The honeycomb is a shape is best known for being in beehives. The hexagonal structure is also used wherever stability and lightness are required. In principle, a mobile communication network also has a honeycomb structure. Technicians speak of radio cells. Three together form a honeycomb, which is supplied by several antennas. It is no coincidence that the Americans refer to mobile phones as cell phones.

For an efficient and comprehensive network, honeycomb is lined up next to honeycomb, radio cell next to radio cell, just like in a beehive. A radio cell is formed around an antenna, also known as a sector. Communication planners determine the best place for an antenna. Furthermore, there are many construction and legal requirements, and a site needs an optical fibre connection to handle all the network traffic.

Searching for a needle in a haystack

During the planning stage, a search circle is defined in a suitable area, within which a new location would fit in well with the existing network honeycomb structure. So-called site hunters then visit suitable locations on site and contact the landowners. Landowners receive market rents for the locations from the operators. If they are interested, usage is contractually agreed and an installation is planned, built and operated. Network operators are interested in long-term planning and predictability, as they invest heavily in the construction of a site. As the mobile communication network is constantly being expanded in short technology cycles, the operators are also interested in amicable relationships with the owners.

Unfortunately, there are also isolated cases in which existing locations are cancelled: a building is demolished or refurbished, or no agreement is reached at the end of the contractual term. If locations have to be dismantled without a replacement, coverage in the affected area deteriorates noticeably.

In most cases, it is then only just possible to make phone calls out of doors, because the area is supplied by cells further away. There were examples of this in Frauenfeld, Riehen and Sion. The situation is even worse indoors: where often there is no signal at all.

Incidentally, the radiation exposure for residents does not decrease when locations are removed, but instead tends to increase: this is because around 90 per cent of the radiation comes from your own device and not from the antenna. In this case, devices close to the body transmit much more strongly when coverage is poor in order to compensate for the greater distance to the nearest mobile communication antenna.

Every owner who makes their land available for antenna installations is therefore making a contribution to good infrastructure. This benefits the population, commerce and the economy. The public sector can indirectly support the expansion of this infrastructure by making locations available – many smart municipalities and cantons recognised this years ago and are earning money in the process.

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