ACMA probes airport body scanner operation

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is examining how to license body scanners for Australian airports

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is seeking comment on the deployment of body scanners at Australian international airports.

The devices will operate in 24.25-30GHz frequency range, covering spectrum currently allocated to Optus, NBN Co and AAPT, as well as unallocated spectrum.

ACMA currently intends to allocate area-based spectrum licenses, with one license for each other charged on the basis of density. An ACMA investigation found that there would be "no immediate interference risk" from the devices.

On 9 February, then-prime minister Kevin Rudd and Brendan O'Connor, home affairs minister at the time, announced a $28.5 million package to introduce new passenger screening technology at Australian airports, including body scanners, multi-view X-ray machines and bottle scanners.

The policy was a response to the attempted bombing using plastic explosives of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from the Netherlands to the US on 25 December 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, dubbed the "underwear bomber".

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport conducted trial runs of body screening using volunteer airline passengers in August 2011 at Sydney International Airport and at Melbourne International Airport in September that year.

The department is seeking licensing arrangements to deploy 32 body scanners, including airports in all Australian capital cities with the exception of Hobart and Canberra.

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