Frequently Asked Questions...Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Q: What is the FCC?
A: FCC stands for Federal Communications Commission. It is an agency of the U.S. Federal Government structured under Chapter I Telecommunication 47 Code of Federal Regulations (47 CFR). It is responsible for the management of the radio spectrum in the US. The FCC protects against “radio and broadcast pollution”, both by enforcing standards of broadcast decency, and by regulating electromagnetic noise sources.
Electrical and electronic products may interfere by producing radio spectrum noise. The fundamental laws of physics show that as electric current moves around inside an electrical product, the current will produce electromagnetic field waves that will travel through space. Those waves may thus eventually affect other electrical currents in other products, and cause unwanted interference.
View the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/
Q: What products does it apply to?
A: FCC regulations apply to electrical and electronic products that may produce radio frequency pollution. Two main types of products covered are “Intentional Radiators” and “Unintentional Radiators”.
An Intentional Radiator is a device that broadcasts radio energy (not infrared or ultrasonic energy) to perform its function.
• Intentional radiators are things like cell phones, CB radios, walkie-talkies, wireless connections, Bluetooth connections, and short range broadcast equipment, wireless key-access systems. Clearly radio waves are needed for the thing to work. These devices intentionally use the radio spectrum and therefore always require FCC equipment authorization.
An Unintentional Radiator is a electronic digital or radio device that, because of the rapid oscillation of electric current in the device, produces radio signals that are broadcast through space, or conducted along power lines. Devices that receive radio waves (such as AM/FM radios and Televisions) electronically resonate and also unintentionally radiate radio waves.
• Unintentional radiators are very common everyday electronic devices like television sets, computers, electronic games, radar detectors, digital cameras, USB peripherals, radios, digital clocks, musical equipment, MP3 devices -- Pretty much anything with a computer chip in it.
• The hard rule in the USA defined per 47 CFR 15.3(k) – defined as an unintentional radiator operating with electronics at over 9000 pulses per second (9 kHz) and using digital techniques.
FCC regulations also applies to anything that connects to the telephone grid. Phones, modems, faxes, etc.
Q: I’ve seen static on my TV when operating electric tools, or motorized kitchen appliances. Is that controlled under FCC regulations?
A: Although this is a case of radio interference, the FCC rules do not cover simple motorized appliances, or most kitchen appliances with electrically noisy motors. The FCC does regulate microwave ovens, however.
With the recent conversion to digital television, the nature of interference for television is changing, but the FCC is reallocating the radio spectrum for new communications technologies.
Q: Why do I have to do to comply?
A: The FCC requires that any product that is covered by FCC regulations undergo “equipment authorization procedure”. It is illegal to import, sell, or lease covered equipment that has not undergone the required equipment authorization procedure. Additionally, operators must cease to use equipment that causes interference upon notification by the FCC. The FCC does have the ability to levy fines, impose seizures, and even jail offenders. The FCC frequently targets end-users with fines to bring pressure to bear on retailers. Conviction and jail is typically reserved for only the most willful repeat operators of unlicensed radio stations.
Q: “My product only uses small batteries”, or “my product is only a toy”, or “my product is only a small manufacturing run device”. Can’t I be exempt from FCC regulations?
A: Battery power is not an exemption. Even a little 3.7 V cellular telephone can broadcast for miles. Toys are not exempt either. Toys can make more radio noise than other equipment because plastic or plush enclosures do not shield the electronics like a metal box may. Manufacturing run is not exempt either. Even if you make and sell only a handful of devices, it needs FCC equipment authorization.
There are exceptions to FCC equipment authorization for certain unintentional radiators. They are codified in 47 CFR 15.103. Below are the most common exemptions:
• Digital devices oscillating below 1.705 MHz that do not connect to the power grid, even indirectly. To be exempt, devices also cannot connect for the purpose of recharging batteries.
• Digital devices that use less than 6 billionths of a watt of electrical power
Q: Explain the exemptions more. What kind of digital consumer products get exempted?
