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13/01/2003 - RA Sitefinder database scandal

The UK Radiocommunications Agency Sitefinder database, paid for with public funds, has much incorrect data (according to the mobile phone Operators), and also breaks one of the most fundamental database integrity rules - they change the index field numbers every three months when they update the information. According to professional commercial database managers we have talked to, the ONLY reason to do this would be to prevent external audits of their data. This is the "Site Reference" in the example at the foor of this page. It is the only "location" reference that is provided, and the number (for the same site!) changes every 3 months! Unforgivable.

Powerwatch has been monitoring site heights and powers around the UK using the data supplied on the RA's Sitefinder database that is paid for using UK public funds. We haven't really ever gone back and looked again at places in detail until December 2002 just after the RA's three-monthly update at the end of October. Then we discovered that Orange had apparently being going down turning down the power of most of their low height high power base stations by factors of between 2 and 200 fold! Naturally we were pleased that our campaigning, and the subsequent setting up of Orange's power investigation unit, had had this good effect. All credit to Orange - ... maybe. When we contacted Orange, they were as surprised as we were. Apparently they WERE doing this, but not on the scale the RA were reporting. They asked us not to make a noise about this in early December, but to wait until the New Year by which time the RA would have corrected the many incorrect power figures that they were listing.

Well, we waited, but the RA still have the incorrect November data on their site. In the meantime we found many high powered (26 dBW, 400 watt, EIRP per channel) low height (down to 3 metres above pavement level) base stations in central London. Having lambasted T-Mobile for these, they told us that the RA had their powers wrong and the powers were onlt a few watts. About the same time we visited London and measured some of them - and we found the low power that T-Mobile later told us about. So, yet again, the RA are supplying th public with incorrect information. So far, we have found faulty data for Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone sites.

We phoned the RA on the 3rd December - they said "we are sorry if our database does not fill all your data requirements".

We say replace the management with people who know something about databases. Stop wasting public taxpayers money!

It is either incompetence, contempt for the public, or deliberate misinformation. We suspect incompetence as the Operators also appear to be despairing about how to get correct information onto the Sitefinder database.

sutton_details.jpg (28885 bytes)
An example of the 'results' form that you get when you click on a Sitefinder blue triangle.