Wi-Fi devices and electromagnetic energy compliance | ACMA

Wi-Fi devices and electromagnetic energy compliance

Wi-Fi[1] devices are radiocommunications devices that are commonly used as access points to wireless local area networks (WLANs). Such networks typically include an access point or points or hotspots, which are part of a network to which personal computers, mobile phones and tablets can connect.

The range of an access point is approximately 20 metres indoors, with a greater range outdoors. Wi‑Fi devices and WLANs are increasingly being used in public spaces such as parks, cafes and schools.

Wi-Fi devices can also be used as transmitters that connect to a WLAN but do not necessarily serve as an access point. Some examples of such devices include baby monitors, cameras and speakers.

In 2014-15, wireless device compliance with electromagnetic energy (EME) standards was a priority compliance area (PCA) for the ACMA.

How the ACMA regulate Wi-Fi devices

Wi-Fi devices must comply with the ACMA’s Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation – Human Exposure) Standard 2014 (the Human Exposure Standard) as specified in the Radiocommunications (Compliance Labelling—Electromagnetic Radiation) Notice 2014. The Human Exposure Standard uses 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).

Record-keeping requirements are set by the compliance level for the device. That is, if testing is required and the extent to which suppliers must maintain comprehensive records—including test reports—is based on the risk presented by a device.

The type of test which must be conducted to establish a device’s compliance with the Human Exposure Standard (and consequently the test contents of the audited suppliers’ compliance documentation) depends on the devices’ normal position during use.

Assessment requirements for devices used more than 20 cm from the human body:

  • are subject to the ACMA’s PCA
  • can be made against the reference field strength levels of the the ARPANSA Standard

  • must be in accordance with AS/NZS 2772.2:2011 Radiofrequency fields Part 2: Principles and methods of measurement and computation – 3 kHz to 300 GHz

  • either measured or calculated results are acceptable for the ACMA’s compliance purposes.

Audit program

While the inherent EME risk from Wi-Fi devices is considered low due to the low transmitter power levels—the public has a legitimate expectation that all devices supplied to the market—particularly for use in schools, are compliant with the ACMA’s EME compliance arrangements. Accordingly, the ACMA recently assessed compliance with the Human Exposure Standard.

Based on its review of compliance documentation, including laboratory test reports held by suppliers, the ACMA is confident that Wi-Fi devices supplied to the Australian market operate within the safety limits. The laboratory test reports include measurements of the levels of emissions produced by the tested devices.

The compliance assessment was applied to registered suppliers of Wi-Fi devices. When selecting devices for audit, the ACMA placed emphasis on Wi-Fi devices most likely to be used in schools. The ACMA identified 19 potential suppliers of Wi-Fi transmitter devices, two of these suppliers had ceased or never commenced supplying to the Australian market. In total, the ACMA audited the compliance records for 52 devices from the remaining 17 suppliers.

Of this group, 15 suppliers and 47 devices were initially found to have record-keeping errors. Five of these suppliers had errors only on their declaration of conformity (a single page document often referred to as a DoC). These errors were considered minor or clerical in nature.

The remaining suppliers failed to satisfy record-keeping requirements for reasons including errors in or omissions of the DoC together with incorrect or missing test reports. A common error was inclusion of an overseas test report without an explanation of how the overseas test report satisfied Australian standards.

Despite the relatively minor nature of the non-compliance, the ACMA determined that prompt escalation was required to be confident that the Wi-Fi devices supplied were operating within the safety limits.

Following receipt of audit completion statements issued to suppliers by the ACMA, seven suppliers provided corrected documentation on their own initiative. An additional seven suppliers corrected errors after receiving a warning notice. The ACMA issued an infringement notice to the final supplier after giving the supplier multiple opportunities to correct errors. The supplier eventually paid the infringement notice and corrected all errors.

A summary of results is listed in the table below.

Initial audit result

EME failure primarily due to DoC error

EME failure primarily due to missing or incorrect test report

Final disposition

Fail

DoC failed to explain lab’s accreditation

 

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

DoC failed to declare to correct standard

 

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

DoC not supplier/standard not declared to under mistaken belief that class 1 devices exempt

 

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

 

No EME test reports supplied and no explanation as to why they were not supplied

Corrected following escalated compliance action

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for four devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for three devices

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for four devices (including the four devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for four devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for four devices (including the four devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for four devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for two devices (including the two devices mentioned in the next column)

Incorrect test report for two devices

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for three devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for three devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for three devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for three devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for three devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for three devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for three devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for three devices

Corrected following warning notice

Fail

Missing or incorrect DoC for two devices (including the three devices mentioned in the next column)

Missing test report for two devices

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

Incorrect DoC for three devices

 

Voluntarily corrected by supplier

Fail

Incorrect DoC for one device

 

Corrected following warning notice

 

In summary

At the close of this audit program, all suppliers had corrected the errors in their compliance documentation. The documentation indicates that although industry’s understanding of the compliance regime was poor, the actual devices were compliant and no unacceptable risk to the public was identified.



[1] Wi-Fi is a trademarked term owned by the Wi-Fi Alliance which refers to the IEEE 802.11x set of wireless local area network (WLAN) standards.

Last updated: 15 May 2017