Spectrum offences

10 November 2017

The information below provides information on several types of spectrum interference, and the types of enforcement action we may take in response.

Unlicensed use of radio apparatus

It is a criminal offence to use or install wireless telegraphy apparatus, unless under and in accordance with the terms, provisions and limitations set out in a licence or licence exemption regulations, section 8 and 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

The maximum penalty varies depending on the specific offence committed, where in the UK it is committed and whether it is tried by a Magistrates Court or in the Crown Court, but both imprisonment and large fines are possible. See section 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act for more information.

Unlicensed broadcasting

It is a criminal offence to install, establish or use a wireless telegraphy station or apparatus for the purpose of making a broadcast, unless under and in accordance with the terms, provisions and limitations set out in a licence.

Other offences include using or installing equipment, allowing premises to be used for illegal broadcasting, knowingly advertising or offering any services to illegal broadcast stations that facilitate their operation.

The maximum penalty at the Crown Court is two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.

Read more about illegal broadcasting.

Interception and disclosure of messages

It is a criminal offence, unless the person doing it is authorised or is an intended recipient of a message, to use wireless telegraphy apparatus with the intention of obtaining information as to the contents, sender or addressee of a message; or to disclose this information (see sections 48 and 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006). The maximum penalty is three months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Such conduct may also be an offence under sections 8 and 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act if the apparatus concerned or the way in which it is being used is neither licensed nor licence-exempt. It may also be an offence under other legislation.

Read more about radio interception.

Deliberate interference

It is a criminal offence, unless authorised, to use any apparatus for the purpose of interfering with wireless telegraphy. For full details, see section 68(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

The maximum penalty is up to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Read more about radio frequency jammers.

Mobile phone repeaters

The unlicensed use of mobile repeaters could result in a fine of up to £5,000 and up to a year in prison.

Read more about mobile repeaters.

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