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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
China plans health limits on mobiles
China is the largest mobile phone market
New generation growing up with mobiles
BBC News Online Assistant editor Alfred Hermida

Imagine if your mobile phone automatically switched itself off after two hours; or if there was a phone mast on every street corner.

This could happen in China, if the government backs plans to cut down on radiation from mobile phones.

The draft legislation is worrying both network operators and phone manufacturers, as China is one of the top markets for mobiles.

But experts say the measures are so draconian that they are unlikely to become law in their current form.

Halving emissions

The draft regulations would result in China having the world's toughest standards on mobile phone radiation.

They would cap radiation emissions from handsets at half the levels allowed internationally.


It is certainly causing a few sleepless nights for investors and companies

Duncan Clark, telecoms consultant
The result could make most handsets illegal unless they were far less powerful than they currently are. There would also be far more phone masts.

"It is certainly causing a few sleepless nights for investors and companies," said Duncan Clark, managing director of the telecoms consulting firm BDA (China), in Beijing.

"When you look at the black and white of the draft, people are going to be very concerned about the impact and cost to the vendors and the operators," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

Technology fever

China is the world's largest mobile phone market.

Mobile phone use is growing
Mobile "surgically attached to Chinese"
There are 161 million users, with five to six million new subscribers signing up every month.

The mobile, once considered a toy for the elite, has found its way into the hands of the young, the old, the rich and the poor.

"The mobile is surgically attached to people in China," said Mr Duncan.

"Technology is almost a religion there. Even those who are nationalistic see technology as a way for China to leapfrog the West."

Fade away

The draft measures on radiation could seriously undermine Chinese efforts to rival European and American mobile phone manufacturers and operators.

So experts believe that the regulations may never see the light of day.

"Draft laws are often floated as test balloons to see the reaction of the industry," explained Mr Clark.

He cited the example of a draconian draft law on encryption that was put forward a few years ago in China.

The plans were never implemented, although Chinese officials never came out and backtracked on the proposals. Instead, they were just left to fade away.

"I suspect the same thing will happen here as it is a very draconian piece of legislation," said Mr Clark.

"Pragmatism reigns in China eventually. The problem is you have to go through some bumps in the road."

See also:

08 Jan 02 | Business
28 Sep 01 | Business
01 Oct 01 | Business
18 Mar 02 | Business
30 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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