30 Sep 2011
By Tim O'Leary

Behind the scenes with EME

Filed under: , ,


The actions of a corporation impact the community in a host of ways, even if not all members of that community choose to directly transact or interact with that corporation. Taking up the new role of Chief Sustainability Officer at Telstra, this is something I have been thinking about recently.

mobile-base-stationTelstra is pervasive, we are in every community across Australia, whether providing communication services such as mobile coverage, payphones or fixed lines, sponsoring a local event, purchasing goods and services, a presence through a Telstra shopfront or in some other way.

Therefore it is important to me that we communicate with communities, not just our (large) customer base – the good things we do, when we make mistakes and also the things that might concern communities. I look forward to being part of that dialogue.

One of the things I’ve seen since joining Telstra is that there are some members of the community who are genuinely concerned about the health effects from Electromagnetic Energy (EME). Many things in our everyday lives use radio signals to communicate and emit EME. These include AM and FM radios, TVs, baby monitors, remote garage door openers, police and emergency service two-way radio and, of course, mobile phones and mobile network infrastructure. Without EME these everyday radio communications services simply wouldn’t work.

This does not mean that we treat this issue trivially. Telstra takes its advice about EME from the World Health Organisation, who reviews all the research about the health impacts of EME, particularly in the area of mobile phones and base stations. Telstra is committed to communicating updates from the WHO when they become available.

Recently, one of the WHO Agencies – ‘IARC’, the International Agency for Research on Cancer – which looks at causes of cancer, classified radio signals from mobile phones as “possibly carcinogenic” and identified that more research was needed. Notwithstanding the current WHO conclusions that there are no adverse health effects established from using mobile phones (WHO Fact Sheet 193 June 2011), what this means is that more research is still needed on long term mobile phone use to exclude any possibility of negative health impacts.

However, because we want to make sure that all the community has access to information about these issues, we’ve made a series of short video clips that the wider community can access which talks about the IARC findings and WHO conclusions, how you can check if your mobile complies with the safety limits, and some simple steps to reduce exposure from your mobile. It is important this information is available to everyone, especially Telstra customers and you can access this via Telstra’s EME web site.

If you want more information on EME there are a range of information, health and government websites you can access such as:

You can also contact our EME helpdesk via the Telstra EME web site. I look forward to blogging more about the issues that impact on our communities.

Let me know what issues are important to you, or what initiatives you want to hear about and I’ll write on those in the future.


Posts: 24


  1. Bernard Docherty says:

    many thanks for your EME update Tim .
    I look forward to further updates and as a parent seek comfort in the fact you share a hope for a sustainable environment for your 6 children

  2. Vinita Godinho says:

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for your EME update. Since you have invited issues, thought I’d mention one that I am passionate about -- improving telecommunications to remote Indigenous communities, particularly for the provision of financial services. On a recent trip to one community, I found there was no bank, no ATM and only 1 outlet for EFTPOS. My mobile didnt work (wasnt with Telstra!) and 2 pc’s in the shire office provided the only access to internet. I’d love to hear about Telstra’s plans to find innovative solutions to this enduring problem.

  3. Tim O'Leary says:

    Hi Vinita,

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m really pleased to be able to share with you some of the ways Telstra is helping to ensure Indigenous communities can make the most of communications technologies.

    - Telstra’s Indigenous Directorate was established in 2005 to improve telecommunications products and services for remote Indigenous communities across Australia.

    - In 2010/11, we signed an agreement with the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to build five high-capacity links and upgrade 15 exchanges to cater for improved data speeds across the islands. We also commenced upgrades to ADSL2+ (high speed Internet) in four remote Northern Territory communities – Kalkaringi, Lajamanu, Papunya and Yuendumu.

    - Telstra’s Arnhem Land Fibre Project has seen the laying of over 800 kilometres of fibre optic backbone through tropical savannah terrain from Jabiru to Nhulunbuy. Now, nine healthcare centres and twelve schools in remote communities have access to broadband. Read more

    - We promote our dedicated Indigenous hotline in remote Indigenous communities through radio and advertising campaign. Calls to the dedicated hotline are answered by a specialised team of people (rather than an automated voice recognition system) who understand the unique issues confronting remote communities.

    - We provide support for Indigenous communities through contributions to community development programmes. For example in 2010/11, we provided $2.6 million in funding, which included continued support for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Australia. OLPC is an organisation that provides remote primary school students with a purpose-built XO laptop and access to educational programmes and connects them, through the internet, to the rest of the world. In November 2010, we called on all Australians to support this initiative through an SMS campaign. The 50,000 texts received translated to the provision of 500 laptops to children in remote communities. Since May 2009, OLPC Australia has deployed more than 5,000 laptops across 85 remote communities.

    - In 2010, the Telstra Foundation announced $3.5 million in grants to five Indigenous led organisations, united in their commitment to make a positive difference to the education outcomes of Indigenous children’s lives.

    Our commitment to Indigenous Australians not only covers our customers and communities, it also extends to our employees. You can read more about our all our actions in our recently refreshed Reconciliation Action Plan at or about our Indigenous Directorate

  4. The technology which maintains the temperature of Telstra’s telephone exchanges is outdated. The Airwell model of air conditioner, circa 1960′s, fails to manage its role sustainably.

    Simple modifications to the structure and the placement of these air conditioning units would result in a reduction in noise levels from the air conditioners, alleviate their impact upon residents’ lifestyle and increase Telstra’s sustainablity standing in the community.

    Inline with the current focus on carbon emissions, remediation of these structures perhaps in conjunction with tertiary institutions would offer Telstra opportunities to be the recipient of public accolades.


    Georgia Bouris

Leave a Comment

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.