Cellular Broadband for Huia and Cornwallis – A Closer Look

I am concerned about Huia and Cornwallis Residents and Ratepayers Association’s support of Vodafone’s construction of a cellular tower at Awhitu Peninsula to provide cellular broadband coverage to Huia and Cornwallis. The positive aspects of having fast internet access are widely understood. The intention of this letter is to point out the less widely understood downsides and health risks associated with the chosen cellular broadband technology.

Types of Broadband

There are two basic types of broadband connection – wired (data is sent through a wire – either a telephone line or a fibre-optic cable) and cellular (data is sent through the air using microwave radiation).

What Vodafone offers here is cellular broadband – the modem is essentially a 3G cell phone that communicates with a cell tower using microwave radiation. This Vodafone broadband is identical to using a cell phone for all internet use – with a minor difference that it is a device mounted to the house instead of being held in the hand. It costs $228 to install with a 24 month commitment of $110 per month for local calls and 15GB of data.

To compare this to wired broadband through a telephone line, a typical plan offers free installation with a 12 month commitment of $75 per month for local calls and 30GB of data.

Cellular broadband is typically slower and less reliable – it is the same thing as using internet on a 3G cell phone.

Cellular Technology Explained

Cellular phones and cellular modems receive and transmit information (phone calls and internet data) using microwaves. They use similar microwave frequencies to microwave ovens, but at lower strength. These microwaves do not travel in a straight line between the cell tower and the cell phone or modem. The cell tower radiates microwaves in a general direction of an area. Radiant heaters work in exactly the same way – you point the radiant heater towards the desired side of the room where the occupants are. Similarly, microwave radiation from a cell tower will permeate everything in the target area (up to dozens of square kilometres) and everything on the way.

Specifically: if someone in Huia uses cellular broadband, the new cell tower will beam microwaves with internet data from across the harbour. These microwaves will travel through everyone who is boating on the harbour, every visitor on the beach, through the brain of every child in Huia and Cornwallis, through internal organs of every resident, and somewhere in this area will also be the modem for which they are intended. This is the extent of this technology’s targeting capability – every resident’s brain will receive as much microwave radiation from the tower as the target modem. Microwaves go straight through trees, wooden walls, glass, plastics and cloth.

Once an area has good cellular reception, electricity companies tend to gradually replace power meters on most houses to “smart meters”. A smart meter contains a cellular modem that transmits electricity usage information every single minute (about 1,500 times per day) generating significant additional microwave radiation. 450,000 smart meters are already installed in NZ (according to Vector) – often without home owners even knowing about it. [See my new article about smart meters for more information.]

In contrast, wired broadband sends and receives internet data through a wire – directly between modem and telephone exchange – it does not go through anyone’s body, not even the user’s body.

Health Risks of Cellular Broadband

Microwave radiation is completely invisible – humans have no sensory organs that can perceive it. NZ Ministry of Health sets its public exposure standard based on the intensity required to heat a person (like in a microwave oven) divided by fifty. The official position of the telecommunication industry and NZ government is that microwave radiation can only cause harm by heating a person, and that there is no conclusive evidence of non-thermal effects.

However, a number of independent studies have demonstrated that exposure to microwave radiation at levels that are thousands of times below heating levels can affect human health. The effects include: fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, feeling of discomfort, difficulty concentrating, depression, memory loss, visual disruptions, irritability, hearing disruptions, skin problems, cardiovascular disorders and dizziness. Studies have also shown links to earlier development and higher incidence of high blood pressure, brain haemorrhages, leukaemia and cancer. You can find more information and listen to expert testimonies at www.ElectromagneticHealth.org

There is also considerable evidence of damaging effects at DNA level. According to Henry Lai, PhD, author of Chapter 6 of the BioInitiative Report, “Evidence for Genotoxic Effects”, of the studies on radiofrequency (including microwave) radiation and DNA damage (28 studies), 50% reported effects; of micronucleus studies (29 studies) 55% reported effects; and of chromosome and genome effects (21 studies) 62% reported effects. www.BioInitiative.org

The damaging effects of microwave radiation begin at the cellular level in our bodies. According to TV3 NZ documentary “Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?”, children are particularly vulnerable to these effects due to their thinner skulls and developing brain. The damage can also occur during fetal development.

