AT&T is about to do something extreme: provide a functioning phone network to their customers. Unfortunately, there’s a downside.
Many AT&T customers have complained about weak signals on their phones, and even AT&T (Stock Quote: T) has admitted that some of their networks get overtaxed. In one peculiar move, AT&T actually tried to prevent New Yorkers from buying more iPhones in order to help the network run smoother.
Now, AT&T has another bright idea: mini-cell towers. This month, the carrier will begin selling what they call “MicroCells” for $150. According to the New York Times, these towers are relatively small, about as big as “a couple decks of cards,” and they work by “redirecting cell phone calls from congested cell towers to home Web connections.” The Times notes that several other phone companies including Verizon (Stock Quote: VZ) and Samsung already sell these towers, but usually for “niche use to customers in places with limited cell phone signals, like basements or homes with particularly thick walls.”
While these towers will likely improve your phone reception and hopefully limit the number of calls that get dropped, there are two potentially serious problems with this plan. First, the towers are bad for your wallet. In addition to the $150 price tag, the Times reports “AT&T customers would be charged for the minutes of phone service in their existing wireless plans unless they pay an extra $20 a month for unlimited calling.”
Perhaps more importantly, the towers may also be bad for your health. We interviewed several experts who believe consumers should think twice before purchasing these cell towers. “It is not a smart idea,” said Dr. Lennart Hardell, who authored a pivotal study on the link between long-term cell phone use and brain tumors. “It will increase radiofrequency emissions in the home and we do not know the long term effects of that.”
The FCC describes radiofrequency emissions as “the movement of electric charges” coming from the antennae of mobile devices. As with radiation in general, some studies have shown that radiofrequency emissions can be harmful at high levels. Hardell cautions that these emission could be particularly harmful to children, causing various “cognitive effects” including sleep disturbance, headaches and potentially even cancer.