Mobile phones | ACMA

Mobile phones

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How do mobile phones emit EME?

Mobile phones are low-powered devices that transmit and receive radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME) signals from mobile phone base stations. Mobile phones are required to transmit signals over distances of up to 20 kilometres. In order to minimise interference and conserve battery life, a mobile phone limits its transmit power to the minimum required to maintain good contact with the nearest base station. So, as the phone moves closer to the base station, the power emitted from the phone antenna is usually reduced.

How does the ACMA regulate EME for mobile phones?

All mobile phones supplied in Australia must comply with the ACMA’s 

Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation – Human Exposure) Standard 2014 (the Human Exposure Standard). The Human Exposure Standard applies the EME exposure limits set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields – 3 kHz to 300 GHz (2002) (the ARPANSA Standard). 

The ARPANSA Standard specifies exposure limits to EME that regulate the rate at which the user absorbs energy from the handset. This is known as the specific absorption rate (SAR)—the rate at which radiofrequency energy is absorbed by a specified mass of biological tissue, expressed in watts per kilogram (W/kg).

The SAR limit for mobile phone handsets in Australia is 2 W/kg of tissue (averaged over 10 grams). The limit includes a significant safety factor, with the maximum temperature rise in the side of the head for the level in the ARPANSA Standard being less than 0.1°C. Normal human temperature fluctuations typically exceed 0.1°C.

The SAR associated with mobile phones sold in Australia is below the ARPANSA limits.

How can we be confident that mobile phones are operating within the safety limits? 

Mobile phones are designed to transmit at the lowest power possible to maintain good contact with the nearest base station, whilst minimising interference with other mobile phones. It is also in the interests of mobile carriers to limit EME emissions from base stations, such that interference with adjacent cells is minimised.

  • Mobile phones must comply with the SAR limits before being supplied to the Australian market.

  • The ACMA audits mobile phone suppliers to test their compliance. The ACMA is satisfied that mobile phones audited operate within the Australian safety limit.

  • As mobile phones and other EME-emitting devices become more common, some people may be concerned about possible concurrent exposure to EME from multiple devices. ARPANSA has found that exposure to EME in the environment from various sources is very low  and typically much lower than the allowable limits in the ARPANSA Standard.

Where can I go for more information?

The ACMA does not hold information on the SAR measurements of mobile phone handsets. However, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has agreed to make information about mobile phones and health available to consumers. Under an agreement with the ACMA, the SAR values of mobile phones are provided voluntarily as part of handset packaging and product manuals. AMTA also provides information about SAR limits  applicable in Australia.

If you would like to verify the SAR value associated with your mobile phone handset, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum  (MMF) lists the SAR values of many popular phones. SAR values provide information about EME exposure under specific usage conditions and provide assurance that the devices are operating below the ARPANSA limits. SAR values are not however particularly useful for comparing predicted EME exposure between different handset models under the varying conditions encountered by users (for example, the closer a user is to a base station, the lower the likely output of the phone, regardless of the SAR value associated with that model).  ARPANSA provides information on how members of the public can reduce EME exposure from mobile phones.

Last updated: 23 September 2014