Wifi Vs. Cellular Radiation: Real-Life Numbers + 3 Safety tips


Since you ended up here you probably know that RF radiation can be problematic when we are exposed close to the skin from our mobile devices. It’s also a problem when we get to close to routers and cell towers.

But, is Wifi safer than a cellular signal?
The radiation level from cell towers is stronger than that from home routers. At a 10-15 feet distance, routers will emit EMF within the recommended levels set by building biologists. The phone itself will also emit RF radiation regardless of which wireless technology you choose.

This is the very short answer.

There are several factors to take into consideration when we talk about which is more harmful.

Wifi and cellular signals are identical in many ways but there are also some important differences which we will look at below.


Abbreviations used in this article:
EMF: Electromagnetic Fields (All types of radiation)
RF: Radio Frequencies (Radiation from wifi, cell towers, and other wireless technologies)
ELF: Extreme Low Frequencies (Radiation from power lines)
EHS: Electro-Hypersensitivity (Syndrome where you are very sensitive to EMF radiation)
V/m: Volts over meters (How we measure RF radiation)


What’s The Difference Between Wifi & Cellular Radiation?

Wi-Fi and cellular signals are similar and that they both all classified as RF radiation.

However, they do also emit some of the radiation on each side of the diagram above such as ELF and microwave radiation.

They are primarily in the range of 900 MHz to 5,000 MHz (5 GHz) and the sources that emit wifi, and cellular signals are typically powered by electricity (ELF) so there will be some ELF radiation as well. Especially when the phone is plugged into the charger.

But what does all this technical lingo mean, what are we dealing with here?

The difference between wifi and cellular signals are to be found in the frequencies they use as well as the strength of the signal. Wifi routers in your home will use either 2,4 GHz or 5 GHz radiation while cell towers will use several different frequencies.

The higher the frequency, the shorter the signal will travel. This is also why most routers use 2,4 GHz instead of 5 GHz. The 2,4 GHz signal will create a “bigger network” as the radio signals can travel further.

Cell towers use lower frequencies. The mobile service providers use either 800 or 1900 MHz. Please note that we are talking about “megahertz” here and not “giga-hertz”. There’s a big difference. 1000x to be exact. 1 GHz is the same as 1,000 MHz.

So, the signal from a cell tower has a lower frequency and can, therefore, travel further.

The antenna in our smartphones can typically receive signals ranging over a wide spectrum so it’s no problem for it to pick up either wifi or cellular signals. It can even pick up both types of signals at the same time.

What’s A Safe Distance To A Cell Tower?

According to Magda Havas, Ph.D., schools and kids should never be closer to cell towers than 1,500 feet. This is to ensure safe levels of EMF so hypersensitive people won’t get affected negatively from the radiation.

The signals from cell towers are much stronger than the signal from your home router. Therefore, the radiation levels are also higher.

Here’s a reading I did a couple of weeks ago just outside our front door:

EMF reading from cell tower with EMF meter

We live around 250 feet (76 meters) from a cell tower and this is way too close.

But unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about it. The telecom industry has immunity when it comes to complaints against cell towers.

My EMF meter says 1.9 V/m and I should be below 0.2 V/m to follow the guidelines from building biologists.

This is far from the safe limits and this is also why I got very interested in the EMF topic. My wife is highly sensitive to many things and we strongly suspect that she is a mild case of EHS. EMS is “Electro-Hypersensitivity” and it’s a complicated way to say that you are more affected by EMF radiation than other people.

You can read the most-common EHS symptoms here and see if you are also showing symptoms or signs of EHS.

What’s A Safe Distance To Wifi Routers?

I also did the same reading from inside our house. Here’s I’m only 6 feet (1.8 meters) further away from the cell tower but I am now closer to the wifi signal in our house.

I’m 5 feet (1.5 meters) from our router and here my EMF meter says 0.5 V/m. This is close to 4X lower than outside our house. As you might know, brick walls can weaken the wifi signal which is to my advantage here.

PS: Here you can read exactly how 9 different wall types block (or don’t block!) wifi signals.

