EMF licence condition: what you need to know
This page answers some questions you might have about our EMF rules.
EMF and licence variation
The changes we have made are set out in the General Notice of Final Decision or in the correspondence that we have sent to licensees. In summary, the new EMF licence condition:
- includes a new set of definitions relating to the EMF condition;
- imposes a requirement to comply with the general public EMF limits for (i) sites not shared with other licensees; and (ii) where applicable, sites shared with other licensees (advice on how to comply is set out in our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement;
- sets out an exemption where licensees are not required to comply with the general public EMF limits in emergency situations;
- imposes a requirement to keep records demonstrating compliance with the EMF condition; and
- imposes a requirement to take into account Ofcom’s Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
Our EMF licence condition is the same across all licence classes that have been varied.
We have varied all licences in licence classes which allow transmit powers above 10 Watts EIRP (or 6.1 Watts ERP). These include mobile network operator licences, other spectrum access licences and the recently introduced shared access (medium power) licence. As per the terms and conditions of these other licences, we have contacted the affected licensees directly to notify them of the variation.
The process that Ofcom has followed is set out in paragraphs 6, 6A and 7 of Schedule 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. This states that before Ofcom varies a licence we must notify the licensee in writing or, if the licence permits it, by publishing a General Notice on our website. All the licence classes identified in the General Notice published on 1 March 2021 allowed us to notify licensees of our proposal using a General Notice.
We allowed licensees until 18 April 2021 to make representations if they wished to do so. We then had until 18 May 2021 to consider any representations made and inform licensees of our final decision. All the licence classes identified in the General Notice published on 18 March 2021 allowed us to notify licensees of our final decision using a General Notice.
Our policy on the new EMF licence condition has been subject to two public consultations as well as the formal licence variation consultation procedure. We have considered all responses and representations and have had additional discussions with industry and stakeholder bodies such as the Radio Society of Great Britain, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Royal Yachting Association.
Following publication of our Final Decision we are sending updated licence documents to affected licensees or providing information on where a new version can be obtained. This process will be phased over the coming weeks.
The key legislative provisions relevant to wireless telegraphy licensing are set out in Annex A1 of our October 2020 statement on measures to require compliance with international guidelines for limiting exposure to EMF (PDF, 1.1 MB). These include:
- Section 3(1) of the 2003 Act which states it is the principal duty of Ofcom in carrying out its functions to further the interests of citizens and consumers.
- Section 9ZA(1) and (2)(b) of the 2006 Act which allows Ofcom to impose licence conditions to protect the public from EMF both in new licences and by varying existing licences.
In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, and has a statutory duty to provide advice to Government on any health effects that may be caused by exposure to EMF. PHE's main advice is that EMF exposure should comply with the guidelines published by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
In accordance with PHE’s advice, Ofcom’s EMF licence condition requires licensees to ensure their use of radio equipment does not exceed limits for the protection of the general public as set out in the ICNIRP Guidelines. We refer to these limits as the “general public EMF limits”. Further details on these limits are set out in section 3 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
Ofcom is not a public health body and does not have medical or health expertise to make judgments on what the appropriate EMF exposure levels should be. As a result, it is appropriate for us to take into account the advice of PHE in relation to EMF in our management of the radio spectrum, and we will continue to do so. Further information on the remit of Ofcom and PHE is available in our statement on EMF Compliance (PDF, 1.1 MB) (see Section 3) and our update on EMF Compliance (PDF, 865.1 KB) (see Section 3).
Complying with our EMF policy
All licensees currently allowed to transmit at powers above 10 Watts EIRP or 6.1 Watts ERP will need to ensure they comply with the EMF licence condition.
This means you may need to carry out an assessment to check that your radio equipment operates within the general public EMF limits set by ICNIRP.
