Epidemiology and Cell Towers


I received a phone call from a cancer epidemiologist last Friday. He had received my name from a co-worker in his department who knows me. This researcher is in the process of researching a cancer cluster near a cell tower. Local residents have been speculating about whether that cell tower has played any role in the formation of this cluster. I wouldn't be surprised if the owners start looking into cell tower lease buyouts round about now. I have done a fair number of measurements of RF power levels in the vicinity of antennas and that is why he contacted me. The researcher had done a very good job of familiarizing himself with the basics of Radio-Frequency (RF) electronics by doing some googling and now wanted to confirm his information with an RF practitioner -- I fit the bill. We talked about a number of interesting subjects. In this post, I will discuss how I go about collecting some basic information on a cell tower -- height, power, frequency -- something I need to regularly do. I thought some of you may find this process interesting. I am always surprise at the number of radio antennas that are registered in an area. I will discuss other parts of our discussion in later posts.

There are four web sites that I regular use to find information on towers and the antennas that populate them:

  • http://www.antennasearch.com

    This site supports separate searches for tower and antennas. You can also access aerial photos of the locations.

  • http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/AsrSearch/asrRegistrationSearch.jsp

    The government's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system. The government makes the licenses it grants accessible on the web.

  • http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp

    The government provides a means for looking up information on their Universal Licensing System (ULS). This is useful when you know the transmitter's call sign.

  • http://radioreference.com

    This site is similar to antenna search -- works best when you have a radio call sign to search for. This site is nice because it makes radiated power easily available.

Remember that most antennas are mounted on towers owned by someone different than the antenna owners.

I will show you some examples of some recent searches I did near my workplace. This is NOT the area that the cancer researcher was asking me about. These are just examples of what you can find "out in the cloud".

Figure 1 shows the output for a recent tower search that I did at www.antennasearch.com (the antenna is on a tower in Brooklyn Park, MN -- not far from where I grew up).

Figure 2: Tower search option from antennasearch.com.

Figure 2: Tower search option from antennasearch.com.

Figure 2 shows the output for the antenna search option from www.antennasearch.com.

Figure 1: Search for Antennas at antennasearch.com.

Figure 1: Search for Antennas at antennasearch.com.

Figure 3 shows the output for an arbitrarily chosen FCC license for the tower near me from http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/AsrSearch/asrRegistrationSearch.jsp.

Figure 3: Example of an FCC license for a tower in Brooklyn Park, MN.

Figure 3: Example of an FCC license for a tower in Brooklyn Park, MN.

Figure 4 shows that we can even get an aerial photograph of a nearby tower from the web at www.antennasearch.com.

Figure 4: Image of the Tower.

Figure 4: Image of the Tower.

Figure 5 shows the licensing information for a specific antenna on the tower from http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/AsrSearch/asrRegistrationSearch.jsp.

Figure 5: Example of a Specific License for an Antenna

Figure 5: Example of a Specific License for an Antenna

Figure 6 shows some detailed technical information for an arbitrarily chosen radio call sign from http://radioreference.com.

Figure 6: Radioreference Info on an FCC License Holder.


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2 Responses to Epidemiology and Cell Towers

  1. Mike Bell says:

    That was great. I wonder how you'd go about performing inference to decide whether all these RF towers contributed to spike in cancer rate. Or is that epidemiologist's job? 🙂

  2. Pingback: Radio Communication Between the Stars | Math Encounters Blog

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