Wireless versus Fibre

By John Nixon 26/10/2010

Just returned to Auckland from a month in Australia – part work, part holiday.

My wife and I discovered Bill Peach Aircruising a few years back and just completed the Great Southern Air Cruise – Sydney to Perth and back, stopping at the most interesting and unusual places you can imagine.

Like most of us, I go nuts if I can’t access the internet daily, my business is brisk and one needs to keep clients up to date.

So I invested in a Telstra 3G USB transceiver on their prepaid basis. If you prepay around $40, the data rate drops to 2 cents a Mb, pretty cheap for what I usually do. I chose Telstra because they really do have the best network coverage in Australia.

To join the Aircruise (and to visit family well North of Sydney) I drove down from my Gold Coast home. Two days later the Telstra device failed totally. I didn’t bring the invoice with me, so I bought a new device, hoping that Telstra would do the right thing when I got back to Queensland. (In fact they did, refunding totally the first device).

So how did the new one work? Absolutely fantastic! I had full speed 3G coverage in places like Coober Pedy, Kalgoorlie, Bussleton, Margaret River, Albany, Esperance, Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island and so on, tiny little wonderful places to visit, but still enabled with 3G coverage. The one and only place with no coverage was Karri Valley Resort in W.A. They had NOTHING, no cell phone coverage at all, no customer WiFi nor a $2 in the slot machine in reception. Nothing! I asked why: reply: you are supposed to be on holidays. Grrrr. Then I saw a dish in the manager’s house garden proudly emblazoned “IPstar”… so he has internet, nobody else. Wouldn’t you think they would hook a pay WiFi system to his dish? Oh well…

But it was a wonderful trip and I warmly recommend Bill Peach if you would like to discover Australia’s outback in total comfort with your own chartered aircraft.

Now to the main theme: Wireless versus Fibre.

Everywhere I go, most people just don’t understand how fibre works and why we need it. The NBN in Australia is a quite dangerously audacious project, at a projected cost of A$43 Bn. Many taxpayers and the parliamentary opposition have created a massive outcry. “There is no cost/benefit analysis” etc etc. But the project is underway and the first users are being connected, first in Tasmania, then in mainland centres.

To my mind, a national fibre optics data network is totally inevitable. The copper network is dead. Oh yes I hear you say, they are pumping 500/600 Mbps over copper extending the life of VDSL. But all this needs backhaul, which can only be carried over fibre, and the fibre needs to creep closer and closer to your door to handle this workload. So FTTH is the only option within a very short space of time.

My close friends say “hey, you had a great experience with 3G wireless, why not just continue to do that and forget about the massive cost of fibre?” To which I have usually replied that the available wireless spectrum is finite and you can only impinge so much modulation (bandwidth) on a given carrier frequency. It will bog down, it will run out of steam. No doubt. And again, every cell tower has a major backhaul requirement, which usually means fibre, sooner or later.

But wait! I just realised something very important. I should have thought of it sooner.

Electromagnetic Radiation and health!

Don’t laugh, the highly respected world scientific jury is still out on this subject.

We all know that cancer in all its forms is becoming more and more prevalent. My sister and I both contracted serious forms of cancer at age 65. I survived, my sister did not. Our parents never had cancer, our Dad died at 93 from a refusal to see a doctor when he caught a cold (stubborn just like his son) and Mum is still a beautiful old bright and intelligent lady age 98!

A very close friend is a highly skilled and qualified anaethesist, specialising in assisting brain tumor surgeons. I’ve known her since she was born, fantastic lady. But she had her cell phone glued to her right ear all day long for years and years. Guess? Brain tumor next to the right ear, had the best surgeon possible in Melbourne, she is now on borrowed time. She knows it and says so.

So what’s this all got to do with fibre? I’m sure you have guessed. With fibre, there are absolutely NO electromagnetic radiations, everything in enclosed inside the fibre with no leakage whatsoever.

True, we aren’t certain about EMR and cancer, but I know what I would bet on.

If you go Google the subject, there are tons of evidence affirming cancer clusters around cell towers and other sites with EMR fields. Here is just one typical and telling article:

Electrical pollution from cell phones and WiFi may be hazardous

I’m not arguing against wireless, just pointing out that fibre has this totally underestimated quality of NOT polluting the airwaves with EMR.

Surely that’s a huge bonus on top of the many other advantages?