Yes. You will not need to carry out an EMF assessment – or keep records – if:
- You no longer use your radio equipment
- Your licence does not currently allow you to use powers higher than 10 W EIRP or 6.1 W ERP
- You do not transmit at powers higher than 10 W EIRP or 6.1 W ERP
- You only use your radio in emergency situations (as defined in Section 13 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement)
You also do not need to carry out an EMF assessment if your equipment does not transmit at an average power higher than 10 W EIRP or 6.1 W ERP (and where your peak power is not higher than 100 W EIRP or 61 W ERP). However, in this case, you need to keep a record of your average power. We explain how to calculate average power in Section 6 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement and you can use Ofcom’s EMF calculator to work out your average power.
We have produced a simple EMF compliance flowchart which tells you whether or not you need to take action and, if you do, what action is needed.
You can use Ofcom’s EMF calculator to work out a compliance distance. This is the distance you need to keep members of the general public away from the antenna of your radio equipment in order to ensure compliance with the general public EMF limits. In general, higher powers will result in larger compliance distances. Licensees who wish to calculate a less conservative compliance distance may need to undertake a more detailed analysis, e.g. by using a more advanced assessment tool or by seeking help from a professional installer, and this would likely result in smaller compliance distances.
Other acceptable methods of carrying out an assessment are included in Section 6 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement. You’ll also need to keep evidence showing how you comply (see How do I show Ofcom my equipment is operating within the general public EMF limits below).
In some cases, equipment may already be installed in a location where the general public cannot get closer to the antenna than the compliance distance. In other cases, licensees may need to introduce control measures.
Such measures may include introducing barriers or locks to limit access to areas close to the antenna; moving the antenna; changing the operating parameters of your equipment; installing appropriate clear and easy to understand warnings and signs directing people where not to sit/stand when equipment is being used.
Alternatively, licensees can ensure their equipment does not transmit when a member of the general public may be present or that equipment is only used intermittently and for no longer than a specified period.
What is appropriate will depend on individual circumstances.
You do not need to hold an EMF record if:
- You no longer use your radio equipment.
- Your licence does not currently allow you to use powers higher than 10 W EIRP or 6.1 W ERP.
- You do not transmit at powers higher than 10 W EIRP or 6.1 W ERP.
- You only use your radio in emergency situations (as defined in Section 13 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement).
When Ofcom carries out an EMF compliance check or audit, you may be asked to confirm whether one of the above scenarios applies to you.
If you are unsure of the transmit power of your equipment, you have a number of options:
- You can consult your equipment manual or speak to the installer of the equipment; or
- You can use the maximum transmit power in your Ofcom licence for the purposes of the assessment (in some cases the licence may reference an interface requirement document that contains this information. For Ship Radio licensees, we will shortly include on our website a table of maximum allowed transmit powers on our website).
- Aeronautical and Ship Radio users can consult Ofcom’s simplified guidance documents. These will shortly be published on our website and will contain information on typical equipment powers and, based on this, which types of equipment do and do not require an EMF assessment.
If you know the output power and antenna gain but do not know your EIRP or ERP, you can enter these details in the ‘Conversions’ tab in Ofcom’s EMF calculator to calculate your EIRP or ERP.
Information on how to calculate the EIRP or ERP of your equipment is also provided in Section 6 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
Our aim is to make sure that use of radio equipment complies with the general public EMF limits. Spectrum users should therefore be in a position to explain the steps they have taken to ensure compliance with the limits and provide appropriate records demonstrating their compliance.
Examples of what we may accept as an acceptable appropriate record include one or more of the following:
- A record of your compliance distance calculation (e.g. a copy of the output from Ofcom's EMF calculator).
- A record showing that the average power of your equipment does not exceed 10 Watts EIRP or 6.1 Watts ERP (e.g. a copy of the output from Ofcom's EMF calculator).
- Keeping the relevant manufacturer’s instructions on EMF compliance to hand and being able to demonstrate how they are followed.
A full list of acceptable records is available in Section 12 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
When we say 'general public', we mean anyone who isn’t:
- the licensee, owner, operator or installer of the radio equipment, OR
- a worker who is already protected from EMF exposure under pre-existing health and safety legislation, including The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016.
