However, the telecommunications heavyweight was at pains to stress that "the consensus" of scientific opinion was there was "no substantiated evidence of public health effects from the electro-magnetic energy generated by radio frequency technology, including mobile phones and base stations, when used in accordance with applicable standards".
Telstra acknowledged the insurance issue in the risks section of its annual report, which was released to the market yesterday. The company said "while to date we have been able to obtain limited insurance against these risks, the preparedness of insurers to give this type of insurance cover is reducing and even this limited insurance cover may not continue to be economically viable.
"There is actually a risk therefore that an actual or perceived health risk associated with mobile telecommunications equipment could:
- lead to litigation against us;
- adversely affect us by reducing the number or the growth rate of mobile telecommunications services or lowering usage per customer;
- precipitate the imposition of more onerous applicable legal requirements which are more difficult or costly to comply with; or
- hinder us in installing new mobile telecommunications equipment and facilities.
Telstra said in a section of the report dealing with information on the company's operations that it based its position on electro-magnetic energy the advice of authorities such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the World Health Organisation.
It added that Telstra Research Laboratories contributed to the national and international electro-magnetic energy program, having invested AU$10 million in the last 10 years.
The company had also developed base station electro-magnetic energy software that calculated environmental emission levels in a "matter of seconds".
There has been constant debate over the safety of mobile phones in particular for several years, without any concrete evidence that electro-magnetic energy levels cause ill-effects in humans. However, some studies have shown that mice suffer an adverse effect from such radiation.