The FCC Certification Process: Going Wireless


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The FCC certification process for products with wireless features can be complicated and daunting. Increasingly, customers are expecting wireless features, yet many manufacturers hesitate because of the uncertainty of the certification process. This article discusses the FCC certification process for the United States and shows that it is not as bad as it may seem.

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The FCC Certification Process: Going Wireless

  1. 1. The FCC Certification Process: Going Wireless
  2. 2. Many manufacturers hesitate to use wireless features because of the uncertainty of the certification process.
  3. 3. But we are here to tell you that the certification process for the United States is really not as bad as it seems.
  4. 4. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) • The FCC regulates radio frequencies in the U.S. • They make sure wireless broadcasters can share the wireless spectrum without interfering with each other. • They require that any device that radiates RF energy to be tested for compliance with the FCC rules
  5. 5. Licensed & Unlicensed Broadcasts Licensed Broadcasts Some broadcasters are licensed to broadcast on a specific spectrum, such as a radio station. A radio station can be licensed to operate at 100.3MHz in a region and the FCC regulations prevent someone else from using that spectrum. Unlicensed Broadcasts The FCC allows unlicensed broadcasts as well subject to regulations to prevent interference. The FCC rules for unlicensed broadcasting from below 1MHz in excess of 32GHz are included in CFR 47 Part 15.
  6. 6. FCC Compliance • The FCC requires any device that radiates RF energy to be tested for compliance with the FCC rules. • Part 15 - deals with the operational aspects and requirements for devices that emit RF energy and are to be operated without the end user needing a license • Part 2 - deals with issues of marketing and authorization and includes details on the certification and approval process
  7. 7. The 8 Step FCC Certification Process
  8. 8. 1. Choose the Optimum Operating Frequency • Have a clear understanding of which frequencies are legally available • Choose a specific frequency based on technical issues (ex: range, propagation, antenna length, power consumption and potential interference)
  9. 9. 2. Component Selection • The RF section and antenna must be carefully designed and optimized to comply with the allowed power and harmonic limitations imposed by Part 15 • If you are using a Linx module this is much easier to do • Important to recognize that antenna and layout play key roles in your product’s legal operation
  10. 10. 3. Build Production-Ready Prototypes • Once you’ve selected a frequency of operation and a suitable RF stage you will want to move from concept breadboard prototypes to a production-ready model as soon as you can
  11. 11. 4. Prescreen and Optimize • When your wireless product is finished, output power and harmonics should be checked to ensure that the RF stage is both optimized and Part 15 compliant. • Do this with a spectrum analyzer and calibrated antennas • Consider prescreening if you don’t have access to the above instruments • Linx partners with a test lab that offers these services at a discount to Linx customers • The process can result in a cost savings over formal testing and provides an opportunity to maximize product performance
  12. 12. 5. Lab Selection • The FCC requires that final product testing be conducted by a registered testing facility • A list of registered, independent testing facilities is on the FCC website • Quality and competence of labs varies widely • Linx is happy to recommend competent facilities • Once you pick a lab, determine the extent of services they’ll provide • Our advice? Have them do as much as possible. • Taking time to understand the subtleties of the filing process in the middle of trying to get a product to market is a bad idea. Saving a few bucks to do things yourself may end up costing more in the end, and could jeopardize the approval.
  13. 13. 6. Registering • A Federal Registration Number (FRN) must be obtained when your product is complete and ready for testing • This is free and can be obtained in a few minutes on the FCC website • Request a grantee code from the FCC (also can be done online) • $60 and must be paid within 30 days of the application
  14. 14. 7. Send the Production-Ready Prototype to an FCC Authorized Testing Facility • Once product is in finished form testing should be performed by an accredited laboratory (not necessary to be present) • Testing usually takes less than two weeks depending on lab’s schedule
  15. 15. Items Needed to Complete Filing • A letter appointing the test lab as your technical agent for certification • The FCC ID Number of the unit. • The first 3 or 5 numbers are the grantee code. The rest is up to the applicant, up to 14 characters • A sketch of the FCC label and the location on the unit • A block diagram of the unit showing all clock oscillators and their frequencies of operation • Full schematic diagram • The user’s manual • A brief, non-technical description of the product and its operation • A product sample for testing and photos
  16. 16. 8. The Filing Process • Independent testing laboratories are now allowed to issue certifications through the Telecommunication Certification Body (TCB) program • Filing process usually done through test lab • The TCB will review all application materials and if the device conforms to the requirements, they will upload this info to the FCC • The FCC will add the product and the ID number to their database and website, and issue a Grant of Equipment Authorization • At this point, the product can be legally marketed and sold
  17. 17. International Considerations
  18. 18. International Certification Info • The process and cost varies widely • Ex: The requirements for Industry Canada (IC) are close to the U.S., so adding a Canadian certification is generally not much more expensive than the U.S. alone • Ex: The European Union has harmonized requirements across all European countries but the test requirements are much more involved than for the U.S. which means more money • Most countries follow the same rules as either Europe or the U.S. • Many countries require testing to be done in their country and all require a representative within the country as a point of contact • Become aware of the requirements of each country before you market your product
  19. 19. Modular Certification
  20. 20. Modular Certification • The FCC has made an allowance for modular certification • A radio module can be tested for compliance with the rules, then included in multiple end products without having to undergo the full amount of testing • This can save time and money but comes with a number of requirements from the module • The designer integrating the module into an end product also has requirements (ex: using the same antenna that was tested with the module) • There is no modular certification for the receiver • The transmitter needs to be certified and the receiver needs to be tested in the end product
  21. 21. In Conclusion
  22. 22. In Conclusion • As the number of wireless products has grown the process for certification ahs become much more streamlined • In you have any concerns or questions… • You can contact Linx Technologies and speak with an applications engineer • You can contact a test lab
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