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Better answer health concerns...

The growth of mobile communications sector has been one of Europe’s great industrial success stories. Since commercial services were first launched in the 1980s, uptake has been phenomenal, particularly since the mid-1990s. At the end of September 2004 we will have more than 454 million subscribers in Europe. Key to this success has been the development of a competitive market, with licensing designed to encourage competition and deliver low prices.

Increased public concern over alleged health effects of mobile communications technology is impacting the continual development of networks and the ability to support the needs of mobile users. One of the aims for Industry to co-organise this event with the European commission and the MMF is to better understand the concerns and opinions of the worried citizens.

Mobile services continue to grow and bring enormous benefits to society. To work more efficiently GSM networks need sufficient infrastructure to achieve license coverage conditions and to maintain the levels of capacity, coverage and service quality expected by consumers. Due to capacity considerations and limitations in the frequencies available for mobile telecommunications networks, more radio base stations are required as customer demand increases.

However, delays in base station deployments across Europe are significant. Research among GSM Europe members in 2004 found that it took on average more than 7 months to receive planning permission and in some cases up to 4 years. This is despite statutory requirements in some countries of 30 to 60 days. This delay situation is by no means true throughout all Europe and we welcome agreements with national and local authorities to deliver greater planning certainty.

Delays present a major risk for the success of 3G in Europe. A study for FMK (Forum Mobilkommunikation) found that major delays in 3G deployments could have enormous consequences for the Austrian economy, including 2.4 billion euro loss in direct and indirect benefits of 3G capital investments, placing 4,500 jobs at risk and failing to realize more than 1 billion euro for the Austrian government in public charges. This indicates the scale of potential consequences for Europe\"s vision as an information economy.

More than 50 million euro has been committed by the Commission, Member States and industry to health related research in Europe, and another 100 million globally in the past decade. It is timely that the outcomes of this research be evaluated before new significant research programs are commenced. In this respect, the GSM community welcomes the work of the Commission in supporting scientific review via the EMF-NET project. We continue to support new scientific investigations where public health relevant issues are identified. However, we note proposals for specific studies to monitor the health of long-term mobile phone users and ask whether they are justified by current research findings and, if required, whether they are more properly the domain of public health authorities than industry funding. Especially when one considers the accusation of vested interest that are often directed at industry support of research.

It is not sufficient that good science be done, it is also critical that the outcomes be interpreted for the policy makers who are faced with daily political realities of balancing the demands of vocal customers who might be a small minority but whom we take very seriously. In this light, GSM Europe hopes that the Joint Research Centre project to develop a European Information System for EMF issues will be a success. However, a key to that success will be involvement of all stakeholders and, in particular, the broader community of radio spectrum users. I remind participants, that mobile communications contributes typically less than 10% of average community exposure to radio signals and that broadcast radio and TV services are usually the dominant sources.

It is unfortunate that the often-emotive debate about these issues has undermined trust between the various parties, government, industry and community. Industry spokespersons are believed by only 1 in 6, politicians are trusted even less, by 1 in 10 but university scientists and health officials are highly regarded, by 65% and 85% of the population respectively. With this high level of public trust comes the duty to communicate responsibly and clearly to the public. For the perspective of the GSM industry, efforts to address public concerns are only likely to be successful if they involve representatives of all stakeholders in a constructive dialogue. We are seeking to do our part in this by adopting guidelines and implementing codes of best practice in the sitting of base stations.

Our self-regulation initiatives need to be matched by commitments at all levels of government in Europe to a more predictable and consistent environment for deployment of mobile communications systems across Europe. In particular, authorities should avoid statements and actions that may undermine scientifically based exposure guidelines. The GSM Association also encourages authorities to establish robust communications programmes that address public concerns about alleged risks and explain the need for new base stations.

At DelConsulting, we have committed resources to provide customers with good quality information on the subject of mobile technology and health concerns. Consultants aim to provide the public with the opportunity to obtain high-quality, independent and impartial scientific information on the issues related to the safety of radio signals.

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