What is Wi-Fi?
A wireless local area network (WLAN) is the term used for equipment that forms data networks with other equipment over short distances without the use of connecting wires. The network is connected using radio waves, or radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME). Devices used in a WLAN network are often known as Wi-Fi devices. Wi-Fi devices are often deployed in residential, public and educational spaces. Many schools now provide Wi-Fi for students and staff to use.
How does the ACMA regulate EME for Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi devices with inbuilt antennae must comply with the ACMA’s Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation – Human Exposure) Standard 2014 (the Human Exposure Standard). 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).
The operation of Wi-Fi devices in Australia is authorised by the Radiocommunications (Low Interference Potential Devices) Class Licence 2015 (the LIPD class licence).
How can we be confident that Wi-Fi devices are operating within the safety limits?
The ACMA has found that EME exposure from Wi-Fi transmitters is significantly below the limits of the ARPANSA Standard.
As Wi-Fi 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.
The ACMA has found no reason to be concerned about Wi-Fi devices and public safety. Nonetheless, the increased use of Wi-Fi devices, combined with some public concern about EME, has re-enforced the need for the ACMA to continue to ensure that devices comply with the exposure limits.
Wi-Fi EME compliance was a priority compliance area (PCA) for the ACMA in 2014-15. The ACMA assessed compliance levels by auditing suppliers of Wi-Fi devices. Such audits consisted of requiring suppliers to submit the compliance documentation, including test reports, which they are required to hold. The ACMA has published a summary of the results of this audit program.
Who is responsible for Wi-Fi in schools?
State education departments, Catholic Education Offices and individual independent schools are responsible for decisions to install Wi-Fi. The design and rollout of Wi-Fi is therefore the responsibility of education authorities and individual schools. They are best placed to respond to questions about particular deployments.
Where can I go for more information?
- Contact your local education authority or individual school regarding the installation of Wi-Fi in schools.
- ARPANSA fact sheet
- ARPANSA Wi-Fi in schools measurement study