Insights Ofcom to introduce new spectrum licence conditions


Ofcom has announced that it is introducing new licence conditions for spectrum users, to ensure their equipment continues to operate within international electromagnetic field (EMF) guidelines. Ofcom explains that all use of spectrum generates electromagnetic fields. There are international safety guidelines, developed by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), that set the maximum levels of EMF exposure for protection of the general public. These levels are endorsed by Public Health England.

Manufacturers, installers and operators of wireless equipment should already be aware of the ICNIRP guidelines, and factor them in to how they plan their services. To ensure this always remains the case, Ofcom proposed new conditions for spectrum licensees earlier this year. Following consultation, the regulator has now decided to introduce the new licence conditions. This means licensees using equipment that is authorised to transmit at power levels higher than 10 Watts must operate within the ICNIRP guidelines as a condition of their Ofcom licence, including keeping data and records of any testing to demonstrate their compliance.

While most spectrum licensees should already be factoring the ICNIRP guidelines into their services, Ofcom will be launching an online tool (EMF calculator) to help make it as simple as possible for people to check whether the use of their radio equipment is likely to comply with the guidelines. This will be available on a trial basis initially and Ofcom will take account of the feedback it receives before launching the full version.

Ofcom has also published a consultation covering the updated wording of the condition; updated Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement; and a trial version of the new online EMF Calculator. Ofcom welcomes feedback to this by 16 November 2020, after which it will begin varying the relevant licences to include the new condition. It will also then launch the finalised online EMF calculator. To read Ofcom’s statement and to access the consultation, click here.