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A Comparison of RF Exposure in Macro- and Femtocells

Zarikoff, Brad; Malone, David*

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31828a9045

This paper assesses radiofrequency exposure of a mobile handset user in the context of a new class of cellular base station: the femtocell. Traditional cellular network construction relies on using a single base station to cover a large area and serve dozens to hundreds of users. The femtocell (named after the minuscule size of the coverage area) provides a low power, in-home cellular connection for the mobile handset. Consequently, the authors expect it to behave differently from a macrocell in terms of the user’s radiofrequency energy exposure. This work focuses on the trade-off in power that is incident on the mobile handset user when the handset is connected to either a macrocell or femtocell. Contrary to many individuals’ initial feeling that putting a base station in your home would increase exposure, these findings indicate that having a femtocell in the home will often reduce the mobile handset user’s exposure to radiofrequency energy.

*Hamilton Institute, NUI Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland.

This research was funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s FAME project. Alcatel-Lucent is an industrial partner of the FAME project. The authors did not have direct contact or discussions with Alcatel-Lucent regarding this research.

For correspondence contact: B. Zarikoff, Hamilton Institute, NUI Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 29 January 2013)

© 2013 by the Health Physics Society