Frequently asked questions (FAQ) / Q&A


Why did you set up a website about mobile phone antennas?

Basically the website was set up in the mid to late 1990’s when the first major round of site building / GSM network rollout was taking place, not just in cities but on greenfield sites in rural UK. I was intrigued at new sites going up in my (rural) area and wanted to identify who was doing the building. So initially the photos were about showing the different operators sites by type. However as sites became more inventive (camoflaged, tree sites, lampost, micro-sites etc), the website has become more about showing these sites of particular interest. It is rare for the network operators or their contractors to publish such photos themselves.

You must have no life setting up a site about this subject!

 I think it serves a purpose and covers plenty of material that is not available elsewhere on the net. The site is mostly complete and in fact does not take up much of my time. I’m not just interested in mobile phones!

 Do you buy or sell phones? Are you interested in buying X,Y or Z that I have?

 I do not buy or sell phones, nor do I provide advice on buying. I'd suggest that you try Ebay if you wish to sell something. 

Which is your favourite network (UK)? 

My favourite network personally is Vodafone as I think they have the best UK network in terms of UK-wide coverage, capacity, reliability. The customer service is also very good. Greatest number of overseas roaming agreements. Only network to provide an answering bureau. I’d like them even more if they provided a signal in my home village in Somerset (Hint hint!). People might say that they are possibly not the cheapest network but then you usually have to pay for quality. I also use O2 for personal use, and Orange (work phone).

Having said this, my website tries to be un-biased towards any one network - some websites I've visited that are set up by individuals are blatantly in praise towards one network, for instance the Orange network has it's particular fans and that is fine, but I try and avoid this sort of bias on my website.

 Which is your least favourite network (UK)?

 The fact that the UK is such a competitive market, and there is only about 2 million customers difference now between the most popular and least popular networks, indicates that none of the networks are bad at what they do – I don’t think they can afford to be. I think all have their strengths and weaknesses and different people inevitably can have good or bad experiences to report.

What type of phone do you suggest I buy on which network?

Choice of phone and network depends on what you plan to use the phone for, what time of day, what functions you need that are provided on the handset or by the network, quality of network coverage at the locations important to you (work, college, home etc). What’s right for someone else may not be right for you. The Hairydog site for mobile phones says to ignore ‘lifestyle’ type advertising which I would like to repeat here as good advice. But as stated above I do not provide individual advice on buying.

 Does this site mean that you’re in favour of mobile phone antennas/towers being put up, for instance even in rural areas or areas where they may be a potential health risk (schools etc)?

 This website is not either representing a pro or anti view about mobile phone sites being put up, it’s simply to show what is happening on the ground. I’m not running a debate site on the subject. I think it may be true to say that some people may want the benefits of good mobile reception without the towers and antennas on buildings – however you can’t have the former without the latter. There is always going to be good and bad practice in terms of considerate siting of antennas for minimum visual and environmental impact (whether UK or abroad).

In terms of health issues, mobile phone antennas radiate non-ionising radiation (ie it is not radio-active, it just has a heating effect) at only a few watts (usually less than the power from a light bulb). My personal opinion (and this is an opinion, not a statement, upon which you should place no reliance, or base any personal / business / governmental decisions on, and should not be taken to be a legally binding representation!), is that mobile phones and mobile phone antennas do not represent a general health risk to the public. 

Can I use some of your material for a company training course / presentation / student project etc? 

Please write to me first. All use of material must be credited to me by name in the document / presentation that you use them in. But please write to me first!

 Can you help me with my student project?

 No you have to work on your own project without my assistance. Apart from the fact I do not have the time, you should be doing the work yourself!

Can you send me a complete list of UK base station locations / cell ID's for Orange/O2/Vodafone/T Mobile/3? 

No such lists exist in the public domain. I don’t have any list. This is commercially sensitive information for the networks which they don’t publish on the websites. O2 did for a while show the approximate locations of their base stations on their coverage maps, at, the only network to do so, but have removed this feature. 

There is however the government-run website which was set up in response to concerns about mobile phones and health. This shows the locations on a map of all the networks live base stations (not planned or in-build sites), although you have to zoom in quite far before the sites for a particular locality become visible. See the links page for the address. It only shows GSM, 3G and Tetra, but not other types of transmitter such as PMR, paging, or broadcast transmitters.

 Can I send you some base station photos?

