Carriers Agree to Government Initiatives to Improve Community Consultation When Installing Mobile Phone Base Stations

Members of the Mobile Carriers Forum (MCF), Hutchison, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, have agreed to a number of Government initiatives to further improve community consultation for the deployment of mobile phone base stations in Australia, Tanya Stoianoff, MCF Executive Director said today.

“Our acceptance of the initiatives proposed by Government shows that the mobile phone industry is prepared to be more accountable and open in addressing community concerns about mobile phone base station deployment in Australia,” Ms Stoianoff said.

The MCF has agreed, following consultation with the Minister and community groups, to jointly fund with the Federal Government an:

  • appropriately qualified body to provide independent expert advice to communities and local governments about mobile phone base stations and health
  • independent audit of base stations by the Department of Health so that the community can be assured they are operating within international safety limits

“We acknowledge that in some cases we can find better ways to communicate with communities when we propose to install base stations in the community,” Ms Stoianoff said.

To this end, the MCF has also committed to:

  • produce a document that explains how mobile phone base station sites are selected and demonstrates how a precautionary approach is taken, such as, how base stations are designed to operate at the lowest levels necessary
  • review and improve training for carrier’s staff and contractors to ensure they follow all consultation procedures as outlined in the code
  • ensure each carrier has a single contact point capable and responsible for dealing with complex enquiries from the community
  • produce a quarterly electronic newsletter for local governments and others on mobile phone service deployment which will advise and update the latest research and policies, and
  • establish a ‘Design and Innovation Taskforce’ to assess the latest international design options and how they can be applied to improve the look of new base stations in Australia. The taskforce will provide its assessment to local government and community groups for comment.

“The MCF also accepts that we need to do more to address some resident’s views and feelings of disempowerment when installing mobile phone base stations,” Ms Stoianoff said.

“Therefore we have agreed, following consultation with the Minister and community groups, not to place base stations on a single residential dwelling that is a stand-alone building, a semi-detached house or a townhouse or terrace house unless we have the consent of the land owner. Furthermore we have agreed to always attempt to find an alternative site which provides substantially the same or better network coverage before asking for consent, both of which are in line with the carriers’ current practices.”

“The MCF acknowledges the Minister’s request to extend this approach to other types of residences such as multi-storey residential blocks and has agreed to consider this proposal. We also welcome the Minister’s agreement to request a similar undertaking to this initiative from all wireless carriers, not just MCF members,” Ms Stoianoff said.

Carriers need to balance the coverage requirements of nearly 18 million mobile phone users in Australia with some local residents’ concerns about living near a base station, she said.

“In making these commitments the MCF recognises that not all members of the community may be satisfied by improved consultation and some sites may remain controversial for some people, however, the industry takes the concerns of the community seriously and is committed to addressing these concerns responsibly through active community and local government consultation,” Ms Stoianoff said.

To arrange media interviews with Tanya Stoianoff call Kelly Parkinson on 03 9696 5444 or 0419 521 059.