A: Each product is different, and product design may require FCC compliance. But here are some products that are often exempted for the technical reasons above. Common products that get exempted are:
• Some basic digital battery operated devices that don’t connect to the power grid – like some exercise pedometers, stop watches, wall clocks, SOME basic sound-making toys / novelties. These exempted by the less than 1.705 MHz rule.
• White good appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers and other digital ‘smart’ appliances may be exempt under the appliance exemption.
The determination of whether a product is exempt should be made with the product’s technical information by someone competent in this matter. Bureau Veritas offers this technical consulting services to evaluate designs that may be exempt. Contact Engineering Services in the Buffalo, NY office.
Q: kHz, MHz, GHz...what’s that mean?
A: These are engineering terms to describe how rapidly electrical oscillations occur within a product. Hz is the unit Hertz, which is one oscillation per second.
k = kilo = one thousand
M = mega = one million
G = giga = one billion
So if you purchase a “900 MHz” PC, this is just a short way of writing the computer processor operates with a driving signal of 900 million oscillations per second (of course that PC needs FCC equipment authorization, too.)
Q: Has there been enforcement?
A: Yes. There are cases of fines, forfeiture, and other actions for non- compliant equipment, labeling, or other violations. You can read FCC releases from its enforcement bureau at http://www.fcc.gov/eb/marketing/.
Q: I’ve heard of Class A and Class B digital devices. What’s that about?
Class A digital device – A digital device marketed for use in a commercial, industrial, or business environment, exclusive of a device that is marketed for use by the general public or intended to be used in the home.
Class B digital device – A digital device marketed for use in a residential environment, but that may also be used in a commercial, industrial or business environment.
Q: I’m a retailer, why should I care about FCC regulations?
Q: I’m a manufacturer, what do I have to do?
Q: Are the requirements the same? FCC is FCC, right?
Technical expertise is needed to evaluate the design to ensure correct authorization.
Q: I don’t have the expertise in house at my organization. Who can provide FCC equipment authorization?
Q: Is one lab as good as another?
Furthermore, if the device requires Declaration of Conformity equipment authorization, the lab must be ISO/IEC 17025 Accredited. An accredited lab has been audited by a third party such as the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation to the international standard for good laboratory practice ISO/IEC 17025.
The following website: http://www.fcc.gov/oet/ can be used to find an FCC lab that is listed under 2.948 or Accredited for FCC work. Search under “Test Firms”. Then search by the level of accreditation needed.
Additionally, FCC Certification equipment authorization requires a Telecommunications Certification Body (TCB). These organizations grant the FCC ID code. A TCB is a certification agency and not an outside testing laboratory, however some organizations operate both testing laboratories and a TCB.
TCB’s may be found at http://www.fcc.gov/oet/ Search under “TCB Search”.
TCB’s are also required for telephone devices – TCBs in telephony are listed separately at http://www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/TCB-part-68-list.pdf.
Bureau Veritas operates several fully accredited FCC labs, and is one of the largest TCB’s in the world.
When considering placing work with a lab, make sure they can do what is needed and are accredited. Then check for convenience of location, service, and other intangibles.
Q: Do I need to file any report with the Government?
Certification and Registration used to require filing with the FCC a few years back, but the government has privatized that requirement. Now almost all filings can be handled with less delay by authorized Telecommunications Certification Bodies (TCB’s).
Verification and Declaration of Conformity do not need to be filed with the FCC. Manufacturers must maintain FCC reports on file for any covered products generally for two years after permanent cessation of production.
Upon importation, your customs provider may need to file a FCC Form 740 declaring compliance of the digital device with FCC before importation. You can obtain the form at http://www.fcc.gov/Forms/Form740/740.pdf.
Q: My competitors who sell similar product don’t appear to have FCC. What about that?
A: There is a possibility that competitors who do not have FCC equipment authorization may be exempt. If you suspect a competitive product violates FCC rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC Enforcement Bureau. You may have other legal means of redress, too.
Q: What is the sample size for FCC radiated emissions testing?
