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Our approach to spectrum compliance and enforcement

As the statutory regulator for communications, Ofcom manages the use of the electromagnetic spectrum – the airwaves that are used for wireless communications such as mobile phones, Wi-Fi and GPS. Using airwaves in this way is known as wireless telegraphy.

One way in which we manage the use of spectrum is by ensuring anyone who uses spectrum complies with rules relating to its use. These rules are contained in:

In many cases, we achieve compliance by engaging with stakeholders to make our expectations clear and promoting good standards of behaviour.

But in some cases, we may decide to investigate potential non-compliance – and possibly take enforcement action to ensure the law is complied with.

For example, we may consider it appropriate to take enforcement action to:

  • prevent widespread harmful interference;
  • ensure harmful non-compliant radio or electrical equipment is kept off the market;
  • ensure public safety e.g. ensure compliance with limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF); and
  • immediately deal with other serious risks.

We exercise our discretion and decide what approach is the most appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances. This generally happens in two stages:

  1. We decide whether to carry out an investigation.
  2. If we decide to carry out an investigation, we (i) review the evidence gathered; and (ii) decide whether to take enforcement action and, if so, what type of action is the most appropriate.

Our approach to compliance is guided by section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 and section 3 of the WTA. The legislation explains how we should perform our duties and exercise our functions relating to the management of the radio spectrum. It also explains that our regulatory activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed.

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