IOT and Other RF Device Suppliers Take Note: The FCC’s New Authorization and Importation Rules are Now Effective

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The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new rules for radiofrequency (RF) equipment authorization rules are, as of today, officially in effect.  As underscored in a previous article, the new rules modify:

  • Self-approval authorization techniques for non-transmitting RF devices.
  • RF Equipment Importation Rules.
  • Electronic labeling of RF devices.
  • Measurement procedures and standards.

Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity

The FCC’s rules provide that, with limited exceptions, RF equipment must be authorized prior to the marketing, sale, importation, or distribution of that equipment in the U.S.  The FCC has replaced two of its existing authorization procedures for unintentional radiators (non-transmitting RF equipment) – Declaration of Conformity (DoC) and Verification – with a single process:  Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC).

Under SDoC, the responsible party is required to, among other things, test RF devices for compliance with specific standards and requirements, and supply a statement with the product containing corporate identification and a declaration that it complies with FCC rules.

There is a one-year transition period wherein a responsible party may, at its discretion, continue to use DoC or Verification for applicable RF devices.

Importation of RF Devices

To ensure that RF devices brought into the U.S. comply with its technical standards, the FCC imposes specific conditions under which RF devices capable of causing harmful interference may be imported into the country.  This generally means that RF equipment must be properly tested, authorized, and labeled before entering the U.S.

The new rules eliminate the requirement that importers complete the FCC Form 740, in which the responsible party was required to declare that its RF equipment complies with FCC rules.

The FCC has expanded the entities permitted to assume regulatory responsibility for RF devices to include a consignee or customs broker.  Previously, the importer was usually designated as the responsible party.

While allowing more entities to become responsible parties, the FCC has concurrently imposed new requirements on them:  (a) the responsible party for imported equipment subject to SDoC must have a U.S. presence; and (b) the responsible party must retain supporting documentation of compliance and submit it to the FCC upon request.

The new rules also permit an increase in the number of devices that that can be imported for demonstration at trade shows from 200 to 400 for devices used in licensed services, and from 10 to 400 for other types of “pre-authorized” devices, as long as these devices are not offered for sale.

Electronic Labeling

The new FCC rules include provisions to implement the E-LABEL Act, which requires the FCC to allow manufacturers of RF devices that have the capability to digitally display labeling and regulatory information to use electronic labeling instead of affixing physical labels to the equipment.

The FCC requires that labeling and regulatory information, when digitally displayed, should be accessible in no more than three steps.  Examples include:  (a) user accessing the device settings menu; (b) accessing a submenu of legal information; and (c) accessing a further submenu of FCC compliance information. Accessing the applicable information must not require any sort of code or permission.

In order to ensure that the labeling and regulatory information is provided effectively to the purchaser, the user must be provided with clear instructions on how the access the required information in either the packaging material or another easily accessible format at time of purchase.  This information must be also available on the responsible party’s website.

Measurement Procedures and Standards

Historically, the FCC accepted measurement data in compliance testing that comports with three types of procedures:  (a) FCC bulletins; (b) reports published by national engineering societies and accepted by the FCC; and (c) any measurement procedure accepted by the FCC.

The FCC’s new rules permit measurement data to include references to information available in its Knowledge Database publications.  Responsible parties may also now reference specific sections of the ANSI C63.26 as a standard for compliance testing of licensed devices.

The Devil is in the Details

This is high-level overview of the key RF equipment rule changes.  The rules themselves are varied and complex; a detailed analysis of the planned changes is beyond the scope of this article.  Due to the comprehensive nature of these rule changes, all stakeholders in the RF equipment marketplace should become informed about them in order to ensure compliance therewith.  The FCC has been brutal on RF equipment suppliers that market or import equipment that is not in compliance with its rules.

If you would like additional information about the FCC’s RF equipment rules, including suggestions for best practices, please contact IoT attorney Ronald E. Quirk, Jr. at (703) 714-1305 or req@commlawgroup.com. Further information about Marashlian & Donahue’s Internet of Things and Connected Devices practice is available here.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISING DISCLAIMER: This information may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions under the applicable law and ethical rules. The determination of the need for legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers

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