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FAQS - Wireless Phones

The FCC wireless telecommunications programs and policies include: cellular telephones; paging; personal communications services (PCS); public safety; and other commercial and private communications services.

Our most commonly asked questions about wireless telephones are:

What are wireless phones?
Wireless telephones are hand-held phones with built-in antennas, often called cell, mobile, or PCS phones.

How do they work?
When you talk into a wireless telephone, it picks up your voice and converts the sound to radiofrequency energy (or radio waves). The radio waves travel through the air until they reach a receiver at a nearby base station. The base station then sends your call through the telephone network until it reaches the person you are calling.

When you receive a call on your wireless telephone, the message travels through the telephone network until it reaches a base station close to your wireless phone. Then the base station sends out radio waves that are detected by a receiver in your telephone, where the signals are changed back into the sound of a voice.

How can I check the RF level of my phone?
Manufacturers of wireless phones must report the RF exposure level for each model of phone to the FCC. This FCC website gives directions for locating the FCC identification number on your phone so you can find your phone’s RF exposure level in the online listing.

What is considered a safe level?
All wireless phones sold in the United States meet government requirements that limit their RF energy to safe levels. The relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a wireless telephone-user is given by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). The FCC requires wireless phones to have SAR levels no greater than 1.6 watts per kilogram.

What steps can I take to reduce my exposure to radiofrequency energy from my wireless phone?
If there is a risk from these products--and at this point we do not know that there is--it is probably very small. But if you are concerned about avoiding even potential risks, you can take a few simple steps to minimize your exposure to radiofrequency energy (RF). Since time is a key factor in how much exposure a person receives, reducing the amount of time spent using a wireless phone will reduce RF exposure.

If you must conduct extended conversations by wireless phone every day, you could place more distance between your body and the source of the RF, since the exposure level drops off dramatically with distance. For example, you could use a headset and carry the wireless phone away from your body or use a wireless phone connected to a remote antenna.

Is there any evidence that cell phones cause cancer?
There is no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other problems, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss. However, organizations in the United States and overseas are sponsoring research and investigating claims of possible health effects related to the use of wireless telephones. The Federal government is monitoring the results of this ongoing research, and the FDA is participating in an industry-funded research project to further investigate possible biological effects.

I'm having billing problems with my cellular provider; who can help me?
The FCC does not regulate contractual arrangements with cellular providers, but does handle complaints about wireless service. You may file a complaint with the FCC by using the FCC’s on-line complaint form

More consumer information on wireless phones.

Reviewed: September 29, 2014

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