An Overview of the Legal Framework and the Obligations Applicable to Equipment Manufacturers and Importers
With a gross domestic product of 793 billion (USD) in 2019,1 the economy of Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest in the world. Indeed, it is one of the world’s top 20 economies with Saudi Arabia a G20 member country. A high-income nation, Saudi Arabia also has a large and fast-growing population – over 34 million and rising in 20192 – with approximately 39% under the age of 25.3 The latter is noteworthy with regard to Saudi Arabia’s emergence as an increasingly favored export destination for North American, European, and Asian manufacturers of consumer electronics and information communications technology (ICT). In particular, Saudi Arabia’s young consumer market has been identified as including some of the world’s most prominent early adopters of new technologies.4
Combine this with new consumer electronics and ICT products that usually incorporate wireless functionality as a standard feature, and an understanding of Saudi radio equipment regulation becomes imperative for ensuring market access. This article discusses the national legislation in place, including, as relevant, its references to international and European product standards.
Saudi Arabia has a well-developed legal framework when it comes to the design, supply, and use of radio equipment. At the most fundamental level, any device with a radio transmitter is a potential regulatory target. This includes mobile handsets, wireless LAN (WLAN) equipment such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee devices, and a wide range of other products incorporating some kind of radio frequency transmitter.
Within the legal framework, there is an overarching Telecommunications Act, an Ordinance that created the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), and assorted telecommunications bylaws. As the national regulator, CITC has responsibilities that encompass drafting, publishing, and enforcing laws and national guidelines. This article provides some detailed discussion of a few of these laws and one set of guidelines, namely:
- The Importation and Licensing of Telecommunications and IT Equipment Regulations;
- The WLAN/Wi-Fi Usage Regulations;
- Certain Technical Specifications, of a general nature; and
- The Guidelines for Human Exposure to RF Electromagnetic Fields.
The Importation and Licensing of Telecommunications and IT Equipment Regulations
These Regulations state that, together with relevant CITC Technical Specifications, they:
…shall be considered obligatory to any party that intends any action related to manufacturing, importation, distribution or sales of telecommunications and IT equipment in the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia].
Hence, the Regulations are notable with respect to the potential export, installation, and/or use of various consumer electronics and ICT products in Saudi Arabia.
Under the Regulations, licensing is defined as “the verification of the conformity of telecommunications and IT equipment to the Technical Specifications issued by the CITC,” while this can also be extended to “meeting any other requirements determined by the Commission” (e.g., obtaining a service providing license or radio license). The Regulations detail the conditions that must be fulfilled for equipment to be considered licensed for use. The conditions are as follows:
- The equipment is approved by CITC or conforms to the Technical Specifications issued by CITC;
- The user of the equipment fulfills all relevant additional requirements (if there are any), such as holding a service providing license and/or the radio licenses for the use of frequencies;
- The equipment’s specifications or characteristics go unaltered by the user;
- The equipment is imported in accordance with the conditions and procedures established in the Regulations; and
- All the usage regulations and conditions issued by CITC and published on its website are complied with.
As worded, the first of these conditions might suggest that manufacturers or importers of some types of telecommunications and IT equipment are able to self-certify their products, in much the same way that internal production control (Module A) exists as a conformity assessment procedure under the European Union’s (EU’s) Radio Equipment Directive.5 In practice, however, equipment approval (type approval) is a necessary first step when supplying into Saudi Arabia. The Regulations explain that this entails:
- Registering on the ICT Equipment Licensing Portal.6
- Making an application for approval, specifically by providing the following documentation as supporting evidence:
- Detailed technical information, including a manufacturer’s datasheet, equipment description, the equipment’s “functioning mechanism and accessories,” intended equipment applications, data related to interface characteristics and interoperability with public networks, and photographs of the equipment;
- A Declaration of Conformity from the manufacturer that the equipment conforms to CITC Technical Specifications (the applicant must retain the original copy of the Declaration and submit it to CITC upon request);
- Test reports from ILAC-accredited laboratories7 outlining the details of the tests conducted on the equipment pending approval, and their results. Reports are to include the names of the laboratories that conducted the tests, their addresses, and the date(s) of the tests.
- A successful approval and issue of a Certificate of Conformity is subject to meeting any technical or administrative requirements that are raised by CITC prior to the equipment being imported and/or used in Saudi Arabia. The most common appears to be that the equipment is supplied/used unaltered, meaning that its design and construction remain consistent with the detailed technical information for which the approval was granted.
- Adhering to the certification period: certification is valid for a total of two years, after which re‑certification will be required. An equipment-specific time duration will be stated on the Certificate of Conformity.
- Meeting any other conditions that might apply, such as prompt payment of any applicable approval fees.
Anecdotal information suggests that approval leading to the issue of a Certificate of Conformity takes one to two weeks in total.