RF radiation from cell tower measured from inside my house

I still need to add around 3-5 feet distance to get below 2 V/m from my router.

This shows how important it is to add distance to our routers and cell towers. We are way above the limits from building biologists which is also why I’m working with EMF blocking paint in our bedrooms.

In bedrooms, it’s especially important to get the room as radio silent as possible. This is because our bodies need to rest and recover during the night. If we are constantly being bombarded with EMF radiation from routers, dirty electricity, etc during our sleep it’s a big problem.

Scientists have shown how we have difficulty entering into the important REM sleep when we sleep with a DECT phone, a wifi router, or a cell tower too close.

We recommend keeping at least 10-15 feet distance to wifi routers. This should keep the EMF levels below 0.2 V/M which is recommended by building biologists.

This is quite easy to achieve in homes as you can extend the cable to the router in order to move it. We have placed our router close to our entrance door where we never stay for too long.

This way we can keep our main living areas (kitchen, bedrooms, and living rooms) free of high EMF radiation.

Wifi Radiation Compared To Cellular Radiation (4G, GSM, etc.)

There are differences between the level of radiation you get depending on a couple of factors, such as:

  1. The strength of the signal
  2. The distance they can reach
  3. How close to our bodies they are being emitted

These are three important matters to consider when we compare wifi signals to cellular signals. We will come back to these three aspects in a second.

Let’s now compare wifi and cellular signals according to the amount of radiation you can get exposed to.

Let’s start by looking at how are you are affected as a smartphone user when you are connected to either Wi-Fi networks or the cellular networks.

Whether you choose to connect your phone to a wifi router or a cell tower you will have two sources of radiation: The phone itself and the router/cell towers.

This is how you are being exposed to EMF from each type:

  • EMF Levels From A Wifi Signal 
    You are being exposed to radiation from the router and your cellphone, as it constantly connects and communicates with the router
  • EMF Levels From A Cellular Signal
    You are being exposed to radiation from a cell tower (or several) and your phone, as it constantly connects and communicates with the cell tower.

There are primary 3 factors that come into play when we are looking at the amount of radiation you will be exposed to.

1) How Far Are You From The Signal?

Factors that influence the EMF exposure in our homes

The further away from the source of the signal you are the stronger the RF radiation signal from your smartphone will be. It’s really great to be far away from the radiation from the router or the cell tower but you should expect the radiation from your phone to go up as you move away from the signal.

This is because your phone is constantly trying to connect to the router or the cell tower and if they are placed far away your phone will turn up the signal to maximum exposure level.

So, in one way it’s best to distance yourself as much as possible from cell towers and the Wi-Fi radiation (because they do emit radiation in your direction).

But your own device will also connect to the signal constantly and create more or less radiation close to your body.

This is a dilemma and the best thing here is to make sure you are at least 10 to 15 feet away from your Wi-Fi router and as far away from the cell tower as possible.

The signal from cell towers is much stronger than the radiation from your smartphone. So, it doesn’t really make sense to move closer to a cell tower in order to help your smartphone turn down the signal (by getting a better connection). You should always try to remove yourself away from cell towers. Period.

So as you can see, there’s no clear answer to the question whether it’s safer to connect your phone over Wi-Fi or over via the local cell towers.

The best thing you can do is to stay as far away from cell towers as possible and keep safe distances to the router. On top of that, you should always turn your smartphone to flight mode when you’re not actively using it.

That’s the only way to stop it from constantly connecting and sending small data packages forth and back to the router or the cell towers around you.

2) How Far Does Wifi & Cell Tower Signals Reach?

Wifi routers can typically reach around 150 feet with a strong signal and cell towers can reach closer to 20 miles. They both emit RF radiation but the cell towers emit much stronger signals in order to let smartphones connect wirelessly.

Most routers way find in our homes and in the office spaces can easily reach up to 150 feet (46 meters) or more. Unless we are sending the signal through brick walls.

You can see here exactly how 9 different types of walls block RF radiation, such as the radiation we get from wifi routers and cell towers.

So, there’s no need to stay as close as possible to the Wi-Fi signal.

On the contrary.