The general public can include family, friends, lodgers, neighbours, visitors, passengers and paying customers as well as other members of the general public of all ages.
If you have equipment operating in multiple locations, you can keep a central record of the manufacturer’s guidance, calculations or measurements you’ve used to demonstrate your equipment at each site is operating within the rules. You don’t have to have a copy of this at each individual site.
If you are using the same compliance record for multiple sites, then you should be able to demonstrate why that is appropriate, for example because you have the same equipment which is set up and operates in exactly the same way at each site.
You will need to reassess compliance if you make changes to your equipment which is likely to increase the EMF exposure levels in any area in which the general public may be present when transmissions are taking place. This could happen if, for example, you increase the transmitter power, change or adjust the antenna, change the operating frequency and so on.
If you have equipment that can be moved, you don’t need to carry out a new assessment every time it is moved to a new location. You just need to make sure that the compliance distance is maintained at all times. Further information is provided in Section 10 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement).
If your radio equipment is authorised under any of the licence classes identified in the General Notice of Final Decision, you may still need to make sure you comply with the general public EMF limits. The requirement to comply with the EMF licence condition still applies even if your equipment is installed and used in an aircraft or on a ship (of any size).
However, you may not need to carry out an EMF assessment in your specific circumstances (see Are there circumstances where I will not need to carry out an assessment? above).
You can consult Ofcom’s simplified aeronautical and ship radio EMF guidance documents on our website to check if you need to take any action in order to comply, and if so, how to do so. These documents contain information on which types of equipment do and do not require an EMF assessment. They also contain a number of worked examples for commonly used equipment.
On a shared site, all radio equipment on the site will contribute to the overall EMF exposure levels.
Some licensees will need to perform a calculation (or measurement) which takes account of other users’ radio equipment on the same site. However, you will not need to do so if your equipment meets any of the following conditions:
- Your equipment on the shared site does not transmit at a combined total radiated power in any direction that is higher than 100 Watts EIRP or 61 Watts ERP (this is likely to apply to many Business Radio licensees); or
- You have calculated that the total EMF levels produced by all of your equipment on the shared site do not exceed 5% of the general public EMF limits in any area in which a member of the general public may be present when transmissions are taking place; or
- Your equipment has a fixed beam and an antenna gain of 29 dBi or higher (this will apply to most if not all fixed link licensees).
Further guidance is available in our Shared Site compliance flowchart.
Licensees have the following time periods to ensure they have up-to-date records in place to demonstrate how they comply with the new EMF licence condition:
- For use of frequencies at 110 MHz or above – until 18 November 2021.
- For use of frequencies above 10 MHz but below 110 MHz – until 18 May 2022.
- For use of frequencies at or below 10 MHz – until 18 November 2022.
Ofcom’s calculator does not currently cover frequencies below 10 MHz.
Ofcom’s calculator is designed for calculating compliance distances in the far-field of the antenna. At frequencies below 10 MHz, it is likely that the compliance distances calculated will fall within the reactive near-field of the antenna and will therefore be unreliable.
Ofcom is considering what additional guidance and/or tools could be provided to assist with compliance assessments below 10 MHz. We will publish updates on our website. We recommend that affected licensees subscribe to receive spectrum updates by email.
In view of this, we are allowing a longer period for licensees using frequencies at or below 10 MHz to demonstrate compliance, i.e. until 18 November 2022.
Ofcom is not a public health body and does not have medical or health expertise. In deciding on the relevant levels to include in licences, we take account of advice from Public Health England (PHE). PHE’s advice is that EMF exposure should comply with the ICNIRP Guidelines.
In line with this advice, Ofcom currently requires compliance with either the 1998 version of the ICNIRP Guidelines or the 2020 version of the ICNIRP Guidelines. In the future, and subject to any updates in advice from PHE, we are likely to move towards requiring compliance with the 2020 version of the ICNIRP Guidelines only. Before doing so, we would issue a public consultation on amending our “Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement” to remove reference to the 1998 Guidelines, and subject to the result of that consultation, require all licensees to demonstrate compliance with the 2020 Guidelines going forward. Our consultation would propose allowing licensees a transitional period to update their compliance records as necessary to ensure compliance with the 2020 Guidelines.