Equipment Importation/Customs Clearance
There are specific procedures and conditions that apply. These are detailed in Sections 6 and 7 of the Importation and Licensing of Telecommunications and IT Equipment Regulations. The following provides a summary:
- Any party wishing to import and market telecommunications and IT equipment in Saudi Arabia must be a Saudi company or establishment with a valid commercial registration, which, significantly, includes the activities of importing wireless and wired telecommunications and IT equipment, its marketing, installation, and maintenance.
- Importers must conform to the terms stipulated in Council of Ministers Decree No. 100, Reference 08/08/1415H, concerning undertaking importation and maintenance of wireless and wired communications equipment and their components.
- Importers must be located in Saudi Arabia.
- Importers must be able to demonstrate compliance of imported equipment with all relevant CITC Technical Specifications.
- Importers must inform CITC about any alterations they may want to make to approved equipment before the importation in order to obtain CITC approval.
There is customs clearance permission as well, but within the Regulations, this seems to be specific to certain, restricted items of telecommunications and IT equipment. Please consult the Regulations for further information.
The WLAN/Wi-Fi Usage Regulations
These are notable as they set certain rules for devices that make use of WLAN/Wi-Fi. In the first instance, the Regulations define WLAN/WiFi as:
Communication networks used to provide wireless services in a limited area. Such networks are built in accordance with the international standards, such as IEEE 802.11/HIPERLAN, and provide the user with the ability to move within a limited area.
The rules for “operating and using networks” are then as follows:
- All devices which are used in these networks must comply with the Technical Specifications, areas of coverage, and frequencies approved by the CITC (see below table). It is not permitted to make any modifications in the Technical Specifications without prior written approval from CITC.
- All devices which are used must comply with the safety specifications, electromagnetic compatibility, and any other CITC related specifications.
- To provide to the CITC, when requested, all required documents to prove the compliance of the devices with the technical standard specifications and any other related documents and proofs.
- To ensure that the operation of the devices and the appropriate places for the installation, especially in terms of improving the level of network security, will prevent any possible hacking or misuse.
- The operator of these networks for outdoor usage must coordinate with concerned authorities to obtain any required licenses for the implementation of the network.
- Internet service must be provided only through an internet service provider licensed by the CITC.
- Internet service providers are responsible for registering users’ data and all other technical requirements.
- Services provided through these networks are considered secondary services; thus, they are not protected against any possible interference, and must not, at any time or anywhere, cause any harmful interference to the primary services. CITC shall not be held liable for any damages following use of these networks.
- The usage of these networks is subject to all CITC regulations, the anti-crime law, and all other related regulations.
Table 1 is also contained within the Regulations. It is a reference table that details standards, areas of coverage, and CITC approved frequencies.
|Standard||Area of Coverage||DFS||TPC||RPSDL-PSD||Maximum EIRP||Frequency MHz||
|EN 300 328||Indoor and outdoor||N/A||N/A||10 mW/MHz in any 1 MHz band||100 mW||2400 – 2483.5|
|EN 301 893 & ITU-R M1652||Indoor||N/A||N/A||10 mW/MHz in any 1 MHz band||200 mW||5150 – 5250|
|EN 301 893 & ITU-R M1652||Indoor||Required||Required||10 mW/MHz in any 1 MHz band||200 mW||5250 – 5350|
|EN 301 893 & ITU-R M1652 & IEEE802.11a||Indoor and outdoor||Required||Required||50 mW/MHz in any 1 MHz band||1W||5470 – 5825|
Table 1: CITC approved frequencies, as matched to relevant standards and areas of coverage
CITC has adopted nearly 100 Technical Specifications, which are equipment-specific laws. All the Technical Specifications appear to be structured in the same way, which includes defining a scope of application before going on to specify proof of compliance and technical requirements (typically conformance to one or more EN standards). The following summarizes three Technical Specifications of general application/note: GEN001, IT001, and RI054.
GEN001: General Requirements Technical Specification
This is a key document since it:
…defines the minimum requirements which must be met by all Radio & Telecommunications Terminal Equipment, such as transmitting equipment and equipment/devices connected to or constituting local periphery or telecommunication networks, which is intended to be used and sold in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These requirements must be applied in addition to any product specific requirements that may exist.
Proof of Compliance
Equipment compliance with the requirements of GEN001 is to be demonstrated by:
…producing a suitable “notified body statement” or similar type examination certificate or test report(s) obtained from a laboratory (or group of laboratories) that has been accredited by a body that is a member of the ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement.
It is stated that:
Testing should be carried out to ensure compliance with the applicable specifications from those listed in the Technical Specification and with other requirements where such are established in separate product-specific Radio Interface specifications. If European norms are used as the basis for providing proof of compliance, the issue or version of the specification(s) used, should have been published in the Official Journal of the European Community (OJEC). Also, the specification(s) should be recognized as providing “presumption of conformity” under the European Radio Equipment Directive at the time the approval is sought. If internationally recognized equivalent standards are applied, the latest published version of the standard should be used.
