FCC overhauls experimental rules

In order to support future technological innovation in the provision of wireless communications services, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made significant changes to its rules governing so-called Experimental Radio Services (ERS).

Under the terms of a Report and Order issued in January 2013, the Commission has revised and streamlined existing rules and procedures for experimenting, testing and marketing radio frequency (RF) devices, while simultaneously preserving existing wireless services from interference. Specifically, the Commission will now make available three new licenses for experimental products, as follows:

  • Program experimental license—This license authorizes colleges, research laboratories, healthcare institutions and manufacturers with demonstrated RF technology experience to conduct ongoing research and testing of new devices.
  • Medical testing license—This license will be made available to healthcare facilities to assess newly developed RF-based medical devices for patient compatibility and electromagnetic compatibility. The license will also authorize clinical trials in areas outside of the healthcare licensee’s direct control, such as in patients’ homes.
  • Compliance testing license—This license provides FCC-recognized testing laboratories with the flexibility necessary to undertake RF compliance testing under the established equipment authorization procedures.

These licenses will eliminate the need to apply for approval for each individual device experiment, thereby reducing regulatory hurdles and accelerating the development and testing of new technologies.

Recipients of these new licenses must ensure that experimental device testing does not interfere with critical wireless communications services, such as mobile and public safety radio services and emergency notifications. Requirements under the Commission’s Report and Order include the development of a specific plan to avoid harmful interferences to such operations.

Read the complete text of the FCC’s Report and Order regarding significant changes to its rules governing so-called Experimental Radio Services (ERS).