Phone masts, also known as cell phone towers, are the tall structures that make it possible for cell phone users to communicate from most developed locations around the world. Phone masts may be free-standing or incorporated into buildings. In both cases, they provide cellular access to subscribers but they also present some significant problems to the communities where they're installed.
One of the clearest problems with phone masts in many communities is their unattractive appearance. While most urban towers are located on buildings or existing communications towers, rural and suburban phone masts may be more conspicuous, rising above tree lines and fields. Without a density of buildings, they may be visible for many miles. Some phone companies use artificial foliage to give masts the appearance of natural trees, but these efforts may not be enough to prevent a public outcry against new mast construction.
One of the biggest potential problems with phone masts is the negative health effects they may have on residents who live close to them, including possible risk increases for cancer, fatigue, depression and other illnesses. The scientific community is divided on this issue, with groups like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that cell phone towers pose no substantial public health risk, and others, such as the National Research Council (NRC), noting that there aren't enough data about the health effects of radio frequencies to conclude that phone masts are safe. This and other organisations call for more research and recommend building phone masts at a safe distance (usually 300 or 400 meters) from houses.
Phone masts are very tall structures. While the height varies depending on the location and type of tower, these structures present a significant danger of falling due to faulty construction or inclement weather. Phone masts must be designed and built for durability, especially in regions where icing, high winds or earthquakes are common.
The process of constructing a phone mast is another disadvantage. This is only magnified by the fact that most cellular providers don't share masts, meaning that a single community may see a steady stream of new phone mast construction as phone companies improve and expand their networks. Phone mast construction can result in increased noise and street closures. For phone companies, building thousands of masts is a costly endeavour, but necessary to maintaining a competitive network for subscribers to use.