We recommend that affected licensees subscribe to receive spectrum updates by email.
Ofcom does not provide a compliance checking service. It is the responsibility of licensees to ensure that they comply with all their licence conditions, including the EMF condition.
To help licensees, Ofcom has provided a simple EMF calculator and a range of simplified guidance documents. Licensees can choose to seek help from a third-party expert (e.g. a radiocommunications industry professional) if they feel that this is necessary.
It is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all the terms and conditions in their licence, including any requirement to comply with the general public EMF limits.
If you have a licence which currently authorises use of powers higher than 10 Watts EIRP (or 6.1 Watts ERP), you will need to ensure that you comply with the general public EMF limits.
Ofcom carries out checks to ensure that radio equipment is being operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of licences. These checks will now include an additional check of EMF compliance records.
Separately to our routine compliance checks, we may also carry out EMF measurements to ensure licensees are complying with the general public EMF limits. For example, our website provides information on recent testing and measurements of EMF levels that we have taken near mobile sites.
Ofcom does not currently have any plans to check issues relating to potential EMF exposure when reviewing licence applications. It is the responsibility of licensees to ensure that they comply with the EMF licence condition.
Ofcom carries out checks to ensure that radio equipment is being operated in accordance with all the terms and conditions of the licence. The checks could come at any time, so it is important for licensees to make sure they can provide information which demonstrates they are complying with the rules.
How we will enforce our policy
Ofcom carries out checks to ensure that radio equipment is being operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of licences. These checks will now include an additional check of EMF compliance records. Separately to our routine compliance checks, we may also carry out EMF measurements to ensure licensees are complying with the general public EMF limits.
The checks could come at any time, so it’s important for you to make sure you can provide information which demonstrates you’re complying with the rules.
All licensees should comply with the EMF licence condition where they are required to do so, and Ofcom can take enforcement action where we determine there are reasonable grounds for believing a licensee has breached a licence condition. However, we intend to take a proportionate and pragmatic approach to compliance and enforcement. It is not our intention to immediately take enforcement action and impose a financial penalty or other sanctions on licensees regardless of the circumstances. Whilst we may consider such action to be appropriate in certain circumstances, our key objective is to foster and facilitate a climate of compliance across all licensees.
Ofcom has a range of enforcement options available to it to ensure compliance. These include:
- Engaging with licensees to provide information, advice and/or warnings
- Issuing financial penalties
- Varying or revoking licences
- Requiring licensed radio equipment to be temporarily or permanently closed down
Further information on potential enforcement action is provided in Section 15 of our Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
Licensees have the following time periods to ensure that they have up-to-date records in place for which demonstrate how they comply with the new EMF licence condition:
- For use of frequencies at 110 MHz or above - until 18 November 2021
- For use of frequencies above 10 MHz but below 110 MHz - until 18 May 2022.
- For use of frequencies at or below 10 MHz - until 18 November 2022.
During this time however, Ofcom may still carry out routine licence checks. We would only expect to request licensees to check EMF compliance during this period if we discover radio installations that we consider are likely to be in breach of the general public EMF limits. If requested, licensees would need to provide evidence to Ofcom that the site is compliant with EMF limits within a period of 20 calendar days.
Provided the licensee cooperates with Ofcom’s request and takes any necessary steps to ensure the site is compliant, we are unlikely to take enforcement action and impose a financial penalty or other sanctions on a licensee during this time.
Non-EMF licence changes
If you would like to change your contact method preferences, please visit the EMF Licensing Help Centre.
If you have not been able to find an answer to your question, you can ask the Ofcom team.
For all licences except broadcast licences
For broadcast licences
If you have a question about your licence which is not related to EHF, please visit our Licensing Help Centre.