FCC Considering Critical Changes to New Rules Impacting RF Equipment Manufacturers


The FCC will soon release its decision on petitions for reconsideration of some of the new radiofrequency (RF) equipment authorization rules it adopted earlier this year. The subject rules would effectively “de-authorize” an entire class of testing labs on which many RF equipment manufacturers have relied to prepare test results they included in their applications to certify their devices for sale in the U.S. It is essential that manufacturers stay current on developments in this proceeding, as the outcome could have a critical impact on their R&D costs and marketing practices.

Among other things, the new rules disallow the use of test results from foreign and domestic non-accredited “2.948-listed” labs for equipment certification, and require that all test results used in the certification process be provided by FCC-accredited labs. Many manufacturers have utilized one or more of the nearly 600 existing 2.948-listed labs for several years. If those labs do not achieve accreditation by the end of the transition period, manufacturers that continue to use their test results could have their certification applications rejected and/or be liable for steep fines and other sanctions by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.

The FCC’s current transition plan mandates that no later than July 13, 2016, all 2.948 listed labs’ authority will expire. As of October 12, 2016, no further test report from such labs, foreign or domestic, will be accepted for devices tested before the July 13 expiration deadline.

By the end of the transition period all U.S. labs that provide test results for equipment certification must be accredited by an FCC-recognized accreditation body. Foreign labs must be accredited by an approved foreign “designating authority” recognized by the FCC under the terms of a government-to-government Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). Labs located in one of the many countries that does not have an MRA with the U.S. must be accredited by an entity recognized by the FCC for performing accreditation in the subject country.

The FCC currently has no procedures for the accreditation of 2.948-listed labs in non-MRA countries. Unless and until the FCC implements such procedures (and the labs meet the requirements) manufacturers will no longer be able to utilize the results from those labs for purposes of certifying RF devices for sale in the U.S. Manufacturers that have affiliated non-accredited labs in non-MRA countries will have to move their facilities. Manufacturers that utilize non-affiliated 2.948-listed labs must find accredited labs that can test their specific equipment for certification for U.S. sales.

The petitions for reconsideration request that the FCC: (a) clarify procedures for the recognition of accreditation bodies that can accredit testing labs in non-MRA countries; (b) provide clarification as to how 2.948-listed labs in non-MRA countries can be certified; and (c) provide a period of two years as a transition period for currently non-accredited labs to complete their certification process.

The FCC may or may not grant the pending petitions for reconsideration. Yet, even if the FCC does grant certain petitions, in whole or in part, it may nonetheless impose onerous conditions on the accreditation/certification processes, which could discourage labs from complying with the new requirements. Given the importance and material impact of the proposed rules, impacted manufacturers would be well-served to follow developments in this proceeding.

The CommLaw Group will continue to closely monitor this proceeding. If you would like additional Information about the proceeding, or to obtain a hard copy of a comprehensive Global RF Equipment Regulatory Compliance Guide or the companion U.S. Guide, please contact Ronald E. Quirk, Jr. at (703) 714-1305 or req@commlawgroup.com.

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