What is EME?
When we use devices like mobile phones, remote controls, and electrical and electronic equipment, or when TV and radio programs are broadcast, energy is transferred via radio waves. This is known as radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME)—also known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
Some people worry that being exposed to these radio waves can be harmful—but there are no proven adverse health effects from exposure to EME at low levels. Communications equipment in Australia is regulated to make sure that EME emissions are at low levels.
Who is responsible for EME regulation for communications equipment?
In Australia, no single government agency has overall responsibility for EME regulation. Within the Commonwealth Government, two main agencies are involved, and they consult closely under a formal memorandum of understanding:
- Health related issues are generally handled by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), a specialist agency with strong science skills in the Health portfolio. ARPANSA sets the RF EME human exposure limits within Australia. ARPANSA has an extensive website that provides convenient access to the most up-to-date research on a wide range of EME matters.
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) adopts the ARPANSA EME exposure limits in the ACMA regulations for communications equipment.
State, territory and local planning authorities also sometimes become involved with the community on EME matters because of their ability to approve major equipment installations (for example, mobile phone towers) under laws applicable in their jurisdictions. These authorities may also manage programs that involve the deployment of radiocommunications transmitters (for example, smart meters). Additionally, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has responsibility for regulating EME for medical devices.
The Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts has produced a video explaining EME regulation in Australia.
What are the ACMA’s responsibilities?
The ACMA regulates EME for consumer devices and installations (for example, mobile phones, smart meters and mobile phone base stations). The ACMA provides a range of information to the public. The page ACMA and EME is a good starting point.
If you are interested in the more detailed technical information on how the ACMA regulates communications equipment for EME, the following links on our industry EME hub will be helpful: The ACMA regulates EME through:
- Apparatus and spectrum licensing arrangements that set technical requirements for the operation of radiocommunications transmitters. This includes both certain end-user equipment (for example, mobile phones) and network transmitters (for example, mobile phone base stations).
- Technical requirements (and associated record-keeping and labelling obligations) for mobile/portable equipment at the point of supply of the equipment to the Australian market.
The ACMA’s regulatory instruments use the ARPANSA EME exposure limits for fixed installations and end-user devices.
The Industry Code C564:2011 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment also imposes requirements on a carrier in deciding where to place a mobile phone tower, and includes obligations to minimise EME exposure, conduct public consultation and handle complaints.
The ACMA’s EME compliance activities include targeted and random audits of licensees and suppliers of radiocommunications transmitters. A key component of the EME compliance activities is the visual inspection of transmitter sites, which the ACMA undertakes as part of routine field work. The ACMA has focused its compliance activities on emerging technologies including smart meters.
If you have questions or feedback about complying with EME obligations, please contact the ACMA’s Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is the ACMA responsible for investigating health concerns related to EME?
The ACMA's role in relation to EME focuses solely on the operation and performance of radiocommunications transmitters. The ACMA is not an expert body on the possible health effects of human exposure to EME and is not responsible for investigating any such health effects. Information on where to direct health concerns is available on the EME and health page.