You need to distance yourself at least 10 to 15 feet (3-4.5 meters) away from the Wi-Fi router because it does emit a very strong RF radiation signal. The same obviously goes for cell towers which are much much stronger. Cell towers are one of the main polluters when we are looking at radiation in our urban environments.

They constantly emit massive amounts of RF radiation to you should always stay as far away from them as possible. The signal from a cell tower can easily reach up to 20 miles (32 meters), as we mentioned above, so it’s an extremely strong signal.

Routers and cell towers are being taken down from schools and kindergartens in many European countries such as Austria and Switzerland as we speak. This is because the government acknowledges that they are dangerous to humans and kids especially. You can read here exactly why babies and kids are more receptive to radiation than adults.

3) How Close To Your Body Is The Signal Emitted?

The last thing we must take into consideration is the distance between you and the router or the cell tower.

Let’s start with the router.

The closer you are to the router, the stronger the radiation will be. You will need to add at least 10-15 feet distance, as I mentioned above. When you do this you will get the radiation level below the safe limits set by building biologists.

As long as you remember this you should be good to go unless you have a router with an extremely strong signal or if you have a wifi extender or access point that extends the signal closer to you.

When we are talking about cell towers things get more complicated because you cannot really distance yourself to the source if they are placed just across the street from your house. This is the case for us so I had to take some pretty drastic steps to protect us from the radiation. We decided to paint our walls with EMF blocking paint. You can see my guide here on exactly how you apply EMF shielding paint.

Cell Tower Radiation Is High When You Move

As mentioned above, the longer you are away from the cell tower the higher your device will crank up the signal in order to catch whatever signal it can. The phone adjusts its output depending on the distance to a cell tower.

This is also the reason why you should never use your cell phone on the cellular network from cell towers when you are moving in trains, cars, or even your bike.

You will constantly be moving towards and away from cell towers, which means that your phones radiation levels will spike all the time. It will constantly try to find a better cell tower closer to you.

So, you should avoid using your phone in your car or on trains. This is also a good idea for another reason. Cars and trains have a metal exterior which means that the signal will bounce around in the thing like a tin can. The same goes for campers and RVs.

You should never use Wifi and cellular signals inside these vehicles as you will get exposed to higher levels of RF radiation than outside. Not only because the thing is moving (and shifting from cell tower to cell tower) but also because the signal from the phone itself is bouncing around inside the vehicle.

How Dangerous Is Wifi & Cellular Radiation?

As we looked at above, both wifi and cellular radiation are what we call radio frequencies (RF).

On May 31st, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent out a press release that classified RF radiation in the same category (Class 2B) as the toxic stuff in Roundup and Asbestos. Yep, that stuff that poisons our water and our air in old buildings.

It literally stated that:

“The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use. This classification applies to all RF-emitting devices, including Wifi.”

3 Tips To Stay Safe From The Radiation

You can do a couple of things.

  1. We recommend you use your phone with a set of air tube headphones (see our recommendations here). This will allow you to use your phone at a distance. This will ensure you don’t have to press the phone against your ear, which is a REALLY bad idea.
  2. When you combine the air tube headphones with an EMF blocking cover for your phone you have reduced the radiation a lot. You can be safe within the limits set by building biologists when you use these two products.
    You can see here which EMF blocking smartphone covers we recommend.
  3. You can also choose to go one step further and choose to talk over a laptop or desktop computer with an ethernet connection to the Internet.
    By doing this you can turn off the wifi signal and the Bluetooth signal on the computer and use apps like Skype or Facetime to do talk to your friends and family.

That’s the 100% bullet-proof way to make phone calls as you don’t communicate with any router OR cell tower.

As long as you keep your phone several feet away (or on flight mode).

 

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504984/
http://electromagnetichealth.org/electromagnetic-health-blog/media-teleconference

George Willington

I'm George Willington. I've researched EMF radiation in order to create a safe home for my family. My background is Information Science (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and I've worked with Wifi and router communication for many years. I believe I have a good understanding of the technical side of the various types of EMF. I hope you can learn something from my tips and guides.

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