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Frequently Asked Questions

Why was Sitefinder set up?

Establishing a national database of base stations was a recommendation from the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) - also known as the Stewart Group because it was chaired by Sir William Stewart. This expert group was commissioned by the Minister for Public Health in April 1999 to investigated possible hazards posed by mobile phone technology including base stations.

In response to the IEGMP recommendation the Government asked the Radiocommunications Agency (now Ofcom) to set up and manage a national database giving details of all mobile phone base stations and their emissions.

The Governments response to the IEGMP report can be found http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4009677

Sitefinder was developed in co-operation with the mobile phone operating companies.

Following its creation Ofcom inherited the duties of the Radiocommunications Agency and continued to manage Sitefinder on behalf of Government.

I can't see any base stations on the Sitefinder maps

The base stations will appear as blue pins when the map is zoomed in.

Is Sitefinder compulsory?

Sitefinder was set up by the Government with the voluntary cooperation of the operators. To impose a compulsory scheme would require a legal basis for collecting network data. The process to implement that, for example through a licence variation, would require considerable consultation and legal work to be undertaken.

Can I have a copy of the Sitefinder Database?

The last Sitefinder update was done in May 2012, although some operators ceased providing updates some years before then. The dataset is available . Ofcom cannot accept liability for any inaccuracies or omissions in the data provided within Sitefinder.

How up to date is Sitefinder?

The last update in May 2012 is based on the following datasets received by Ofcom: O2 (May 2012), Network Rail (April 2012), Hutchison (February 2012), Vodafone (October 2011), Airwave (February 2010), Orange (February 2010) and T-Mobile (August 2005).

What is a base station?

Typically a base station will consist of an equipment cabinet, an antenna that sends and receives radio waves to and from mobile phones and a structure that supports the antenna. The radio waves can carry speech, data, music, pictures etc.

Each base station provides coverage for a given area. Base stations can be a few hundred metres apart in major cities or several kilometres apart in rural areas. The transmitting power of any particular base station is variable and depends on several factors, including the number of calls and the distance between the base station and the mobile phones making the calls.

A base station is not necessarily associated with a mast. A mast is a free-standing structure that supports the antennas. A base station might equally consist of an equipment cabin and an unobtrusive antenna attached to a building or other structure.

What if a base station is not shown on the maps?

The last Sitefinder update was done by Ofcom in May 2012, which was based on the most recent datasets received from participating operators: see How up to date is Sitefinder? above. Some operators have also ceased providing updates altogether, as a result of the Information Commissioners decision of 2007 ordering that Ofcom should release the Sitefinder database. For those reasons in particular, base stations may not be shown because the underlying datasets are out-of-date or otherwise contain inaccuracies or omissions, particularly when compared with current network deployment. Also, Ofcom makes no corrections to the data supplied by the operators. Therefore, Ofcom cannot accept liability for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions.

It is also possible that the station in question is used instead by one of the other types of radio user. These include radio and television broadcasters, utility companies, the emergency services, taxi companies, government services, aeronautical radio, and the paging industry.

What is the audit of base station emissions?

Ofcom has carried out measurements of emission levels around mobile phone base stations which indicate that, even in the vicinity of cellular masts, levels are consistently found to be very significantly below (by two orders of magnitude at the very least) the safety levels for exposure published by the UK Health Protection Agency. Ofcoms remit is restricted to carrying out sample measurements of emission levels so as to allow those with an interest to assess compliance with the ICNIRP guidance.

Ofcom is able to survey sites if requested to do so. For more information please see: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/sitefinder/audit-info

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