FCC final rule aims to modernize experimental radio

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The Federal Communications Commission April 29, issued a final rule it hopes will help the experimental radio service framework more quickly move innovative technologies to market.

The rule finalizes a February notice of proposed rulemaking that laid out how the FCC will change experimentation and development rules for new radio equipment and techniques. The NPRM proposed three new types of ERS licenses--the program license, medical testing license and compliance testing license--which allow the FCC to more clearly articulate market trial rules, and marketing and certification policies applying to each license type.

The updated rules will "remove regulatory barriers to experimentation, thereby permitting institutions to move from concept to experimentation to finished product more rapidly," says the rule.

The final rule incorporates several changes based on comments on the NPRM.

The commission modified the rule to permit a manufacturer to operate unauthorized equipment in a residential area, as long as it operates under a service provider's license. When it comes to testing experimental networks, service providers are naturally risk averse as they have an incentive to minimize interference with their own customers, says the rule.

In response to comments the FCC also added a provision allowing general operation of radio frequency devices that have not yet been certified without the need for an experimental license, if they're operated for a trade show or exhibition demonstration, at or below power level rules for unlicensed devices. This also means device users no longer need to obtain an experimental license or special temporary authorization for demonstrations.

"This expansion will increase opportunities for manufacturers to demonstrate their products, with little potential for increasing interference," says the rule.

The rule also expands the NPRM definition of a product development trial to explicitly include medical devices.

"In a product development trial, licensees must own all of the equipment, must inform all participants of the nature of the trial, and must not market devices or offer services for hire," says the rule.

Market trials, however, come later in the development process and have much stricter requirements and necessitate a conventional license.

The NPRM also placed limits on the quantity of devices that can be used for testing and evaluation to determine compliance with the rules or suitability for marketing--capping radio frequency devices at 2000 units and 1200 units for devices that do not require an individual station license.

The updates in the final rule changes these caps to better reflect the sophistication of new smartphones and tablets, and the proliferation of licensed and unlicensed devices, says the FCC.

"The current importation limits are no longer adequate to meet the industry's needs. The need for increased device testing, in turn, has put additional pressure on the commission to issue timely waivers of the existing limits, so that manufacturers and telecommunications providers can meet their deadlines," says the rule.

The rule increases the importation limit for all devices, both licensed and un licensed, to 4000 units.

"Adopting a single limit for all devices will decrease the administrative burden on both manufacturers and the commission," says the rule.

For more:
- read the final rule, "Radio Experimentation and Market Trials-Streamlining Rules," in the Federal Register

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