Where the norm listed below had become updated or superseded by a different norm in the meantime, the most up to date relevant version/norm shall be deemed applicable for the purpose of compliance verification.
A number of standards are then listed, which are reproduced in Table 2.
|Electrical safety||EN 62368-1 or IEC 62368-1||Audio/video, information and communication technology equipment – Part 1: Safety requirements.|
Radio and Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)
|EN 50360||Product standard to demonstrate the compliance of mobile phones with the basic restrictions related to human exposure to electromagnetic fields (300 MHz – 3 GHz).|
|EN 50364 Ed.2||Limitation of human exposure to electromagnetic fields from devices operating in the frequency range 0 Hz to 300 GHz, used in Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and similar applications.|
|EN 62479:2010||Assessment of the compliance of low power electronic and electrical equipment with the basic restrictions related to human exposure to electromagnetic fields (10 MHz to 300 GHz).|
|EN 50385||Product standard to demonstrate the compliance of radio base stations and fixed terminal stations for wireless telecommunication systems with the basic restrictions or the reference levels related to human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (110 MHz – 40 GHz) – General public.|
|EN 62311:2008||Assessment of electronic and electrical equipment related to human exposure restrictions for electromagnetic fields (0 Hz – 300 GHz).|
|EMC||EN 55032||Electromagnetic compatibility of multimedia equipment – Emission requirements.|
|EN 55035||Electromagnetic compatibility of multimedia equipment – Immunity requirements.|
|EN 301 489||Electromagnetic Compatibility and Radio spectrum Matters (ERM); Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) standard for radio equipment and services.|
|EN 61000-3-2 or IEC 61000-3-2||Part 3-2: Limits – Limits for harmonic current emissions (equipment input current up to and including 16 A per phase).|
|EN 61000-3-3 or IEC 61000-3-3||Part 3-3: Limits – Limitation of voltage changes, voltage fluctuations and flicker in public low-voltage supply systems, for equipment with rated current <= 16 A per phase and not subject to conditional connection.|
|EN 61000-3-11 or IEC 61000-3-11||Part 3-11: Limits – Limitation of voltage changes, voltage fluctuations and flicker in public low-voltage supply systems – Equipment with rated current <= 75 A and subject to conditional connection.|
|EN 61000-6-1 or IEC 61000-6-1||Part 6-1: Generic standards – Immunity for residential, commercial and light-industrial environments.|
|EN 61000-6-2 or IEC 61000-6-2||Part 6-2: Generic standards – Immunity for industrial environments.|
|EN 61000-6-3 or IEC 61000-6-3||Part 6-3: Generic standards – Emission standard for residential, commercial and light-industrial environments.|
|EN 61000-6-4 or IEC 61000-6-4||Part 6-4: Generic standards – Emission standard for industrial environments if no issue or revision number is quoted along with the title of a Technical Specification, the latest published version should be used.|
|Optical & Laser||EN 60825 or
|Safety of laser products.|
Table 2: Standards cited as “applicable specifications” in GEN001
IT001: IT Equipment Technical Specification
This Technical Specification applies to equipment including, but not limited to, standalone PCs, external hard disks, USB digital cameras, and peripherals (e.g., printers, scanners, monitors). According to IT001, if more than one interface type is offered by a piece of IT equipment, each interface must meet the applicable specifications.
Regarding proof of compliance, IT001 recommends that “test reports are obtained from a laboratory that has been accredited by a body that is a member of the ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement” while IT001’s “applicable specifications” include the following:
- EN 55022 / CISPR 22 Information technology equipment — Radio disturbance characteristics — Limits and methods of measurement.
- EN 55024 / CISPR 24 Information technology equipment — Immunity characteristics— Limits and methods of measurement.
- EN 61000-3-2 / IEC 61000-3-2 Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) — Part 3-2: Limits — Limits for harmonic current emissions (equipment input current ≤ 16 A per phase).
- EN 61000-3-3 / IEC 61000-3-3 Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) — Part 3-3: Limits — Limitation of voltage changes, voltage fluctuations and flicker in public low-voltage supply systems, for equipment with rated current ≤ 16 A per phase and not subject to conditional connection.
- EN 61000-3-11 / IEC 61000-3-11 Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) — Part 3-11: Limits — Limitation of voltage changes, voltage fluctuations and flicker in public low-voltage supply systems — Equipment with rated current ≤ 75 A and subject to conditional connection.
In addition, IT001 stipulates that all in-scope IT equipment must comply with GEN001 requirements (see above), be safe, and not adversely affect other electrical equipment.
