, which incorporated the relevant mathematical formulas and calculated the emission levels automatically, once the relevant variables had been input. It also wanted a software package that displayed the EME levels graphically, produced standardised reports, was easy to use and could run on basic Windows applications.

The software it developed, known as the Base Station FIP (Field Intensity Plotter), calculates the EME levels in a matter of seconds. The levels can be represented graphically to show the variation in EME emissions around the base station and the margin by which these emissions comply with the safety standard. The tool also allows calculations to be made for base station sites shared by a number of carriers by calculating the total cumulative emission level. These features mean that it is a practical and efficient way to conform to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency protocol for the assessment and reporting of EME from base stations. In fact, the software automatically produces a table, of maximum emission levels at nominated distances, required by the ARPANSA protocol.

Telstra has taken the decision to commercialise the software, which is a world first, because of expressions of interest from other carriers, EME assessment specialists, government agencies and regulatory organisations both in Australia and overseas. Significantly, the software should improve the flow of easy to understand and accurate information on emission levels from base stations, in response to demand from those concerned about possible health implications.

EMRAA News Sept 2000, Vol 5 No 3