0 Responses to “Wireless versus Fibre”

  • I agree with the benefits of fibre over wireless but have to disagree over risks of EMR causing cancer. By cherry picking there are some papers that support a cancer risk, but the vast majority, including the better quality, suggest if there is a risk it is just too small to measure.
    It takes high energy EMR, such as x-rays or gamma radiation, to damage the DNA and cause cancer. Radio frequencies just don’t have anywhere near the energy required, so there isn’t even a scientifically plausable way for them to cause cancer.
    Individual anecdotes are not science, but can point out areas for further research. The counter anecdote to the anaesthetist would be my own teenager – brain cancer symptoms starting within a month or two of getting a cellphone. It’s just a coincidence, not cause and effect.

  • Hi John, I have to agree with Stuart, there’s nothing definitive thus far indicating even heavy cellphone use increases the chance of developing cancers. The Interphone study which took ten years to conduct looked into this issue but produced frustratingly inconclusive results. Experts said it failed to properly account for recall bias in the surveys that were carried out. I’ve heard lots of anecdotes of constant cellphone users developing tumors but of course they do not indicate cause and effect. Unfortunately we will have to wait years for a better designed study to be published that revisits the issue.

  • Stuart,
    Thanks for your comments, most welcome.
    None of us know yet at what level EMF causes cell modification or damage. And it would never be a constant, our variations in DNA and thus our susceptibilities vary so much.

  • Peter,
    Again, thanks for the comments.
    As I clearly said, I am not attacking wireless, simply pointing out that fibre has no EMR or other potential “nasties”.
    Surely this is a bonus?

  • PS should have added: “It is generated by electronic equipment such as computers, photocopiers, plasma TVs, energy efficient lighting…” (news quote from the lead researcher cited in that msn release) – given that exposure is thus verging on ubiquitous in the industrialised world, why focus on exposure at school?

  • Excuse me if my chiming in late, I’m adding ‘one more’!

    I prefer landlines (broadband, fibre) myself, partly because of the transfer speeds they offer and partly because of security concerns with wireless.

    Regards EMR & cell phones, if it were me I’d want to dig pretty deep before drawing conclusions. I don’t think I’ve written about it, but I can recall reading research on similar complaints about radiation from high-voltage lines (e.g. houses under pylons). Initial studies suggested a link, but careful follow-up studies (in England) showed there was very unlikely to be a link. (I haven’t looked at cell phone EMR.)

    Confounders are always an issue with associations like this. You might be interested to learn that anaethesists are exposed to radiation in operating theatres, etc. A quick search shows exposure of anaethesists to radiation is an actively researched area. Here is just one example, but there are plenty of others: http://jnis.bmj.com/content/1/1/78.2.full (I am obviously not an expert on this, but it does seem a straight-forward potential confounder for the case you point to.)

  • Thanks Grant, I read the medical article and will pass it on to the affected family. They are all in the medical field. Nobody really knows what goes on with EMR. The electromagnetic spectrum goes from DC to gamma rays passing by sound (we know that prolonged exposure to more than 100 db causes permanent hearing loss), to VLF (the US/Canadian case), HF, VHF etc etc through light and beyond. I studied the theory of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, helping a GP mate get his Radiology speciality quals. Each and every molecule in our body has a resonant frequency, EMR at different wavelengths WILL cause internal dispuption. We just don’t know how this affects us long term. Again, I’m not knocking Wireless, just stating that Fibre has the advantage of NO EMISSIONS whatsoever. That has to be a positive.

  • A search on PubMed, for example, should turn up more. I picked one of the recent ones, partly as the references cited at the end should lead back into the literature.

    I’m being really annoying and nit-picky tonight, but the damage to hearing by loud noise is essentially physical damage, not from ‘radiation’ as such 😉

    I have some basic knowledge on this myself, from a structural biologist’s perspective 😉 (NMR is one way to determine the molecular structure of biological macromolecules and Æ’MRI is used in neuroscience.)

  • Following up. It requires high energy quanta of radiation to cause DNA damage. The high energy quanta that cause DNA damage are those from ionising radiation, and that’s why you see radiation warnings around ionising radiation sources.

    With radio frequency electromagnetic radiation, it doesn’t matter how much energy the transmitter has, it doesn’t damage DNA.

    No-one denies that EMR can cause internal disruptions. A microwave or radar transmitter can put out enough power to coagulate every protein in the human body, to literally cook a person. In spite of huge power output by transmitters, the individual radio frequency quanta of radiation still cannot deliver enough energy to a DNA molecule to damage it.

    If radio frequency electromagnetic radiation cannot damage DNA then there’s no biologically plausible way for it to cause cancer.

    Still, bring on the fibre!