Recent history is full of examples of innovations that were rushed to the market without sufficient safety testing: leaded petrol and paints, CFC aerosols and refrigerants, uranium in crockery glazing, and tobacco. Cellular communication technologies were deployed at an incredible pace and scale just in the last two decades – they are now a multi-trillion dollar global industry and government bodies make millions by leasing frequency use permits.

Like with smoking, many of the effects of microwave exposure are long-term and do not occur in every single individual. Unlike with smoking, it is now hard to get away from microwave radiation exposure. The question that begs asking is: should we stay on the cautious side when something is not “conclusive”, but say 25% risky? Should we be cautious about something that has even a 2% chance of causing cancer in our children?

Despite government and industry denial, European Environment Agency issued the following warning in 2007: “cell-phone technology could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol.” This was followed in 2011 by World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as it classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic” to human beings, placing it in the same risk category as pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust. This conclusion was reached by a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries.

The argument against smoking is statistical. No research anywhere in the world over the past thirty years has shown how diseases claimed to be associated with cigarette smoking are caused… There is no proof of causation of even one single death from cigarette smoking” – Tobacco Institute of Australia Limited, 28 July 1983.

Huia and Cornwallis

Huia and Cornwallis are among the very few remaining areas with low microwave radiation exposure (ex: Piha beach has multiple cell towers). Good internet access is very important for modern life – there is no dispute about this – but how to go about obtaining this internet access is a very important decision. The cellular option that has been selected carries a significant health risk. Anyone is free to personally believe that it is safe to be exposed to microwave radiation – and everyone is free to choose the risks they want to take upon themselves – but in this case their decision will also risk the long-term health of all other people living in the area, including children.

Laingholm recently had fast wired broadband connected, and with some more lobbying and some more time this could also be achieved in Cornwallis and Huia. This is a completely safe, cheaper, faster and more reliable technology. But once the money is invested to build the cellular tower the chances of deactivating it will be close to zero, and wired services will be delayed due to availability of a competing cellular service. Smart meters will follow.

The intention of this letter is to point out the downsides and health risks to those who might not be aware of them – but please do your own research. Vodafone will certainly not supply or acknowledge this kind of information, but there is plenty online and in published books. I trust that you will make whatever decision is right for the residents of your communities. By default it seems that the cell tower, if not stopped, is now to be built in the next few months.


13 thoughts on “Cellular Broadband for Huia and Cornwallis – A Closer Look

  1. Is there anything I can do about this? I am for example willing to engage in petitioning.Or is it too late to halt ?

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    • Hi Beatrice,

      I think that the best course of action would be personally ensuring that every member of the Huia and Cornwallis Residents & Ratepayers association becomes aware of how this technology works and what risks it poses. Either by approaching R&R group members personally or via a group meeting. The R&R group was lobbying strongly on behalf of all residents to have this tower built, likely without having any information at all about the associated risks.

      To stop the tower going ahead the R&R group would need to urgently reverse its stance and demand that the tower does not go ahead. This would probably need to be done within a month from now to have an effect.

      I can help on the information side of things as I have good video and reading material on the subject. I could present it to the group if they are interested.


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  2. You could all buy tin foil from the super market and make hats out of it, Can’t wait for new mobile coverage out far West! Bring it on :)

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    • This message above demonstrates the attitude at the root of this issue as well as how the conversation often pans out:

      1. Some people are excited about the convenience of a new technology, but without rational questioning of how this technology works and what side-effects the use of this technology might have in the long run.
      2. Others think this through and rationally state their concerns, along with suggesting technological alternatives.
      3. Instead of responding to the rational arguments, people in the first group respond with irrational ridicule and name-calling. This approach is often chosen because of inability to refute the arguments or because of intellectual shortcomings.

      – “This new technology is so great!”
      – “Yes it is, but because of the way it works it is likely to have damaging side-effects. Here are the sources of research. Why don’t we use this other safe technology instead?”
      – “You’re a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist.”