 Sure, as long as they’re of interest to the site. They should be compressed JPEGS (50k or less), sent one per email. Write to me via the on-line response form first before sending anything. As you can see from the website some of the best photos have come from contributors, or at least the location of a site of interest has been provided by a reader. There isn’t much capacity left on the site so I’ll have to be selective about future content. I can't pay for any content sent to me. By sending them you are giving me permission to publish them on the site.

If you've seen a site of particular interest in your area but can't send photos then please send me a description and location and depending on the situation I may be able to get some photos of it for the site.

 What is your email address?

 I don’t any longer publish this on the website due to spamming. Write to me via the on-line response form and I will respond by email. I try and respond to most queries but cannot promise a reply to every message.

A new site has appeared in my area/neighbourhood/end of my garden and I want to know who owns it or what it is used for but can't identify it - can you tell me what it is?

You're welcome to send me a photo (no more than 50k in size, 1 per email), and I can try and identify it for you by type - but no guarantees that this will be possible. Sites should however be clearly labelled by operator and with contact details (and planning notice, when they first go up).

 Have you appeared in the media? / would you be willing to appear in our up-coming TV/radio documentary / news programme / newspaper?

 I have previously turned down offers to appear in the media, including Channel 4 and BBC Radio Scotland, amongst others. Reason being that I'm concerned about being mis-represented. I have no plans to change this policy of not accepting media invitations.

 Has anyone ever written to you from the UK mobile networks about your website?

 I think at one time or other I have heard from all the networks except Orange and ‘3’. I do know that the networks keep an occasional eye on my site. Some people have been very helpful and I’m grateful for them writing to me with information or just to say they found the website of interest. I’m always careful not to publish any information without specific permission, or publish stuff that may be commercially sensitive. I always welcome people writing to correct inaccuracies – often I can make an educated guess but there’s nothing like inside knowledge. 

There is some incorrect information on your site - you've got it wrong.

As above you're welcome to write and correct any errors on the site, if you know something to be incorrect.

Have you ever been accosted for taking photos of sites?

 Fortunately I can say no here. But then I avoid disturbing engineers at work, I don’t touch anything or enter enclosures, disturb crops/livestock, or leave anything (except footprints possibly). I have occasionally encountered curious locals at some sites wondering just what I’m up to. The most memorable incident was a kid on a bike who followed me from my car by the main road about a mile upto a site on the edge of a Wiltshire village, and back again. For some reason I think he was quite convinced I was a crook and that it was his responsibility to keep an eye on me until I had left the vicinity.

 Some of the sections of the website are a bit out of date? 

In recent years due to constraints on my time I’ve rather changed the focus of the site and concentrated on the base station photos as it’s got the most opportunity for original content.

 What are your absolute favourite base station sites?

 I think they have to be the O2 dead tree site, which a visitor sent me a photo of, and the T Mobile mini tree (Leyandii type), which I was sent the location of. The brown telegraph pole sites used by Orange, T Mobile and O2 are good as well. Overall for the standard sites, I probably prefer Vodafone’s sites as they’re usually well sited and they usually try to avoid them being too conspicuous (painted green etc). 

What do you think of 3G?

 Difficult to say as I’ve never used a 3G handset. I would say that it will be good for fast data transfer / internet browsing, and also clearer voice calls. GSM was always intended to be a robust transmission system for passing voice calls – but digital voice codecs have moved on since then. I remain to be convinced about the benefits of 3G video calling. I think good handover within handsets between 2G (GSM) and 3G networks will be crucial. I’m not sure, due to the higher frequencies used by 3G, whether 3G will ever attain the level and depth of coverage that GSM currently enjoys, in the UK and around the world. Therefore I think there will be a need in the long term, even when the networks have fully launched 3G, to fall back on GSM. Hopefully this will not be noticeable to most phone users. For this reason, and the fact that inevitably there are still GSM coverage 'holes', I welcome the fact that the UK networks are still expanding their GSM coverage, in addition to building out 3G, initially mostly in urban areas and along main roads.

 What is your favourite type of handset?

 Myself and relatives have had different types of handset such as Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia. Having initially used Motorola, I switched to Nokia about 5 years ago and I wouldn’t consider using any other manufacturer’s handset now. Personal opinion but I think Nokia are the best.

 What do you intend to add to this site in the future?

 Don’t know! But hope to add more 3G photos.

 Are there any other sites you can recommend?

I really liked the website run by Cam and Nick but that seems to have gone off the air now. It perhaps had the humour my base station website lacked (respect guys!). The website run by Mike Brown about broadcast sites is one of my favourites on this particular subject.

 Mike Pratt, April 2004.

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