A: Almost all FCC measurements of radio emission limits are performed with one representative sample, this is known as a “type test”.
Q: What does the testing consist of?
A: The product will be operated in normal modes while antennas measure the radio noise. The product will be tested in a chamber (that blocks outside radio interference), or a calibrated Open Area Test Site (OATS). The sample will be slowly spun around, and the antennas will move up and down as they scan across the radio spectrum for noise. Plug-in products will also have their power cords examined for noise on the power line. Any noise over the limit for that frequency will fail, and thus require the product design or shielding to be modified to pass.
Q: How long does it take and how much does it cost?
A: Testing time depends on the schedule of the lab/test site availability. Testing includes the review of the technical design of the product and the writing of a complete FCC report. If the sample passes the first time, testing can be performed in a day or two. Added cost and delays can occur if the sample fails and needs redesign. Generally, your FCC lab will provide a quote for each job, since the test setup can very greatly. Get on the schedule early if possible. Also consider performing testing for other countries you may market to, such as Canada, China, European Union, Japan, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, etc. at the same time. Requirements worldwide have converged and planning can ensure that your first test session opens doors in most global markets.
Q: My sample is a prototype, I can’t afford to have it destroyed by testing. Can we test FCC without destroying the sample?
A: FCC testing is usually not destructive. Tell your FCC lab what you want them to do with the sample when you are done with it. In many cases, it can be returned in the same shape it was submitted. If the sample fails, modifications to the sample to determine the corrective actions are quite frequently cosmetically damaging – warn the lab if you expect to reuse the sample after testing.
You also do not necessarily need to have finished the device to test it. For example, suppose that final plastic enclosure is not complete. Since non-metallic material is generally transparent to radio waves, you may test before design of most cosmetic features is complete.
Q: I have to get EMC testing for CE marking for Europe. Is that similar?
A: EMC is the abbreviation for electromagnetic compatibility. Europe, like the USA, mandates that electronic devices do not interfere with other electronic devices. There are some technical differences in the radiated pollution limits. Also, European EMC requires compliance to radio noise immunity, not just noise creation. That means the product will ACCEPT a certain amount of radio noise and still operate satisfactorily. Immunity is assessed for product quality in the USA, but for Europe and elsewhere, it must be assessed for mandatory minimum levels of immunity.
What is important to know if you are a manufacturer of product is: get all of your EMC and FCC Testing and compliance done at a lab at the same time. There are some labs that have global accreditations that allow you to access all open markets with one series of testing. Even if you know you are only marketing to the US this year, chose a FCC / EMC lab that’s accredited for all the open markets where you may sell next year. That way, testing may not need to be repeated, and that can save you time and money. A few markets require EMC testing to be re-performed locally.
For Canada, the technical tests done in accordance with FCC equipment authorization can usually be directly applied for satisfying the requirements for Canada. Labeling and regulatory structure have some differences, so follow your FCC lab’s instructions.
Q: What markings have to be on the product?
A: The FCC requires specific legible and permanent markings on products, depending on the type and equipment authorization procedure. A good FCC lab report usually describes exactly what markings are required. Small products (with little real-estate free for markings) are allowed to re-locate some markings to the instructions. Again, your FCC test provider should offer to help you with that.
Q: What labeling has to be on the retail packaging?
A: Generally, the FCC requires no markings on the retail packaging. Packaging markings are intended to educate at point of purchase for a buying decision. Since everything under the FCC scope that is sold in the USA must comply with the FCC, there is no competitive advantage to display FCC information on the packaging. Still, you may see an occasional FCC mark on packaging if the product supplier chooses.
Q: What has to be in the instructions?
A: Instructions shall tell the owner the type of FCC compliance and the restrictions to that owner on how they may modify it. Where the regulations specify instructions verbatim, a good FCC lab report will indicate what must be in your manual. If you’re a digital device manufacturer, your instruction manual does not need to be finished (and often isn’t) when you submit for FCC Testing and equipment authorization. Wireless manufacturers are required to demonstrate markings and instructions in a more finished manner to obtain certification. Once again your laboratory partner should be able to guide you.