      How can we have a constructive discussion like this? Personally, I don’t mind for people like this to microwave themselves as much as they choose to. What I do mind is that everyone else in their vicinity is also affected.

      If there will be further responses from the supporters of the tower or of this type of technology in general, I invite you to respond with your reasoning in response to the reasoning in the article. Then we could have a constructive debate.

      At this stage the building consent for the tower has been granted and the tower should be built and operational in the next several months.

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  3. I am so excited will help them build the new tower if I could, phone sites are very low powered compared to the Television transmitter up the hill and the Radio transmitters on the Motorway!,

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    • I’ve actually measured them and your guess is incorrect. The radiofrequency radiation readings when standing near the Waiatarua TV tower are similar in power to the readings when standing near a typical cellphone tower. And Waiatarua TV tower is one of the strongest TV transmitters in New Zealand.

      I’m not sure what you mean by radio transmitters on the motorway. As far as I’m aware all of those are cellphone towers. They have similar radiofrequency radiation levels.

      By the way, here is a good online map that shows where all the cellphone towers are located. The new tower is already shown on the map.

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  4. I for one hope that I won’t get internet coverage. Whatipu Lodge markets itself on being ‘offline’. Not having the internet or cellphone coverage is what I call a competitive advantage. When children come to Whatipu Lodge they play, they do puzzles and they do an old fashion thing called ‘conversation’. Not having screen time is important for the families who have been vsiting Whatipu Lodge for generations. Having coverage at Whatipu will spoil a century of visitors experience. Vodaphone I don’t want your coverage at Whatipu Lodge (call me old fashioned).

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    • Hi Wayne. I agree that not having good cellphone coverage is part of the unique character of our area. A number of people move to live in the Waitakere Ranges in order to get away from the noise, air pollution and microwave pollution of the city. To live in a quiet and natural environment, to be able to have space to themselves and not always be reachable and “on call”.

      People who want to be “better connected” through microwave networks should live closer to the city where cell phone coverage is excellent. Why try to bring the city here if you moved away from it?

      Land-based broadband is a different story – each property owner has a choice whether to deploy it or not and it does not generate any microwave pollution. It is also cheaper, faster and more reliable. This is the technology that should be used instead. We already have it in Laingholm and it is excellent.

      Sadly, it looks like the Whatipu Lodge and the nearby campsite will have cellphone coverage with 3G cellular broadband as a result of this tower. You can check here by typing in the address and selecting “RBI coverage within next 12 months”:

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  5. Wayne I suggest you Google why these sites are been built, Partly funded by the tax payer which is great news

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    • Why is it great news that every tax payer is funding a private business asset (cell tower owned by Vodafone) that only some tax payers want?

      The initial cost and the on-going health risks fall onto everyone. Vodafone gets to own the asset and make money with it. Only some people benefit from the services. And the services cost a lot to use: between $99 and $274 connection fee, then $90 per month for 24 months (or $350 early disconnection fee).

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    • I think we’re clear where you stand (see point 3 in my reply of May 21). Any future comments from you will be deleted to avoid cluttering this discussion.

      Edit: Kristina’s next comments focused on tin foil and alien invasions and culminated in sexually derogatory verbal abuse. Not a single logical argument was expressed. She is now banned from commenting on this blog.

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  6. Update: the new cell tower is now operational and I went to Huia beach today to take some measurements. Vodafone reception on the beach was showing full 5 bars. The background level of microwave radiation on Huia beach is now around 10 to 20 microwatts per square metre – similar to many places in the central suburbs. A few months earlier, before the tower was built, the same test on Huia beach was showing no detectable microwave radiation.

    I’ve then made a call on my cell phone and the radiation emitted by the phone was indistinguishable from background radiation when the phone was 20cm away from the measuring device. This means that everyone going for a walk on the beach or living nearby is now exposed to a constant microwave radiation level equivalent to being 20cm away from an active cell phone, except this exposure covers the entire body and not just the head, and takes place 24 hours of every day. How this will affect people in the long term remains to be seen.

    I am saddened that a walk on the beautiful and remote Huia beach now involves a suburban-strength microwave bath. Another spot where we could get away from it all has been lost.

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