If you are thinking about bringing telecommunications or radiocommunications equipment to Australia, you should be aware that you may not be able to legally use it.
The operation or use of communications equipment that is designed to work in Australia can cause interference with the operation of other equipment, endanger your health or endanger the safety of others. Communications equipment is any equipment that is designed to connect to a telecommunications network or any radiocommunications device. This equipment includes mobile phones, telephones, modems, cordless phones, wireless microphones and UHF or VHF transmitters such as citizen band (CB) radios.
Even though an item of communications equipment is suitable for use in another country it will not necessarily be suitable for use in Australia. Other countries have different requirements and standards for important equipment characteristics such as the mains voltage the device uses, the radiofrequency band in which the device operates or the safety requirements that serve to protect the end user.
This fact sheet provides basic information about bringing communications equipment (one-off imports) to Australia.
Telephones, modems, answering and facsimile machines
Telecommunications equipment purchased in another country will not be suitable or safe for use in Australia.
Telecommunications equipment such as telephones, modems, answering machines and facsimile machines may only be connected to an Australian telecommunications network if the equipment bears either the 'RCM' or the 'A-Tick' regulatory compliance mark.
If the equipment does not carry a compliance mark, it is not suitable for use in Australia and it is illegal to connect it to a telecommunications network.
Penalties may be imposed for illegal connection.
Cordless telecommunications systems (CTS), more commonly known as cordless phones, are available worldwide and are one of the more common acquisitions for travellers. Many CTS suitable for use in other countries cannot be used in Australia because they use radiofrequencies that are not available for such use in Australia. These devices present electrical safety risks to consumers and may interfere with vital communications systems such as aeronautical services near airports. CTS owners must not attempt to operate their overseas equipment in Australia.
The ACMA recommends that you do not import a CTS into Australia. CTS sold overseas will rarely if ever bear the compliance mark and will rarely, if ever, comply with the Australia standards. If the equipment does not carry a compliance mark, you cannot safely and legally connect it to an Australian telecommunications network Penalties may be imposed for illegal connection.
Australia operates mobile telecommunications services using two digital technologies: 3G and GSM (Global System for Mobiles).
A mobile phone for personal use may be brought into Australia and connected to a mobile telecommunications network provided the phone meets Australian standards. If you are thinking about bringing a mobile phone back from overseas with you for personal use, check with your carrier or service provider before you pay for the mobile phone. Some mobile phones are not supported by Australian telecommunications carriers and either will not function of will function with very limited capability.
If your phone is locked to an overseas carrier it may not work with an Australian carrier's SIM card and it can only be unlocked by that overseas carrier.
Only an Australian mobile phone service provider can assist you in connecting your mobile phone in Australia.
The ACMA cannot assist you in connecting, testing or unlocking a mobile phone purchased overseas.
Arranging temporary connection of your mobile phone prior to arriving in Australia (roaming)
If you are an international traveller intending to visit Australia, you should check with your carrier or service provider (in your own country) to find out if there is a roaming agreement in force with an Australian carrier prior to travelling. Mobile phone providers in many countries have established international roaming agreements with carriers in Australia that allow their customers to continue to use their mobile phones in Australia. You should confirm with your carrier what the roaming charges are likely to be before using your phone in Australia as roaming charges can be considerably more expensive than your normal domestic connection charges.
Mobile phone booster amplifiers
Mobile phone booster amplifiers or 'boosters' are devices that connect to a mobile phone to boost or amplify the signal of that phone. Boosters are prohibited within Australia and there are significant fines of up to $360,000 for possession or importation for use or supply. More information on the banning of mobile phone booster amplifiers is on the ACMA website.
The use of non-standard radiocommunications equipment not designed for the Australian environment may cause costly interference. These devices include cordless phones, land mobile transceivers, CB radios and a range of low power appliances that use radiofrequency energy as part of their operations. Services which may be affected by interference include cellular (mobile) phone services, broadcast radio and television, and radio services, including emergency services.
Radiocommunications devices suitable for use in Australia will bear either the C-Tick, A-Tick or the RCM regulatory compliance marks.
C-Tick A-Tick RCM
The compliance mark can be on a label affixed to the device, an electronic symbol where the screen has a display or included in the documentation of the device.
The type of compliance mark will depend on when the device was first supplied to market and what, if any, additional features the device has. The RCM has been introduced as a single compliance mark from 1 March 2013 replacing over time all other compliance marks. Radiocommunications devices will bear the C-Tick or RCM. Radiocommunications devices that are also telecommunications devices will bear the A-Tick or the RCM.
The use and (sometimes) possession of radiocommunications equipment not specifically designed to comply with Australian standards may be illegal. There are penalties for operation, possession for the purpose of operation and supply of radiocommunications equipment that does not comply with applicable Australian standards.
For some radiocommunications equipment you may need to acquire a licence from the ACMA before you operate it in Australia. It is illegal to operate any radio transmitter in Australia unless the operation of that transmitter is authorised by a licence. In general terms:
- Low power transmitters are generally covered by an ACMA radiocommunications class licence. It can, however, be difficult to ensure that equipment purchased overseas is a type that is covered by an ACMA class licence. If you have any doubts contact the ACMA.
- The operation of most base stations, mobile and handheld transmitters can only be authorised by a licence, which incurs a cost.
- Two-way base, mobile and handheld equipment other than those used in the amateur service usually requires the assignment of individual operating frequencies. It is most unlikely that this type of equipment, which may be authorised for use in other countries, could be authorised for use in Australia without at least requiring a frequency change, and in many instances cannot be operated at all. As a result, it is generally impractical to bring such equipment into Australia.
The process for having a single piece of radiocommunications equipment tested for compliance to Australian standards is expensive and impractical.
Amateur radio operators
Amateur radio operators visiting Australia may operate an amateur station during their stay providing that they first obtain an appropriate Australian amateur licence. Certain overseas qualifications/licences are recognised for the purpose of issuing an Australian amateur licence. To find out more about obtaining this licence, see the information paper Amateurs Visiting Australia on the ACMA website.
More information about licensing of radiocommunications devices, and labelling and compliance requirements for equipment is available from the ACMA website.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.