The ACMA has introduced a scheme to manage the radiofrequency spectrum through the imposition of radiocommunications standards.
Standards are made where it is desirable to regulate equipment performance. Standards apply to suppliers as well as users of equipment. The standards are developed by the Standards Australia and relevant parts may be adopted by the ACMA.
Radiocommunications standards apply to specific types of radiocommunications equipment. Not all radio devices are subject to standards, however their operation may be subject to other technical constraints, such as specific apparatus licence conditions or the technical provisions of a spectrum licence or a class licence. Mandatory standards, adopted by ACMA can also be obtained from the Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments Section, ACMA, Canberra. Copies of the standards can be purchased from any office of Standards Australia.
The terms 'device', 'non-standard device', 'transmitter' and 'non-standard transmitter' are defined under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act).
Definition of device
Under section 9(1) of the Act a device is:
- a radiocommunications transmitter; or
- any other transmitter; or
- a radiocommunications receiver; or
- any other thing any use or function of which is capable of being interfered with by radio emission.
Definition of non-standard devices
Under section 9(2) of the Act a non-standard device is a device that:
- if the device has not been altered or modified in a material respect after its manufacture or, if it has been imported, after its importation-does not comply with a standard that was applicable to it when it was manufactured or imported, as the case may be; or
- if the device was so altered or modified-does not comply with a standard that was applicable to it when it was so altered or modified.
Definition of transmitters
Under section 8(2) of the Act a transmitter is:
- anything designed or intended for radio emission; or
- any other thing, irrespective of its use or function or the purpose of its design, that is capable of radio emission.
Definition of non-standard transmitters
Under section 9(3) of the Act a non-standard transmitter is a transmitter that is a non-standard device.
Under the Act, unless in accordance with a permit, it is an offence to:
- operate a non-standard device; or
- possess, for the purpose of operation, a non-standard device.
Emissions from non-standard transmitters
Under subsection 157(1) of the Act, a person must not, without reasonable excuse, operate a transmitter that the person knows is a non-standard transmitter.
Possession of non-standard devices
Under subsection 158(1) of the Act, a person must not, without reasonable excuse, have in his or her possession for the purpose of operation, a device that the person knows is a non-standard device.
The term 'possession for the purpose of operation' is not limited to someone merely having a non-standard device on his or her person, or on his or her premises. It also extends to where the device is within his or her 'control', even though not in the same physical location as the person.
Briefly, possession can be considered to be 'for the purpose of operation' if it is possible to operate the non-standard device by doing one or more simple acts, such as connecting the device to electric power, switching on the device or connecting an antenna. It is not 'possession for the purpose of operation' where there is a reasonable excuse for possessing the device.
The issuing of a permit by the ACMA authorises the person and, if the permit specifies, his or her agents, to possess and, if specified in the permit, operate, non-standard devices.
Permits may be issued by the ACMA, under subsection 167(2) of the Act, to authorise the possession of non-standard devices and, if specified in the permit, the operation of these non-standard devices.
Permits for non-standard devices may generally be issued for:
- education or research; or
- the testing of devices; or
- demonstration of devices likely to be used for commercial purposes; or
- demonstration of devices likely to be used in connection with the defence of Australia.
More than one device can be placed on a permit, but the devices must be specified on the Application for a permit to possess or operate non-standard devices (R056) form. It should be noted that additional non-standard devices will not be added to a permit that has already been issued by ACMA. The fee for issuing a permit for a non-standard device can be obtained from the Radiocommunications (Charges) Determination 2007, Schedule 2, Part 3.
When issuing permits for non-standard devices that are to be used in a radiocommunications service, a licence fee for the appropriate apparatus licence type must also be paid, and an apparatus licence issued.
Refusal to issue a permit
If the ACMA refuses to issue a permit, written notice, along with a statement of reasons, will be provided to the applicant. Refusals to issue permits are reviewable under Part 5.6 of the Act.
Permits are issued on the condition that the person to whom the permit is issued complies with the Act. The ACMA, may, by written notice to the person to whom the permit was issued, impose one or more further conditions. The ACMA may also, by written notice to the person to whom the permit was issued, vary or revoke conditions. Decisions about permit conditions are reviewable under Part 5.6 of the Act.
Duration of permits
A permit comes into force on the day it is issued. Upon the expiration of a permit, a new permit may be issued.
The Act provides for different duration periods for permits that authorise radio emission and permits that do not authorise radio emission.
Duration of permits that authorise radio emission
Under subsection 169(2) of the Act, permits that authorise radio emissions (elsewhere described as a permit issued to allow the operation of non-standard devices) must specify the date of expiration. A permit may be issued for any period up to twelve months.
Note: To date, there have been no Determinations made under paragraph 169(4)(a) of the Act allowing permits to be issued for longer than twelve months.
Duration of permits that do not authorise radio emission
Under subsection 169(3) of the Act, a permit that does not authorise radio emissions (in other words, a permit issued purely to allow the possession of a non-standard device) remains in force, where it specifies a date of expiration, until the end of that day. A permit may be issued for any period up to twelve months. Where a date of expiration is not specified, permits remain in force indefinitely. An example of where an expiration date may not be specified is where a museum may have an antique transmitter for display purposes only. In most cases, a date of expiry will be specified.
Cancellation of a permit
The ACMA may, by written notice to the holder of a permit, cancel that permit. The notice must give reasons for cancelling the permit and include a statement of review rights. Cancellations are reviewable under Part 5.6 of the Act.
Exemptions for use or supply of non-standard devices
Under Division 5 of the Act a person may operate a non-standard device under certain circumstances. These circumstances are set out below.
Under section 172 of the Act, a person may operate, or have in his or her possession, a non-standard device in the reasonable belief that the emission or possession was necessary for the purpose of one or more of the following emergencies:
- securing the safety of a vessel or aircraft that was in danger;
- dealing with an emergency involving a serious threat to the environment;
- dealing with an emergency involving risk of death of, or injury to, persons; and
- dealing with an emergency involving risk of substantial loss of, or damage to, property.
Possession or supply for use solely outside Australia
A person may, under section 173 of the Act, have a non-standard device in his or her possession if the device is intended for use solely outside Australia.
Supply with permission
Under section 174 of the Act, a person may supply a non-standard device with the ACMA's written permission. The fee for providing written permission to supply a non-standard device can be obtained from the Radiocommunications (Charges) Determination 2007, Schedule 2, Part 3.
If the ACMA decides to refuse to give permission to a person who has applied to supply a non-standard device, the ACMA must give the person a notice, in writing, setting out its decision.
Refusals to give permission are reviewable under Part 5.6 of the Act.
Supply for modification
A person may supply a non-standard device under section 175 of the Act for the purpose of modifying or altering it so that it would comply with all standards applicable to it at the time of the alteration or modification.
Supply for re-export
Section 176 of the Act allows a person to supply a non-standard device if the device were imported and the person supplied it for the purposes of re-export.
Possession of non-standard devices
Emissions from non-standard transmitters
Supply of non-standard devices