Devices prohibited by the ACMA | ACMA

Devices prohibited by the ACMA


Introduction

This page provides information about devices that are prohibited by the ACMA under section 190 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act). The ACMA has prohibited two kinds of devices: mobile phone jammers (prohibited as 'PMTS jamming devices') and radio-navigation-satellite service (RNSS) jammers. The legislative instruments that prohibit these devices are:

  • Radiocommunications (Prohibition of PMTS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2011; and
  • Radiocommunications (Prohibited Device)(RNSS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2004.

Significant penalties apply to the operation or supply of these prohibited devices.

Devices prohibited by the ACMA

Mobile phone jammers

The Radiocommunications (Prohibition of PMTS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2011 (the PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration) prohibits the operation or supply, or possession for the purpose of operation or supply, of public mobile telecommunications service (PMTS) jamming devices. A PMTS jamming device is commonly known as a mobile phone jammer.

Section 4 of the PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration provides that a device is a PMTS jamming device if it has the following characteristics:

  1. the device:
    1. is designed to have an adverse effect on radiocommunications; or
    2. would be likely substantially to interfere with, disrupt or disturb radiocommunications; and
  2. the device operates within one or more frequency bands used for the supply of a public mobile telecommunications service (whether or not the device also operates within other frequency bands).

In practice, this provision applies to a device that is designed to generate interference for the purpose of preventing or substantially disrupting the reception of radiofrequency transmissions between a base station and a mobile station (for example, a mobile handset). The PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration also prohibits devices which primarily operate on another frequency band that still operate within and affects mobile phone services.

The ACMA considers that the operation of mobile phone jammers has a substantial and detrimental effect upon mobile phone carriers and users of mobile phones. The reasons why the ACMA has prohibited mobile phone jammers are listed in Schedule 1 to the PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration and include:

  • mobile phone jammers can be used to block, or otherwise interfere with radio emissions between a mobile phone and a base station.
  • this means that mobile phone jammers can prevent access to mobile telephone services, which may adversely affect business and individuals. For example, individuals may be unable to call the emergency call services or receive messages through the Emergency Alert system. Businesses may also be adversely affected.
  • high powered mobile phone jammers may emit radiation levels that pose a risk to public safety. The ACMA has a responsibility for setting electromagnetic radiation standards and is concerned that radiation levels from some mobile phone jammers may result in exposure levels exceeding the maximum permitted under the Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation - Human Exposure) Standard 2003.
  • mobile phone jammers may interfere with other licensed radiocommunications operating on frequency bands not used for mobile services.
  • mobile phone jammers may be used in connection with criminal and terrorist activities.

The PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration does not prohibit devices which facilitate carriage services on board an aircraft which are authorised under a PMTS Class C licence. The PMTS Class C apparatus licence authorises the in-flight operation of any Civil Aviation Safety Authority approved on-board system and limited terrestrial operation of the on-board system to enable testing and maintenance within non-spectrum licensed space.

History
In 1999, the Australian Communications Authority made the Notification that the Australian Communications Authority prohibits the operation or supply, or possession for the purpose of operation or supply, of specified devices (the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition) under section 190 of the Act. The Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition was made to prohibit the possession, supply and operation of any device designed to interfere with, disrupt or disturb radiocommunications operating on the 870-960 MHz and 825-845 MHz frequency bands.

Since 1999, technological and social developments have resulted in a proliferation of devices that consumers now use for the purpose of communications and the realisation that there are circumstances where the use of a jamming device may be justified. In 2010, as a consequence of these developments, the ACMA undertook a review of the regulatory framework for the control and management of mobile phone jammers, including the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition.

The review assessed whether the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition remained the most efficient, effective and appropriate regulation for mobile phone jammers. The review also included consideration of the ACMA's power to exempt defence, law enforcement and emergency personnel from certain provisions of the Act.

