Federal Communications Commission FAQ
What is the FCC?
FCC stands for Federal Communications Commission. It is an agency of the U.S. Federal Government 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. As electric current moves around inside an electrical product, the current will produce electromagnetic field waves that will travel through space. Those waves may affect other electrical currents in other products, and cause unwanted interference.
View the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/
What products does it apply to?
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. These devices intentionally use the radio spectrum and therefore always require FCC equipment authorization.
An Unintentional Radiator is an electronic device that produces radio signals that are broadcast through space, or conducted along power lines. Devices that receive radio waves can also unintentionally radiate radio waves.
Unintentional radiators are very common everyday electronic devices such as television sets, computers, electronic games, digital cameras, and other devices with a chip/digital circuit in it.
The regulation in the USA defined per 47 CFR 15.3(k) defines an unintentional radiator as a device with electronics operating at over 9000 pulses per second (9 kHz) and using digital techniques.
FCC regulations also apply to anything that connects to the telephone grid, such as phones, modems, faxes, etc.
Can't I be exempt from FCC regulations?
Common questions include, "My product only uses small batteries", or "my product is only a toy", or "my product is only a small manufacturing run device". Battery power is not an exemption. Even a cell phone 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 (6 nW) of electrical power
Devices only used in vehicles
Specialized medical, electrical utility, or commercial test & measurement devices
Appliances (white goods), or devices used exclusively in appliances.
Non-digital simple passive devices
What kind of digital consumer products get exempted?
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 are 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.
'Under the hood' automotive parts are covered by the vehicle 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 FCC compliance support to evaluate designs that may be exempt. Contact Engineering Services in the Buffalo, NY office.
Why do I have to do to comply?
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.
Has there been enforcement?
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/.
I've heard of Class A and Class B digital devices. What's that about?
Unintentional digital radiators are classified into A and B, based on where they are intended to be used.
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.
Anything around the home or for general public use has to comply with the more stringent radio pollution limits of Class B.
I'm a retailer, why should I care about FCC regulations?
It is illegal to import, sell, or operate covered equipment that has not undergone the required equipment authorization procedure. Illegal merchandise can be subject to forfeiture, and you may be subject to fine. Imported merchandise that does not have FCC may be held at customs. Also, lack of FCC compliance means the merchandise has never been evaluated for electronic compatibility. This could be a sign of bad quality. What other safety or chemical regulatory requirements might not have been evaluated? FCC enforcement action is often levied against retailers and end users, especially where the manufacturer is located outside US jurisdiction.
I'm a manufacturer. What do I have to do?
As a manufacturer of covered electronic products, you need to ensure the products you build are compliant with the radio pollution limits and equipment authorization procedures. For digital devices, this involves testing at a laboratory and archival of the test report. For wireless devices, an additional step is required of seeking certification from a Telecom Certification Body licensed by the FCC.
What is FCC Equipment Authorization?
The FCC has four main categories of equipment authorization:
Verification (unintentional radiators)
Declaration of Conformity (unintentional radiators that connect with PC's or television systems)
Certification (intentional radiators, radar detectors)
Registration (telephones & telecommunication devices)
Different authorization is needed for different types of equipment. Technical expertise is needed to evaluate the design to ensure correct authorization.
Who can provide FCC equipment authorization?
Unless you are fortunate enough to have an accredited in-house FCC laboratory in your company, the best choice is to involve an accredited third-party FCC lab at the design stage and then follow through with testing of your product at the lab.
If the device requires Declaration of Conformity equipment authorization, the lab must be ISO/IEC 17025 Accredited..
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.
What is an FCC ID Code and where can I get one?
An FCC ID is a unique identification for a specific model, showing traceability to FCC compliance.
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.
TCBs may be found at http://www.fcc.gov/oet/, under "TCB Search".
TCBs 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 TCBs in the world.
Do I need to file any report with the Government?
In previous years, Certification and Registration required filing with the FCC, but the government has privatized that requirement. Now almost all filings can be handled with less delay by authorized Telecommunications Certification Bodies (TCBs).
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.
How can I prevent my product from being rejected at Customs?
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.
My competitors who sell similar product don't appear to have FCC.
There is a possibility that competitor products that 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.
What is the sample size for FCC radiated emissions testing?
Almost all FCC measurements of radio emission limits are performed with one representative sample; This is known as a "type test".
I think my product is exempt. What should I do?
Bureau Veritas offers an FCC exemption review service. You would need to submit a Service Request Form and design documents to Engineering Services that shows your product's electronics design that supports technical exemption, and show that the design is traceable to your model number(s). (Example: Exempt Circuit A is used in model B).
I need to get my product tested. What is the process?
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 vary greatly. Get on the schedule early if possible. Also consider performing testing for other countries you may market to (such as Canada, European Union, Asia, etc.) at the same time. Requirements worldwide have converged and planning can ensure that your first test session opens doors in most global markets.
Can we test my prototype without destroying the sample?
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.
You also do not need to have final version of the product 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.
I have to get EMC testing for CE marking for Europe. Is that similar?
EMC is the abbreviation for electromagnetic compatibility. EMC testing is similar to FCC testing, however limits may be different, and it also requires the product to be able to accept interference as well.
What is important to know if you are a manufacturer of a product is to 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.
What markings have to be on the product?
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.
What labeling has to be on the retail packaging?
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.
What has to be in the instructions?
Instructions shall tell the owner the type of FCC compliance and the restrictions to that owner on how they may modify it. An FCC lab report will indicate what must be in your manual when specified by the regulations. 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.
How long is FCC equipment authorization good for?
If the product does not change in any electronic way, the authorization is good indefinitely. Digital products and technology change rapidly, so be wary of very old FCC authorizations.
Should I repeat testing if using an FCC approved unit (A) in new model (B)?
You do not have to repeat testing 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.
What can Bureau Veritas do to help?
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 manufacturers & 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 and sourcing offices with quick and inexpensive quality assurance services where we double-check that correct FCC equipment authorization was performed, and correct labeling and instructions have been applied and remain unchanged.
How do you help retailers, manufacturers and private labelers?
Bureau Veritas can provide fully accredited testing, compliance reports, exemption reviews and FCC wireless certifications for not only US regulations, but also for radio compliance access to many countries worldwide.
Bureau Veritas helps a "who's who" list of retailers in the US check their product with an FCC test protocol (FCC protocol 4999.9). When samples are submitted in a retailer program, they must include an appropriately authorized and labeled product, or documentation declaring that your product is exempt. 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 testing was done, and that the model numbers submitted match the report.
What if I see a FAIL on a QA test report for incorrect/incomplete FCC?
If you have a retail protocol program and a QA check finds that required FCC was not done or not done correctly, you must obtain accredited FCC services to qualify the product. If you need an FCC lab, or if you have reason to believe your design is exempt, and can prove it, contact Engineering Services at Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services at: email@example.com
Can I see a list of Bureau Veritas accreditations?
Yes. You can see our current accreditations on our website:
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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