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Is School WiFi Really That Dangerous?

By Gregg Meade on 14th Feb 2014

Dangerous School WiFi

Many still consider WiFi signals to pose significant health risks. Debates surrounding the potential risks of WiFi and mobile device radiation (from cell phones and tablets, etc) have been a mainstay within particular public discourses for what seems like an eternity.

This is expedited by a steady stream of new ‘evidence’ which claims to support anti-WiFi sentiment, particularly in relation to schools, colleges and other educational facilities – websites such as safeinschool.org and ssita.org.uk, are testament to this.

There is little doubt that certain levels of exposure to certain strengths of radio signal can indeed be harmful to humans. However, as we posted previously in our blog about Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), many studies into the potential risks of radio waves from sources such as; WiFi signals, mobile phone radiation, telephone and TV masts (the latter of these widely considered to be the most menacing), have all proven to be inconclusive.

What is important to remember here is that when testing the potential risks of WiFi radiation, there are many variables to consider, all of which make a clear, unarguable, conclusion somewhat difficult to ascertain. WiFi network design and configuration are by no means what one might term as being standardised, with each deployment having its own particular set of characteristics.

These often environmental or situational characteristics are at the hands of the installer to overcome, and it is at this stage where any likely risks should be mitigated.

Our take?

To preface the following comments, it should be noted that coming from a position of obvious bias – a factor which we are mindful not to neglect – the opinions expressed here are supported by many years of industry experience and expertise.

Given the relatively low radio transmitter powers associated with WiFi deployments, the degree to which users are to exposed should certainly be considered safe. However, to ensure the most risk-free school WiFi application, the network configuration should always be a core concern.

Typically, a typical UK wireless access point should not radiate at a power level which exceeds 100 MW EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) or, to put it another way, 1/10th of 1 watt – this standard is regulated and enforced by OFCOM under EU Legislation.

This being said, many can and do radiate at levels above this standard, having been installed incorrectly. Using larger, higher-gain, antennas – a tactic often wrongly employed in an attempt to provide the maximum wireless coverage per access point – can reduce deployment costs to the detriment of acceptable levels of radio signal strength. This installation method can often lead to poorly sited wireless access points and antennas that are running at a power level greater than the standard 100 MW EIRP, or 1/10th of 1 watt. To give these figures some perspective, the commonly accepted output for similar radio devices deployed in the USA can be up to 20 times the UK regulatory allowance.

Minimise any potential School WiFi risk

Whilst Ensign do not believe there are any health risks related to wireless networking, we do believe in strictly adhering to industry best practices in order to minimise any potential risks that may be present – however small they may be.

The professional approach to WiFi and wireless network design should be such that lower access point, and client, transmitter powers are used whilst still providing the coverage, flexibility and mobility which have come to be expected from contemporary wireless networks.

WiFi Risks - More information

If you are considering a WiFi solution for you school, college or university and have an questions or concerns, please contact us on 01929 556 553, or email info@ensign-net.co.uk.

What Next?

If you are planning to deploy an enterprise-grade wireless network or are experiencing problems with a existing setup, please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.

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