The review found that:

  • the original reasons for making the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition remained relevant;
  • regulating mobile phone jammers under a section 190 declaration remained appropriate;
  • the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition should be retained in some form; and
  • requests for exemptions under section 27 of the Act should continue to be considered by the ACMA on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the ACMA revoked the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition and made the PMTS Jamming Devices Declaration.

Further background information about the review can be found at:

Radionavigation-satellite service (RNSS) jammers

The Radiocommunications (Prohibited Device)(RNSS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2004 (the RNSS Jamming Devices Declaration) prohibits the operation or supply, or possession for the purpose of operation or supply of a RNSS jamming device.

The RNSS Jamming Devices Declaration describes a RNSS jamming device as a device that:

  1. is designed to have an adverse effect on the reception by RNSS receivers of RNSS radiocommunications; and
  2. would be likely substantially to interfere with, disrupt or disturb the reception by RNSS receivers of RNSS radiocommunications.

A RNSS receiver is a radiocommunications receiver used for RNSS radiocommunications.

The RNSS (also known as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)) is a system of satellites which together with supporting infrastructure provide accurate positioning, velocity and timing data. The most well known GNSS system is the Global Positioning System (GPS).

RNSS jammers transmit signals that interfere with RNSS signalling and reception. These jammers can affect services over significant distances and can pose a substantial risk to licensed radiocommunications.

In 2004, the RNSS Jamming Devices Declaration was made for the following reasons:

  • there appeared to be no legitimate radiocommunications use for the device;
  • the only purpose for their use is to adversely effect, interfere with, disrupt or disturb the reception of RNSS radiocommunications by RNSS receivers; and
  • the adverse effect on RNSS would inconvenience RNSS users and could threaten public safety.

The relevance of this instrument is strengthened by the increasing use of GPS functions on mobile phones, suggesting a growing reliance by the general public on such technologies.

Legislative arrangements

The provisions on prohibited devices are detailed in Part 4.1, Division 8 of the Act.

Subsection 189(1) of the Act provides that a person must not operate or supply a device that the person knows is a device in respect of which a declaration is in force under section 190; or have a device that the person knows, or ought reasonable to know, is such a device in his or her possession for the purpose of operating or supply the device. This subsection does not apply if the person has a reasonable excuse.

Subsection 190(1) of the Act provides that the ACMA may, by notice published in one or more newspapers circulating in the capital city of each state and territory, declare that operation or supply, or possession for the purpose of operation or supply, of a specified device is prohibited for the reasons set out in the notice.

Subsection 190(2) describes the characteristics of a device that may be prohibited.

Section 191 of the Act requires the ACMA to undertake public consultation in a specified manner before making a declaration under subsection 190(1) of the Act.

A declaration made under subsection 190(1) of the Act is a legislative instrument for the purposes of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003.

Offences and penalties

Under the Act, the offence provisions and accompanying penalties applicable to prohibited devices may include:

  • the operation or supply of a prohibited device, which attracts a penalty of two years' imprisonment (if the offender is an individual) or otherwise 1,500 penalty units (currently $165,000) - section 189;
  • causing interference likely to prejudice the safe operation of vessels, aircraft or space object, which attracts a penalty of 5 years' imprisonment (if the offender is an individual) or otherwise 5,000 penalty units (currently $550,000) - section 192;
  • causing interference in relation to certain radiocommunications (these include to rescue and emergency call service organisations such as police, fire, ambulance), which attracts a penalty of 5 years' imprisonment (if the offender is an individual) or otherwise 5,000 penalty units (currently $550,000) - section 193;
  • causing interference likely to endanger safety of another person or cause another person to suffer or incur substantial loss or damage, which attracts a penalty of 5 years' imprisonment (if the offender is an individual) or otherwise 5,000 penalty units (currently $550,000) - section 194; and
  • reckless conduct which causes substantial interference with radiocommunications, or substantial disruption or disturbance of radiocommunications, which attracts a penalty of 1 year imprisonment - section 197.

Last updated: 06 June 2016