How radiofrequency EME (RF EME) from telecommunications is regulated in Australia

Learn more about Australia’s regulations for RF EME from telecommunications.

In Australia, radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) emitted from telecommunications networks is strictly regulated to keep Australians safe.

The regulations are based on decades of research and reflect Australian and international best practice.

But who sets them? And how are they enforced?

Here are the facts about Australia’s RF EME regulations for telecommunications.

Why do we need to regulate RF EME?

RF EME is a type of electromagnetic energy (EME) emitted by telecommunications infrastructure and equipment, including your mobile phone and other devices.

Australia has regulations in place to make sure all telecommunications infrastructure, appliances and devices operate using safe levels of RF EME.

The regulations are informed by requirements set out by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in a radiofrequency standard.

While the radiofrequency standard sets out maximum exposure limits to EME that enable us to safely live, work and study near RF EME devices and infrastructure every day, EME can also be emitted at higher levels by other types of radiocommunications services, like radar and medical imaging services, that we need to be more cautious with.

RF EME emitted from telecommunications equipment and devices is non-ionising and doesn’t have enough energy to cause us harm when used within specified exposure limits. The type of EME used in x-rays or gamma rays is ionising, which has to be used with more caution.

What is the radiofrequency standard?

The Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields – 100 kHz to 300 GHz was set by ARPANSA, the Government’s leading body on RF EME, in 2021 updating a previous version of the standard that had been in place since 2002.

It outlines the maximum exposure limits of RF EME from artificial sources like telecommunications and other equipment operating in the frequency range of 100 kHz to 300 GHz and includes a large safety margin to protect Australians from potential health impacts.

The standard is based on research that’s been peer-reviewed by Australian and international scientists and reflects the advice of leading international organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO).

How is the radiofrequency standard enforced?

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the Government body that regulates communications equipment and devices that emit EME to make sure emissions are below the maximum public exposure levels in the standard set by ARPANSA.

ACMA sets rules to make sure transmitters operate safely by complying with the radiofrequency standard and includes these rules as conditions in radiocommunications licences which are held by telecommunications companies and broadcasters.

ACMA may also inspect transmitters and audit documentation about the operation of the transmitter to make sure operators are complying with the rules.

ACMA also sets rules protecting Australian consumers from EME exposure from devices with integral antennas such as mobile phones, Wi-Fi modems and routers, two-way radios, baby monitors, remote controls and smart meters.