Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

What is radiofrequency EME (RF EME) and how do we use it to communicate?

Learn more about the role radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) plays in telecommunications.

Radiofrequency EME (RF EME) is a part of everyday life.

Without it, modern telecommunications and wireless systems like Australia’s mobile phone network wouldn’t be possible.

But what is it? And how does it work?

We’re going to examine the role RF EME plays in our day-to-day lives.

What is RF EME?

RF EME is the term we use to describe the type of energy emitted by radio waves in the frequency ranges spanning 100 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz).

RF EME is also used in TV, radio broadcasting, telecommunications and a range of household devices - basically anything that’s wireless signals to operate.

How do we use RF EME to communicate?

The basic principle of wireless communication is simple and hasn’t changed in 100 years.

At one end, you have a transmitter. At the other end, a receiver.

Transmitters essentially code information into radio waves by creating variances in its frequency or amplitude (height).

These waves are then sent as a signal to receivers, where this information is decoded so the listener or viewer can hear or see the information.

This is how our mobile devices work and how televisions and radio systems broadcast signals, or information.

Is RF EME safe?

Australia regulates RF EME from telecommunications by applying exposure limits in a Standard set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to protect Australians against any potential health impacts.

The standard is based on up-to-date, credible scientific research and includes the frequency ranges from 100 kHz to 300 GHz that covers all of the current and anticipated frequencies used for telecommunications services, including 5G.

RF EME from telecommunications is what we call non-ionising. It has longer wavelengths, lower frequencies, and not enough energy to cause us harm when used within limits set out in the ARPANSA standard. In Australia all telecommunications devices and equipment must adhere to this Standard.

This makes it different to other types of EME like x-rays and gamma rays, which use higher frequencies and very short wavelengths. These types of EME are called ionising and are used with caution.

Where can I find more information about RF EME?

There is a wide range of Australian and international organisations providing up-to-date, credible information about EME from telecommunications.

These include:

Australia’s telecommunications providers also provide useful information about EME and their respective 5G rollouts for their customers on their respective websites.