FAQs and help
This page answers some questions you might have about our proposed EMF rules.
EMF and licence variation
The specific changes we are proposing to make to each licence class are detailed in the General Notice or in the correspondence that we have sent to licensees. In summary, the new EMF condition:
- includes a new set of definitions relating to the EMF condition;
- imposes a requirement to comply with the ICNIRP general public 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 ICNIRP general public limits in emergency situations;
- imposes a requirement to keep records demonstrating compliance with the ICNIRP general public limits; and
- imposes a requirement to take into account Ofcom’s Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
Our proposed EMF condition is the same across all licence classes we are proposing to vary.
We are proposing to vary all licences in a licence class which authorises transmit powers above 10 Watts EIRP (or 6.1 Watts ERP). For all these licence classes, we are giving notice of our proposal using a General Notice.
We are also proposing to vary some other licence classes which authorise transmit powers above 10 Watts EIRP (or 6.1 Watts ERP). As per the terms and conditions of these other licences, we are contacting the affected licensees directly to notify them of our proposal to vary. We must do this as we are unable to vary these by issuing a General Notice. These include mobile network operator licences, other spectrum access licences and the recently introduced shared access (medium power) licence.
The process that Ofcom must follow when wishing to vary a licence is set out in paragraphs 6 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 allow us to notify licensees of our proposal using a General Notice.
We must then allow a period of at least one month for licensees to make a representation if they wish to do so (although we are allowing licensees a much longer period in this case). Once the date for representations closes, we have one month to consider any representations made and publish our decision.
Unless you wish to make a representation regarding the proposed variation you do not need to do anything. At the end of this process we will publish our final decision on the EMF page of our website by 18 May 2021. We will explain whether we have decided to vary your licence(s) to include the EMF condition. If your licence(s) has been varied, we will send you an updated licence document or information on where a new version can be obtained from.
What is a representation and what does it mean?
Ofcom must allow licensees the opportunity to respond to a proposal to vary a licence. Any response a licensee provides is called a representation. This enables the licensee to make comments to us on the proposed changes.
I want to make a representation. What do I need to do?
You have until 18 April 2021 to make any representation to us. If you wish to make a representation, please do so using the links below. Representations can also be made in writing. However due to the current Covid-19 restrictions in place and the use of remote working, we may not be in a position to review your representation in the time period provided. We would therefore recommend that all representations are delivered electronically using the link provided.
Our policy on the new EMF condition has been subject to two public consultations. We have received nearly 500 responses and have had additional discussions with industry and stakeholder bodies such as the Radio Society of Great Britain and Royal Yachting Association. In light of the engagement we have already had, we expect there to be limited issues that have not already been raised and which we have not already addressed. We would like licensees to be mindful of this when deciding whether to make any representations and to first refer to the information on our EMF policy page.
We expect to publish our final decision on the licence variation by the middle of May 2021. Our decision will be published on our website at www.ofcom.org.uk/emf. If we decide to vary licences, we will then begin contacting licensees to either provide them with an updated licence document or information on where a new version can be obtained from. This process will be phased over a period of time.
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.
Complying with our EMF policy
If you have not already done so, you will need to carry out an assessment to check that your radio equipment operates within the ICNIRP general public limits.
One simple way you could do this is by ensuring your equipment never transmits above 10 W EIRP (6.1 W ERP).
You could also follow any manufacturers’ instructions relating to EMF compliance when you install and operate your equipment or ask a radio industry professional to install your equipment to ensure EMF compliance.
Alternatively, you can use Ofcom’s EMF calculator to work out the compliance distance you’ll need to maintain between members of the general public and your transmitter. In general, higher powers will result in larger compliance distances. You can use the EMF calculator to perform this calculation.
Other acceptable methods are included in our detailed 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 ICNIRP general public limits? below).
If you are unsure what the transmit power of your equipment is, you can:
- consult your equipment manual or speak to the installer of the equipment; or
- 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).
Our aim is to make sure that all radio equipment complies with the ICNIRP general public limits.
You need to be able to explain the steps you have taken to ensure compliance with the ICNIRP general public limits and if requested, provide us with records demonstrating compliance.
Examples of an acceptable record include:
- keeping a record of how you make sure your equipment never transmits above 10 W EIRP (or 6.1 W ERP) e.g. you may be able to demonstrate your equipment is not capable of or is set-up in a way which means it cannot transmit above 10 W EIRP (or 6.1 W ERP);
- keeping the manufacturer’s instructions, or information from the installer of the equipment, to hand;
- documenting any calculations you’ve made to determine the compliance distance for your equipment (for example by printing the output from Ofcom’s EMF calculator);
- keeping the results of any on-site EMF measurements you’ve made;
- keeping a record of the control measures you have put in place or how you may otherwise ensure that no member of the general public is present in any area in which the ICNIRP general public limits may be exceeded when transmissions are taking place.
More information is available in our detailed 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 and paying customers as well as other members of the general public of all ages.
If your equipment is being used for either seeking help in an emergency, or responding to an emergency situation, it is likely to be exempt. Further information on when this exemption will apply is included in our detailed Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement. You will, however, need to make sure you comply if your equipment is being used in other non-emergency situations.
