FCC Revises Equipment Authorization Program: What Manufacturers, Labs, TCBs, and Accrediting Bodies Need to Know

On December 30, 2014, the FCC released a Report and Order making substantial changes in the rules that govern its equipment authorization program. Several industry "practices" have now been adopted as formal rules; test labs and TCBs are subject to new oversight; and recent technical standards have been adopted. Here is a summary of what manufacturers, test labs, TCBs and lab accrediting bodies need to know:

Changes to the Equipment Authorization Process

  • Certification applications must go to TCBs for grant. The FCC will no longer review applications or issue certification grants.
    • Applications for certification must include photographs or diagrams of the test set-up for each of the required types of tests applicable to the device.
  • "Exclusion list" and "permit-but-ask" procedures are replaced by a "pre-approval guidance procedure." TCBs must consult with the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) for the testing of devices that were on the prior lists.
  • New technologies will be added to the pre-approval guidance procedure via FCC orders and Knowledge DataBase (KDB).
  • Each TCB must conduct post-market surveillance of at least 5% of its certified devices. This is formally adopted into the rules.
  • TCBs must request samples through the Equipment Authorization System (EAS) to facilitate FCC oversight. The FCC may also request samples for testing and TCB review.
  • To ensure grantees do not provide "golden samples," grantees must provide a voucher so the TCB can obtain a sample from the marketplace at no cost on request, or allow the FCC or TCB to select a product randomly from the manufacturing or warehousing location.

Greater Oversight of TCBs

  • All TCBs must meet the accreditation standards as set forth in ISO/IEC 17065 by September 15, 2015.
  • If a TCB has deficiencies that it does not correct after notice from OET, OET can monitor and set-aside the TCB's grants, require all applications to go through the pre-approval procedure, limit the TCB's scope or suspend/withdraw the TCB's authority. TCB's status will be listed in EAS.

Greater Oversight of Labs

  • Labs that perform certification and Declaration of Conformity (DOC) testing must be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 by equipment type.
  • There will no longer be a separate 2.948 lab list. Labs on the list as of the effective date of the new rules will be recognized until one year from the effective date (labs whose recognitions expire earlier than that need to request an extension to the one year date). Test reports will be accepted from 2.948-listed labs only until 15 months following the effective date.
  • Labs must be accredited every two years and by equipment type.
  • Foreign labs in countries without a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) must use accrediting body recognized by the FCC for accrediting labs in that country. But, the FCC has not recognized any accrediting bodies in non-MRA countries. That means that labs in non-MRA countries will not be able to perform certification or DOC testing under the new rules until the FCC starts to recognize foreign accredited labs. As noted above, certification reports will be accepted from recognized 2.948-listed labs only until 15 months following the effective date of the new rules.
  • Requirements for test lab accreditation bodies now codified in FCC's rules.
  • No subcontracting to unaccredited labs.

Test Site Validation and Testing

  • Test sites will now be required to be validated for testing above 1 GHz per ANSI C63.4-2014, with a 3-year transition period for compliance to CISPR 16-1-4 requirements.
  • New ANSI standards and test procedures adopted for Part 15 devices:
    • ANSI C63.4-2014 is adopted for unintentional radiators (excluding the provisions that allow for the use of rod antennas for electric field measurements below 30 MHz, an artificial hand for holding handheld devices, an absorbing clamp for radio noise power measurements, and transient emission limits). The "2 dB rule" of C63.4-2003 will continue to be permitted.
    • ANSI C63.10-2013 is adopted for intentional radiators.
    • One year transition period allowed for each standard.
    • Any undated standards cross-referenced by ANSI standard that are updated in the future do not take effect until FCC/OET also adopts the change.

Future Rules and Effective Dates

  • OET is given authority to update rules with newer versions of industry standards specified in Parts 2, 5, 15 and 18.
  • OET updates require advance notice and opportunity for industry comments.
  • Standards must already be referenced in the rules and cannot raise "major compliance issues."
  • The Effective Date of the new rules is July 13, 2015.

For more information or assistance, please contact:

Terry Mahn
[email protected]
Donna Balaguer
[email protected]