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How do Cell Phones work?

July 20, 2020
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History of Cell Phones

The first phone call made on a handheld cellular phone was on April 3, 1973. Motorola’s Martin Cooper made the call using a prototype Motorola DynaTAC, in the midst of reporter's interview, at a 900-MHz base station on 6th Avenue in New York.

The first commercial telephone, Motorola DynaTAC, weighed at 784 g, and with the attachment of an external antenna, the phone measured at more than 14 inches. Motorola DynaTAC has a talk time of 30 minutes and a full recharge would take up to 10 hours.

As advancement in telecommunications continues to surge forward, cell phones shrunk in size, with antenna inbuilt within the phone. Equipped with powerful battery capacities, cell phones now support internet access, navigation, and call times of up to 48 hours.


How does a Cell Phone Work?

As Cell Phones communicate using radiowaves, the Electromagnetic Radiation from Cell Phone is imminent. We are going to take a look into how Cell Phones operate using EMF.

During a Cellular Call

1. During a phone call, the microphone in a cell phone converts your voice into a corresponding up-and-down pattern of electrical signals.

2. The microchip in cell phones then turns these signals into a string of numbers.

3. The numbers are packed up into a radiowaves and beamed out from the phone's antenna, in a form of electromagnetic radiation.

4. The waves are then picked up by a receiver in the nearest cell-phone tower, and sent to the recipient's cell phone antenna in the form of electromagnetic radiation, which is then converted into sound.

Cellular Internet Access

1. Similar to cellular calls, phones have an in-built antenna to send and receive packets of digital data packets with cell-phone towers.

2. The data packets are then sent to cellular towers with infrastructures that are connected to the internet.

3. The towers would then transmit back the data packets to cell phones.

4. The main component used in the transfer of data packets is Electromagnetic Field Radiofrequency (RF) energy. Transmission of information between cell phones and the cellular towers is only made possible with this RF energy that can pass through buildings and walls.

WIFI Internet Access

1. Modems are connected to the internet via a cable, with wireless routers relaying data packets back and forth between cellular phones and modems.

2. For Wifi connectivity, cell phones use a different antenna for Wifi connections. For cellular connectivity in LTE 4G, antennas are tuned into frequencies of 700Mhz, 1700Mhz and 2600 Mhz. Whereas with Wifi connectivity, antennas are tuned to frequency bands of 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz, making Wifi the highest frequencies operated by mobile devices.

3. Similarly, the transfer of data packets via Wifi is made possible through EMF Radio waves but uses a higher frequency as compared to cellular network connectivity.


EMF levels of Cell Phones

What is Cell Phone Radiation? Cell phones and other electronic appliances require EMF to function optimally. Cell phones communicate with telecommunication towers using radio waves with frequency ranging from 700 Mhz (Ultra High Frequency) to 2700 Mhz (Super High Frequency). Meanwhile, cellular phones connected to WIFI transmit radio waves frequencies of up to 5 GHz (Super High Frequency).

The wavelength of Radio Waves is bigger than light waves and has the ability to go through a wall. When talking on a cell phone, most users place the phone against the head. In this position, the brain tissues are vulnerable to the harmful effects of Cell Phone Electromagnetic Radiation.

Even though Radio waves are considered as non-ionizing radiation which is widely believed to be non-harmful, researchers and health organisations are keeping a close eye on the subject.

WHO established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the carcinogenic potential of radiofrequency fields from cell phones in 2011.

Some people experience Electromagnetic Sensitivity or Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity when exposed to Cell Phone Radiation and WIFI Radiation. Click on this link to learn more about EMF Exposure Symptoms.


Cell Phone Regulations

The harmful effects of the Electromagnetic Radiation emitted by cell phones are not to be taken lightly. What are cell phones manufacturers doing to make their product safe to be used by consumers?

SAR (Specific Absorption Rate)

SAR is the measure of RF (radiofrequency) energy absorbed by the body when exposed to EMF from a cell phone. Before the sale of any cell phones, all cell phone manufacturers are required to conduct SAR testing in labs and must comply with the standards set by government regulators. However, manufacturers are allowed to select the testing lab — and only a single phone needs to pass in order for millions of others to be sold.

The Federal Communications Commission requires cell phones to have a peak Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) measurement of lesser than 1.6 watts per kilogram.

However, an independent cell phone radiation test by the Chicago Tribune has revealed that popular cell phone models exceeded the exposure limit set by government regulators on safety for consumers.

In some of the tests, cell phones emit nearly double the radiofrequency radiation of the exposure limit set by government regulations. This is worrying as the exposure is more apparent with phones placed closer to the body. Nowadays, people often carry phones closer to the body that increases even more potential exposure to radiofrequency radiation.

Cell phones are designed to reach the network base station for connectivity. The closer the cell phone is to a station, the lower the SAR level. As a cell phone is further away from a station, it requires even more power to connect and emits an even higher SAR value which is dangerous to the human body.


Conclusion

Even though the EMF energy emitted by cell phones is non-ionizing and deemed as harmless, there have been concerns raised throughout decades by scientists and researchers to investigate adverse health risks associated with cell phone radiation.

High levels of EMF exposure can heat biological tissues and cause harm directly to vulnerable organs of the human body. While we are commonly not exposed to high levels of EMF such as UV, X-Ray, and Gamma rays, the exposure to low-level cellphone radiation over many years, potentially decades, has an underlying risk of tumours, heart disease, and even cancer.

To stay connected with each other, cell phones would predominantly remain a necessity in our lives. As the usage increases, the exposure to radiofrequency radiation increases as well. 

Cell Phone Electromagnetic Radiation is imminent, and that's why we've compiled a list of safety tips on how to avoid Cell Phone Radiation and how to protect yourself from Electromagnetic Radiation.

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