If you’re relying on this exemption, you should be able to demonstrate why the exemption applies in your situation.
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.
If your radio equipment is authorised under any of the licence classes identified in the General Notice, you need to make sure you comply with the ICNIRP general public limits. The requirement to comply still applies even if your equipment is installed and used in an aircraft or on a ship (of any size). However, you don’t need to carry out a new assessment every time your equipment is moved to a new location. You just need to make sure that the compliance distance that you have calculated is maintained at all times.
You may need to implement control measures to make sure that members of the general public cannot access any area within the compliance distance in which the ICNIRP general public limits may be breached and ensure that this remains the case, for example by:
- introducing barriers or locks to limit access to the antenna or moving the antenna.
- installing appropriate warnings and signs directing people where not to sit/stand when equipment is being used and setting out simple explanations of risks.
- ensuring you never transmit when a member of the general public may be present in an area in which the ICNIRP general public limits may be breached.
- ensuring equipment is only used intermittently and for no longer than a specified period, for example, by introducing signs stating not to hold a button and use equipment for more than [x] seconds/minutes.
The exemption for emergency situations may also apply – see “Are there any exemptions from these requirements?” above.
We can only include our new EMF condition in Wireless Telegraphy Act licences issued by Ofcom. Our new EMF condition will not therefore apply to radio amateurs visiting from other countries unless they are operating under a UK Amateur Temporary Reciprocal licence.
However, the ICNIRP guidelines are internationally-recognised guidelines for EMF exposure and all spectrum users around the world should be taking account of the EMF levels produced by their equipment. You will also still need to comply with any applicable regulation in the country which authorises the use of your radio equipment. Other countries may require compliance with the ICNIRP general public limits in legislation or as a licence condition.
We can only include our new EMF condition in Wireless Telegraphy Act licences issued by Ofcom. Any radio equipment on a ship or aircraft that is not registered in the UK or Crown Dependencies will not be authorised under a Wireless Telegraphy Act licence meaning our new EMF condition will not apply.
However, the ICNIRP Guidelines are internationally recognised guidelines for EMF exposure and all spectrum users around the world should be taking account of the EMF levels produced by their equipment. You will also still need to comply with any applicable regulation in the country which authorises the use of your radio equipment. Other countries may require compliance with the ICNIRP general public limits in legislation or as a licence condition. You may therefore be required by the flag state of your ship or aircraft to comply with the ICNIRP general public limits even when you are in the UK.
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. However, you will not need to take account of another users’ equipment on the same site if your equipment that is authorised to transmit at powers above 10 Watts EIRP or 6.1 Watts ERP meets any of the following conditions:
- All 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 ICNIRP general public 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).
If none of these exemptions apply, you will need to carry out an assessment that takes into account both your equipment and that of any other users on the same site. More information on how to do this is provided in our detailed Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
If your equipment is being used for either seeking help in an emergency, or responding to an emergency situation, you are unlikely to need to comply with the ICNIRP general public limits. More information on when this exemption may apply is included in our detailed guidance on EMF compliance and enforcement. You will however need to ensure you comply if your equipment is being used in other non-emergency situations.
There are some simple ways in which you can comply. For example, you could make sure your equipment never transmits above 10 W EIRP (6.1 W ERP) and keep a record of how you ensure that remains the case.
You could also follow any manufacturers’ instructions relating to EMF compliance when you install and operate your equipment or ask a radio industry professional to install your equipment to ensure EMF compliance. You can then keep the manufacturer’s instructions, or information from the installer of the equipment, to hand.
We have also introduced a simple EMF calculator to help licensees to assess their compliance. If you are an amateur licensee, the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has also produced a version of the calculator to assist licensees. While measurements may be helpful in certain cases (for example at shared sites and/or sites with a complex radio environment), we expect that in most cases, licensees will be able to perform a simple calculation to determine a separation distance between their radio equipment and any area in which the general public may be present when transmissions are taking place. To demonstrate compliance, you can document any calculations you’ve made (for example by printing the output from our calculator).
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 ICNIRP general public 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.
If your licence conditions are breached, we have a wide range of powers available to us. You might be asked to provide information, given advice and/or issued with warnings. But we can also require your radio equipment to be temporarily or permanently closed down or may vary or revoke your licence. We can also issue financial penalties and take criminal action. We will consider what option may be appropriate in the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
We will give licensees a period of time after we publish our licence variation decision (which we expect to publish by 18 May 2021) within which to assess compliance and get appropriate records in place. This period will be six months for most licensees (and 12 months for licensees using frequencies below 10 MHz). During this time however, where Ofcom carries out routine compliance checks and requests access to EMF compliance records for a specific site, licensees will need to provide evidence to Ofcom that the site is compliant with the ICNIRP general public limits within a period of 20 calendar days.
If coronavirus restrictions are still in place at the time that the licence variation decisions are made, we will delay the start of this period until coronavirus restrictions are lifted, and publish a notice on our website to confirm the start date.
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.