As you read this article, chances are high that you are using a mobile device hooked on to a wireless internet connection. That internet connection is most likely to be a 3G or 4G mobile broadband service from one of the ISP in Uganda. It’s a fact, and only makes business sense that most investors in Uganda’s telecom sector start rolling out their services in highly populated area like Kampala that is composed of over 1.5 million people according the recent 2014 national census. 

Have you ever thought about how your dongle, smartphone or MiFi devices are able to connect to the internet? That intricate process that lies behind every google search, every Facebook like and every tweet that seems to be a millisecond time lag depending on the speed of your internet service provider (ISP), requires a medium in which it will travel to reach the internet through your carrier. And, this is the elephant in the room, am talking about the invisible last mile internet access method to the customer, that technical people refer to as electromagnetic radiation aka the Invisible radiation. How safe is it?  This post is meant to explore just that.

The Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC) under the telecommunications act has the powers to give out telecommunications licenses in terms of spectrum. And as long as you have money and meet the commission’s minimum requirements, you can be awarded a PSP license. We’ve previously written a full  article, explaining what PSP are and the numbers we have in Uganda so far. Every wireless based ISP has a piece of Uganda’s spectrum and currently fully utilizing and bombarding it all over Kampala and with the rampant cases of cancer world over and in Uganda, several people have attributed these to electromagnetic radiation. Basically, every step you take in Kampala you are constantly being showered will all sorts of radio waves from different carriers (MTN, Airtel, UTL, Africell, Smart, Smile etc), broadcasting TV and FM radio frequencies and not forgetting wi-fi devices and what do all these have in common? They are all man-made.

Technology Frequency Band (MHz)Network
2G900MTN, Afriell, Airtel, Smart, UTL
1800MTN, Afriell, Airtel, Smart, UTL
3G900Airtel
2100MTN, Afriell, Airtel, Smart, UTL
4G LTE800Smile, Africell, MTN
2600MTN, Smile, Africell
CDMA450UTL
850Tangerine, MTN
WiMAX3500MTN, Aritel, UTL

Carriers in Uganda and their respective frequency bands 2015 (Under updating process)

Every after a few buildings in Kampala you will find a cellular mast or antennas, as each operator tries to cover and dimension their networks to reach their subscribers deep indoors and downtown basements. This means that very where you go you are surrounded by these invisible waves for each teleco.

Some people can have significant RF exposure as part of their jobs. This includes PVC welders and people who maintain antenna towers that broadcast communication signals. Most people are exposed to much lower levels of man-made RF radiation every day due to the presence of RF signals all around us. They come from radio and television broadcasts, WiFi and Bluetooth, cell phones (and cell phone towers), and other sources.

Awareness on this invisible radiation

I have personally had the privilege of working as a Radio Network Planning Engineer way back in my juvenile days and part of my job as to locate great spots for the cellular base stations. Base stations are always located in areas where telecos are assured of revenues thus we see them on building roof-tops and towers all over Kampala. During my work back then, I interacted with several landlords and top of their list was  the fear of the long-term effects of electromagnetic radiation exposure to them and their tenants. Obviously some didn’t mind as long as the deal make their bank accounts swell. This already shows you that Ugandans are tuned and aware of the world around them.  The fact is that over-exposure to certain types of electromagnetic radiation can be baleful as they damage the DNA inside of cells, which can result in cancer. As high frequencies will cause more damage it is likely to cause to the body:

  • microwaves cause internal heating of body tissues
  • infrared radiation is felt as heat and causes skin burns
  • X-rays damage cells, causing mutations (which may lead to cancer) and cell death
  • gamma rays also damage cells, causing mutations (which may lead to cancer) and cell death

So, What do the experts say?

Several studies, papers and thesis have been published by experts and scholars to ascertain the dangers and effect of cellphone or mast radiation effects on people’s lives. But all conclusions don’t seem to be backed by empirical evidence. The authors of these studies in most cases note that the results are preliminary and that possible health outcomes from changes in the body’s metabolism are still unknown. Such inconsistent findings are not uncommon in experimental studies of the biological effects of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation.

According to cancer.org, most lab studies have not found evidence of an increased risk of cancer with exposure to RF radiation. A few studies have reported evidence of biological effects that could be linked to cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization and says, “there is limited evidence that RF radiation causes cancer in animals and humans, and classifies RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). This was based on the finding of a possible link in at least one study between cell phone use and a specific type of brain tumor. IARC considers the evidence overall to be “limited” because of the conflicting findings and methodologic limitations in some of the studies.”

Do we still need to be worried about this invisible radiation? It is not my place prophesies dooms day as scientists themselves have not come up with conclusive results. Just as always, live your life with caution and avoid exposing your self to excessive electromagnetic radiation.

So, do you think the massive installation of telecom and broadcasting equipment around Kampala is causing more harm than good? The harm could be aesthetic or to our health. Do we need to be concerned or it’s still to early to even bother? Hit us up in the comment section or participate in the Mini poll below.

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