What are small cells?

Small cells are low powered radio transmitters for mobile phone services.  Their small size makes them far more discreet. Telstra uses small cells to improve coverage, connectivity, and customer mobile experience without the need to build as many big mobile towers.

Small cells are not new. We’ve used them in our cities and suburbs since the 2G era nearly 30 years ago.  They also enhance mobile coverage in regional and rural areas.  Now the new generation of small cell technology is available, Telstra is investing in it to improve our network and provide better mobile coverage and connectivity for our customers in high traffic areas.

Telstra’s new 5G mmWave small cells use advanced antenna technology including beamforming to better direct signals to a user’s device while minimising interference from other users thereby achieving high upload and download data rates. This also helps to minimize EME levels.

Small cells use low power levels and are designed to comply with Australia’s mandatory EME safety standards, and our testing shows that EME levels near small cells are very low – far below EME safety limits, which themselves have a significant safety margin built in.

5G small cell on top of electricity pole next to house
Example 5G small cell on electricity pole
4G small cell on light pole in residential street
Example 4G small cell on light pole

Are small cells safe?

Yes.  Small cells use low power levels and are designed to comply with Australia’s mandatory EME safety standards which themselves have a significant safety margin built in.  The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has conducted measurements near small cells to verify compliance and found that, for all small cell sites measured, the levels of EME emissions in publicly accessible areas are very low (less than 1 per cent) compared to the Australian Standard for EME emissions.

The Australian EME Safety standards:

  • are very conservative and include large reduction factors
  • protect all people including children exposed to radiofrequency EME in the frequency range 100 kHz to 300 GHz
  • cover the frequencies used for 5G, including mmWave bands.

Read more about  ARPANSA EME Safety Standards

Small cell EME testing