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The ACMA is proposing to amend the Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation—Human Exposure) Standard 2014 (the ACMA Standard) to ensure equipment that will be operating on frequencies up to 6 GHz (such as Wi-Fi routers and first generation 5G equipment) is tested in accordance with the latest international measurement standards and is compliant with labelling requirements for Australia’s electromagnetic energy (EME) standards.
The ACMA Standard usually automatically adopts such variations to the international standards, but minor changes to the titles of the international standards on this occasion mean that to avoid any doubt as to the application of those standards we propose to amend the ACMA Standard.
The ACMA is also proposing to amend the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 (the Determination) to ensure the EME arrangements for equipment and the EME licence conditions on transmitters operate as intended.
The proposed amendments will ensure that the latest international test methodologies are adopted, and to avoid any doubt about the equipment arrangements, including device labelling requirements, and licence conditions.
Details of the proposed amendments, and links to the consultation are provided below.
EME regulatory arrangements
The ACMA regulates human exposure to radio frequency (RF) EME emissions from consumer equipment (such as mobile telephone handsets) and radiocommunications facilities (such as mobile telephone base stations) through:
- regulatory arrangements for mobile and portable transmitters at the point of supply to the Australian market, including testing, labelling and record-keeping obligations
- licence conditions on the operation of radiocommunications transmitters.
The objective of the arrangements is to ensure that public exposure to EME from radio transmitters does not exceed the Australian exposure limits published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).
A diagram outlining the EME regulatory arrangements can be found at Attachment C.
The ACMA Standard
The ACMA Standard mandates Australia/New Zealand and international test method standards to determine the exposure levels from mobile and portable equipment with integral antennas, incorporating radiocommunications transmitters.
These test method standards enable a supplier to measure the specific absorption rate (SAR) or the strength of RF fields associated with a device.
The ACMA Standard adopts the EME exposure limits specified by ARPANSA in the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields – 3 kHz to 300 GHz (the ARPANSA Standard) and currently mandates the following Australia/New Zealand and international test method standards.
For devices used in close proximity to the human ear:
- EN 62209-1 and IEC 62209-1—Human exposure to radio frequency fields from hand-held and body-mounted wireless communication devices. Human models, instrumentation and procedures. Part 1—Procedure to determine the SAR for hand-held devices used in close proximity to the ear (frequency range of 300 MHz to 3 GHz).
For devices used 20 cm or less from the human body:
- EN 62209-2 and IEC 62209-2—Human exposure to radio frequency fields from hand-held and body-mounted wireless communication devices. Human models, instrumentation and procedures. Part 2—Procedure to determine the SAR for wireless communication devices used in close proximity to the human body (frequency range of 30 MHz to 6 GHz).
For devices used more than 20 cm from the human body:
- AS/NZS 2772.2—Radiofrequency fields Principles and methods of measurement and computation—3 kHz to 300 GHz.
EN 62209-1 is a European Union (EU) harmonised standard based on the International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) standard IEC 62209-1. Similarly, EN 62209-2 is an EU harmonised standard based on IEC 62209-2.
Currently, manufacturers of devices incorporating a radiocommunications transmitter used in close proximity to the ear (such as a mobile telephone handset) operating between 3 GHz and 6 GHz do not have an applicable Australian-mandated test method standard they can use to demonstrate compliance with EME exposure limits. These devices can still be supplied to the Australian market, and must comply with the exposure limits set out in the ARPANSA standard but responsibility for compliance lies with the licensee of the frequencies the device uses.
The licensee must ensure that the device is compliant by measuring or calculating the RF fields in accordance with the ARPANSA standard.
Since the ACMA Standard was made, the EN 62209-1 and IEC 62209-1 standards have been updated to increase the applicable frequency range to 300 MHz to 6 GHz (previously 300 MHz to 3 GHz).
Consequently, the ACMA is proposing to amend the ACMA Standard to mandate the current versions of the following EN and IEC test method standards:
- EN 62209-1—Measurement procedure for the assessment of specific absorption rate of human exposure to radio frequency fields from hand-held and body-mounted wireless communication devices—Part 1: Devices used next to the ear (frequency range of 300 MHz to 6 GHz)
- IEC 62209-1—Measurement procedure for the assessment of specific absorption rate of human exposure to radio frequency fields from hand-held and body-mounted wireless communication devices—Part 1: Devices used next to the ear (frequency range of 300 MHz to 6 GHz).
Typically, this type of amendment would automatically be incorporated in the ACMA Standard, however due to the title of the EN and IEC standards changing, we propose to amend the ACMA Standard to avoid any doubt as to the application of those standards by incorporating these title changes.
The ACMA is also proposing to update the frequency ranges in section 10 of the ACMA Standard to align with the frequency range specified in the EN 62209-2 and IEC 62209-2 standards (that is, 30 MHz to 6 GHz) for consistency between the industry standards and the ACMA Standard.
Paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) provides that the ACMA may, by legislative instrument, determine conditions applicable to particular types of apparatus licences. The Determination contains conditions that apply to all transmitter licences issued under subsection 100(1) or subsection 100B(1) of the Act.
The conditions in the Determination may also be incorporated by reference through a licence condition imposed on other types of licences. The conditions imposed by the Determination relate to permitted communications and the exposure of the general public to EME from equipment incorporating radiocommunications transmitters.
The intent of the ACMA’s EME regulatory arrangements is that all equipment, incorporating radiocommunications transmitters, must either comply with the requirements included in the ACMA Standard or the Determination.
Paragraph 6(2)(b) of the Determination states that Part 3 of the Determination does not apply to the operation of a mobile station that complies with the ACMA Standard. While the intent is that mobile stations that are required to comply with the ACMA Standard should be exempt from the Determination, the current wording of paragraph 6(2)(b) might be understood to exempt mobile stations that are outside the scope of the ACMA Standard from having to comply with the Determination.
Such an interpretation could suggest that there were no EME requirements applicable to certain types of equipment.
The ACMA is proposing to amend paragraph 6(2)(b) of the Determination to include text that avoids any doubt about the matter and more clearly reflects the policy intent.
Issue for comment
The ACMA welcomes comment from stakeholders on the ACMA’s proposal to amend the ACMA Standard and Determination.