Vietnam’s mobile service operators have complained of problems when it comes to installing base station antennae due to complicated procedures in obtaining construction licences, and strong objections from local residents fearful of possible health problems. Nguyen Manh Hung, a director of military-owned cellco Viettel said the firm had completed 30 basement stations in Hanoi, but were unable to put up the towers without construction licences. Finding a suitable location and strict night time construction regulations were also major obstacles, he said. ‘We have no measures for building stations in old streets in Hanoi in the context of troubling administrative procedures, evening construction and non-stop civil construction around the selected places,’ said Hung, adding, ‘The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) and its subsidiaries should set up a hot line to support operators immediately, to unify contact agencies to deal with construction licences and put a ban on activities illegally obstructing the installation and make the public aware of the health factors.’ The MIC has conducted a survey on the installation of stations in Hanoi and northern Ha Nam and Thai Binh provinces and found that all six mobile service operators have faced difficulties in finishing the installation process. Hanoi and northern Ha Nam province project are significant problem areas. ‘Troubles with installing base stations are causing big losses to mobile service operators," said Tran Ngoc Tiep, deputy director of MIC’s Inspectorate Department. The number of stations to be installed has shot up this year with Vinaphone and MobiFone, both owned by state-run incumbent Vietnam Post and Telecoms (VNPT) planning 6,000 new stations between them. Vinaphone has yet to meet its target of installing 1,500 base stations.
According to the World Health Organisation, base stations transmit power levels from a few watts to 100 watts or more, depending on the size of the region. Antennae are typically about 20-30 centimetres in width and a metre in length, mounted on buildings or towers at a height of 15 metres to 50 metres. Typically, fences keep people away from radio frequency fields exceeding exposure limits. Since antennae direct their power outward, the levels of radio frequency energy inside and around the sides of the building in question are normally very low.