RI054: Non-Specific Short-Range Devices, etc. Technical Specification
This Technical Specification could be relevant to various WiFi-enabled consumer electronics and ICT products, depending on their frequency of operation. The Technical Specification’s reference table in this regard is shown in Table 3.
|Frequency Band||Maximum Output Power or Magnetic Field||ETSI Standard|
|6765 – 6795 kHz||42 dBμA/m @10m||EN 300 330|
|13.553 – 13.567 MHz||42 dBμA/m @10m||EN 300 330|
|26.957 – 27.283 MHz||42 dBμA/m @10m
10 mW e.r.p.
|EN 300 330
EN 300 220
|40.660 – 40.700 MHz||10 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|433.050 – 434.790 MHz||10 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|433.050 – 434.790 MHz||1 mW e.r.p.
13 dBm/10 kHz
|EN 300 220|
|434.040 – 434.790 MHz||10 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|863.000 – 870.000 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|(Subbands for Alarms excluded)||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|868.000 – 868.600 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|868.700 – 869.200 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|869.400 – 869.650 MHz||≤500 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|869.700 – 870.000 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|870-876 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|915-921 MHz||≤25 mW e.r.p.||EN 300 220|
|2400 – 2483.5 MHz||10 mW e.i.r.p.||EN 300 440|
|5725 – 5875 MHz||25 mW e.i.r.p.||EN 300 440|
|24.00 – 25 GHz||100 mW e.i.r.p.||EN 300 440|
|122 – 123 GHz||100 mW e.i.r.p.||EN 300 440|
Table 3: Frequency of operation reference table detailed within RI054
RI054 then advises that testing is to be performed against any of the following standards, as applicable: EN 300 220-2, EN 300 330-2, EN 300 440-2, EN 301 489-1, and EN 301 489-3.
Much like IT001, RI054 also stipulates that all in-scope equipment must comply with GEN001 requirements (see above), be safe, and not adversely affect other electrical equipment.
Guidelines for Human Exposure to RF Electromagnetic Fields
While guidelines in name, these are enforceable under Saudi law by CITC. They are therefore no less significant than Technical Specifications when it comes to identifying and adhering to relevant regulations in Saudi Arabia.
Published in November 2009, the National Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields are, at 76 pages, comprehensive, while for the most part drawing directly upon the restrictions and reference levels recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
In general terms, the National Guidelines establish technical regulatory practices for limiting human exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) to protect against known adverse health effects from installations or devices emitting RF fields. More specifically, the National Guidelines set minimum requirements for the protection of the public and workers from health risks arising, or likely to arise, from their exposure to RF in the frequency range 3 kHz to 300 GHz. While some applications are excluded from the scope of the National Guidelines, these are limited in number and include, for example, use of RF by the military, RF exposure from radars, and RF exposure from industrial uses of RF for heating, drying, or welding.
The National Guidelines begin by classifying exposure limits before specifying basic restrictions and reference levels, and then covering the compliance of, respectively, mobile/portable radio devices and fixed RF sources.
The basic restrictions include those of a general nature (e.g., to prevent electric shock or burns) as well as specific restrictions relating to current density induced in the head and torso of the body from RF exposure; whole-body average specific absorption rate; localized specific absorption rate; specific absorption in the head for pulsed RF exposures; and power flux density that is incident at the surface of the body.
Please note that restrictions are considered in relation to both public and occupational exposures. As defined by the National Guidelines:
…the occupational limits apply to the exposure of designated RF trained workers who have been formally identified as such under a workplace RF safety program and are generally exposed under known conditions.
With respect to in-scope products, it would appear that it is for whatever business that ultimately makes use of it in Saudi Arabia (which may not be the product manufacturer) to judge whether an RF safety program is necessary. A key determinant seems to be whether RF exposure above Saudi’s public limits is certain, likely, unlikely, or not possible.
There is much to consider and address before placing radio equipment on the Saudi market for the first time. This article has presented an overview of the relevant Saudi legal framework, touching upon matters including customs clearance, equipment conformance with standards, and proof of compliance. The article additionally identified CITC as the national regulator, with whom the author would encourage readers to engage should they find themselves unclear on any aspect of the legislation, including the scope of equipment-specific laws like IT001 and RI054.
Readers can contact CITC via its website, with the English language version of it accessible at https://www.citc.gov.sa/en.
- See https://data.worldbank.org/country/SA
- See https://data.worldbank.org/country/SA
- See https://www.great.gov.uk/markets/saudi-arabia
- See https://www.great.gov.uk/markets/saudi-arabia
- Directive 2014/53/EU.
- See https://ers.citc.gov.sa/english/pages/home.aspx
- ILAC is the international organization for accreditation bodies. For further information see: https://ilac.org/about-ilac
- Tables 2-7 of the National Guidelines give information on frequency ranges and target values in each instance and should be consulted for more information.