Q: How long is FCC equipment authorization good for?
A: If the product does not change in any electronic way, the authorization is good indefinitely. Of course, digital products and technology change rapidly, so be suspect of very old FCC authorizations.
Make sure the markings of the models you use are the models that you are testing. It does no good to test Model A, but manufacture Models A, and B. You’ll only have a report for Model A, and you may need to show others that Model B is also approved.
Have a good model number control system so that each form of electronic circuit that gets approval, has that approval tied to the model(s) that you will make from that electronic system.
Q: I make an FCC approved Model “A” unit with one digital circuit. Can I use it in my new Model “B” device, that is only different on the outside, without repeating testing?
A: Yes, if there are no changes in any connections, electronics, or the shielding provided by the enclosure. Work with the FCC lab that performed your Model A equipment authorization, and have them update the paperwork so that it covers model A and model B. The key is that it the manufacturing and approval is traceable.
Q: What can Bureau Veritas do to help?
A: Bureau Veritas operates several EMC testing laboratories in locations around the world and operates a TCB. Bureau Veritas helps both manufacturers and retailers by:
• Providing manufactures & private label product designers with full FCC conformity and test services.
• Providing technical design review and letters stating exemption in cases where design may be exempt from equipment authorization by rule.
• Providing retailers & sourcing offices with quick and inexpensive quality assurance services where we double-check that correct FCC equipment authorization was performed, and correct labeling & instructions have been applied and remain unchanged.
Q: How does Bureau Veritas help manufacturers and private labelers?
A: Bureau Veritas can provide fully accredited testing, compliance reports, and FCC wireless certifications for not only US regulations, and also for radio compliance access to many countries worldwide.
Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services (BVCPS) helps a who’s who list of retailers in the US check their product with a FCC test protocol. (FCC protocol 4999.9). When samples are submitted in a retailer program, they must include an appropriately authorized and labeled product. Submitted samples should include a copy of their FCC report (or be marked with the FCC ID number, and we can get the report). We check to see if FCC was done, and done correctly.
Q: How does Bureau Veritas help retailers and sourcing offices?
A: Bureau Veritas helps a who’s who list of retailers in the US check their product with a FCC test protocol (FCC protocol 4999.9). When samples are submitted in a retailer program, they must include an appropriately authorized and labeled product. Submitted samples should include a copy of their FCC report (or be marked with the FCC ID number, and we can get the report). We check to see if FCC was done, matches the model numbers submitted, and done correctly.
Q: Can I see Bureau Veritas accreditations?
A: Yes. You can see our current accreditations on our website: http://www.bureauveritas.com/accreditations.
Q: If I have a retail protocol program and see a FAIL on a Quality Assurance test report from Bureau Veritas for incorrect or incomplete FCC. What do I do? Should I accept or override the failure?
A: If a QA check finds that required FCC was not done or not done correctly, obtain accredited FCC services to qualify the product. If you need a FCC lab, they can contact Bureau Veritas. A request for quote form can be found at our website:
Or if you have reason to believe your design is exempt, and can prove it, submit to Engineering Services at: email@example.com.
For more information, please contact:
• Bureau Veritas Electrical and Electronic Products Services
• FCC Consultancy/Technical Opinion Exemptions:
Thomas M. Heckmann, PE, Tel: +1.800.277.3300 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services, Inc. (“BVCPS”) provides the information in these frequently asked questions “as is.” In no event will BVCPS be liable for any loss in profits, business, use or data or for indirect, special, incidental, consequential or other damages of any kind in connection with these frequently asked questions. These frequently asked questions are a resource of general information and do not constitute the legal or other professional advice of BVCPS. Readers of these frequently asked questions should seek legal counsel regarding statutory or regulatory requirements discussed in these frequently asked questions. BVCPS DISCLAIMS ALL REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, IN CONNECTION WITH THESE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. >>
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