Information about EME, 5G and the safety of mobile phone networks.

Enhanced EME Program

The Australian Government recognises that some members of the public are concerned about the potential health effects of electromagnetic energy (EME) associated with telecommunications facilities and devices. The Government has run an EME Program since 1997 to: provide information to the public, enable Australia to engage with international experts, and fund research into health issues associated with mobile phones, mobile phone base stations and other communications devices and equipment.

In recognition of renewed concerns about EME from new and emerging communications technology, the Commonwealth Government announced in December 2019 that it was enhancing the EME Program, comprising three components:

  • An Australian research program managed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to conduct targeted research into EME issues of relevance to Australia including measurement studies assessing EME levels in the community.
  • ARPANSA involvement in international forums (such as the World Health Organization), as well as the setting and maintenance of EME standards and provision of expert scientific advice on EME and health to stakeholders.
  • A targeted public communications program, overseen by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, to provide accessible information to the general public. This will be based on, advice from the Department of Health and ARPANSA and take account of the latest relevant research.

Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Energy Emissions

What is RF EME?

EME emissions are produced by a range of sources including radio and TV transmitters, and devices including mobile phones and wi-fi modems. EME emissions are also generated by other wireless devices in your home, such as remote controls, smart TVs, baby monitors and laptops.

The exposure to EME from mobile phones and mobile base stations is harmless at low power levels, and has not been shown to cause any health effects.

To give the community assurance, EME is closely regulated through exposure limits set and enforced by Government authorities. In Australia, these authorities are the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Department of Health, and the Department of Communications and the Arts. These agencies each have a different role in relation to protecting the public from over-exposure to EME emissions from telecommunications facilities.

Safety of mobile phone networks

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Mobile phones and other wireless devices are an essential part of the daily work and home lives of all Australians, so it's important for the Australian Government to regulate the industry. The Australian Government reviews each generation of mobile and wireless network as it is developed, to keep devices safe for you and your family.

Health research about electromagnetic energy

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Electromagnetic energy (EME) is used to send and receive voice, data and video information. Travelling in the form of electromagnetic waves, EME is also known as electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic fields. EME does not have enough energy to cause direct damage to molecules, such as DNA, that could impact human health.

How is EME regulated?

ARPANSA sets the EME exposure limits that apply to telecommunications facilities. These are found in the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields—3 kHz to 200 GHz(the ARPANSA Standard).

ARPANSA is the Government's primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety. It sets exposure limits in line with the guidelines published by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ARPANSA Standard is based on decades of Australian and international peer-reviewed research into EME. It is set well below the level at which adverse health effects occur and includes a wide safety margin to further protect the public. ARPANSA also undertakes research and engagement with international experts to inform its Standard.

Mobile phone networks and wireless devices must operate at levels below the safe limits set for EME exposure. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) conducts compliance checks to make sure they do not exceed the exposure limits set by ARPANSA. Contact ARPANSA for information on exposure limits.

The Department of Health and the Department of Communications and the Arts administer policy for protective health measures and the laws regulating the telecommunications sector, respectively. Regulation of EME and the telecommunications sector is detailed below.
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Visit the ACMA's EME webpage for a range of information.

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5G and EME

What about 5G and EME?

5G is the next generation of mobile wireless technology. It will offer much higher upload and download speeds than 3G and 4G, more capacity to transfer bigger files and stay connected in busy areas, and better responsiveness for applications. As new generations of wireless telecommunications technologies come along, the Government makes sure they meet the ARPANSA Standard.

Is 5G safe?

Yes. 5G will initially use the same frequencies as the current 3G and 4G networks. As 5G network rollouts progress, higher frequencies will be used. Higher frequencies do not mean higher exposures. These higher frequencies are covered by the ARPANSA Standard, and are already used in a range of other technologies such as radar guns and airport screeners.

Misinformation and 5G

Australia's Chief Medical Officer and Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts have warned Australians to be on the lookout for misinformation circulating online linking 5G mobile networks to COVID-19.

Decades of global scientific research shows there is no evidence that the low levels of electromagnetic energy generated by use of radio waves in wireless networks are harmful to our health. This includes the frequencies used by all generations of mobile and wireless technology, including 5G, and does not cause or spread COVID-19.

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5G mobile networks

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5G is the next generation of mobile network technology and is expected to provide improved: downloads—speeds many times faster than 4G technology, latency—sending and receiving information from your device faster than ever before, connectivity—supporting more devices to connect to multiple networks at the same time, and energy usage—more energy efficient.

Mobile network rollout laws

Carriers have some powers to enter land to install and maintain equipment under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act). These laws are known as Carriers' Powers and Immunities.

These laws facilitate carriers' access to land to install their facilities, but also provide safeguards for landowners and occupiers to object to the use of their land. Facilities that are classified as low-impact facilities under the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 2018, such as some mobile antennas, can be installed under this framework.

Other types of facilities, such as free-standing mobile phone towers, are subject to relevant state, territory or local government planning laws.

Carriers may also enter into commercial agreements with landowners for the use of that land.

If installing a low-impact mobile facility, carriers must also comply with the Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code, which sets out additional processes that they must follow. Some of these include:

  • Notify or consult with communities
  • Produce and publish an environmental EME report.

Before a carrier builds or upgrades a mobile facility, they must produce the environmental EME report that shows the maximum predicted levels of EME around the new or upgraded facility. Following installation, carriers must also certify their facility's compliance with the ARPANSA Standard. Compliance reports are often available on the Radio Frequency National Site Archive, which is a site managed by industry.

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Who can I talk to?

If you have questions about the deployment of mobile or wireless infrastructure in your area, you should first speak with the carrier deploying the equipment.

If you have questions about EME exposure limits, EME related research in this field, or would like to speak to a scientist, contact ARPANSA by phone on 1800 022 333.

If you have questions or feedback about how ACMA enforces industry's compliance with the EME regulations, you can contact their Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or by email.

If you have questions about the policy setting for the telecommunications sector or protective health you should contact the respective Departments: