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Navigating Mexico Certification Requirements for Radio-Telecom Devices

A Guide to the Ever-Changing World of Mexico Regulatory Compliance

Mexico’s regulatory compliance process is challenging and changes regularly. Companies who export their products to Mexico can face difficulties because most products entering the country must prove compliance with different Official Mexican Standards (Norma Oficial Mexicana) (NOM) mark/certification requirements to pass customs. All NOM requirements are defined and issued by the Secretary of Economy (Secretaría de Economia) and published in the country’s Official Gazette of the Federation (Diario Oficial1) and may apply to products ranging from food such as chocolate to electronics.

The local laws and product regulations are set up to provide assurance that the products and services are 1) of good quality and 2) fit for consumer needs.

Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) Mark
Figure 1: The Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) Mark

Proving compliance with NOMs and other regulations applicable to Electronics and Electrical Equipment is more rigorous than other products and involves several processes and players, as described below. Once a product is found to be compliant with the applicable NOM requirements, a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) is issued in the name of a Mexican company, and the product can be marked with the NOM Mark, as shown in Figure 1. Most Certification Bodies (CBs) in Mexico require a modified version of this mark that includes their logo.

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The following are two of the most common Mexican Radio/Telecom NOMs:

  • NOM-208-SCFI-2016: Radiocommunication systems that use the spread spectrum technique-Frequency hopping and digital modulation radiocommunication equipment to operate in the bands 902 MHz-928 MHz, 2400 MHz-2483.5 MHz and 5725 MHz-5850 MHz-Specifications and test methods.2
  • NOM-221/2-SCFI-2018: Technical specifications of mobile terminal equipment that can make use of the radio spectrum or be connected to telecommunications networks. Part 2. Mobile terminal equipment operating in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 850 MHz, 1900 MHz, 1700 MHz/2100 MHz and/ or 2500 MHz bands.3

NOM vs. Technical Disposition

It is important to understand the difference between distinct types of standards that affect compliance for radio-telecom products in Mexico. NOMs, which are official mandatory standards, are issued by the Secretary of Economy. However, The Federal Institute of Telecommunications4 (IFETEL) issues mandatory Technical Dispositions (Disposición técnica) (TD)) on which radio/telecom equipment NOMs are based. TDs describe the frequencies, power levels, test procedures, and other details associated with specific NOMs that are subsequently considered for the issuance of CoCs. Some examples of equivalent NOMs and TDs are:

  • NOM-208-SCFI-2016 = IFT-008-2015
  • NOM-221-SCFI-2017 = IFT-011-2017 part 1
  • NOM-221/2-SCFI-2018 = IFT-011-2017 part 2
  • IFT-012-2019 is a specific absorption rate (SAR) requirement that has a Technical Disposition but does not have a particular NOM equivalent yet.

IFETEL is working on two new TDs that will lead to the creation of new radio NOMs. The first would apply to devices that use frequency bands of the radio spectrum from 30 MHz to 3 GHz. The second would apply to the following bands: 5150-5250 MHz, 5250-5350 MHz, 5470-5600 MHz, 5650-5725 MHz, 5725-5850 MHz, and 5925-6425 MHz.5

How to Determine NOM Requirements

The Mexican Customs Service (Agencia Nacional de Aduanas de Mexico, ANAM) takes a lead role in the compliance process because of its role in surveilling products entering the country. Therefore, assessing NOM requirements for a product begins with this agency:

  1. Consult guidance documents associated with the Mexican tariff code assigned by Customs (see next section). In general, the Customs Broker facilitating the import of the product to Mexico will provide a recommendation of the appropriate code that applies to the product.
  2. If the applicable standards are not obvious from customs information, then one may consult with a CB to match product specifications with standards. These are subsequently summarized by the CB in an Official Opinion (Dictamen Técnico, or Dictamen).

Use of Tariff Codes to Determine Applicable NOMS

The Government of Mexico has its own harmonized system of goods classification, commonly referred to as Harmonized System (HS) codes or tariff codes (Fracción Arancelaria).

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To determine which NOMs apply to a product, the Customs Service has a website where it lists possible NOMs to be applied to a product based on its HS Code. Customs Brokers normally review these requirements and, based on their analysis, provide the requirements to the prospective approval holder. Unfortunately, there is no updated information source where the public can check the NOM requirements in the current HS code system.

Using incorrect HS codes can complicate the importation process and cross-border sales and incur lengthy delays and/or high fees. The Harmonized System in Mexico historically has been slightly different from other systems around the world. In January 2021, the Customs Service incorporated the “Trade Identification Numbers/TIN – (Número de Identificación Comercial/NICO),” and the creation of 10-digit tariff classification was implemented in the 2020 amendment to the General Import and Export Tax Law (Ley de los Impuestos Generales de Importación y Exportación, or LIGIE).6

The purpose of the change to the Harmonized System was to identify goods more accurately and improve the statistics gathering for Mexico’s Foreign Trade. A benefit of this change is that it is now more aligned with the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) modern Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) structure and is similar to the systems of the US, Canada, and China. Although all 10 digits in the code may be used to determine the applicable NOMs, currently, CoCs, which list the HS Codes, only show the first 8 digits. The complete 10-digit-code, including the NICO allocation, is used for the basic Mexican import document, which is the Import Request (Pedimento de Importación).7

Key Players in the Compliance Process

Because Mexico has chosen an enforcement regime for compliance that begins at the border but also includes rules regarding the commercialization of regulated products once products have passed customs, there are many key players involved in the certification process, including the following:

  • Manufacturers: These provide product documentation and samples (if required);
  • Importers: They are the official holders of certificates and are responsible for importation;
  • Customs brokers: Customs brokers assist in identifying the proper Mexican HS code and, when ready, get shipments through customs;
  • Accredited test laboratories: Test labs must be accredited according to Mexican regulations. They perform tests to prove compliance to specific NOMs;8/9
  • Peritos: These are engineers located in Mexico who have been certified as Telecommunications experts by IFETEL; 10
  • Certification bodies: These are accredited entities that review and determine if a product’s test reports and other required documents associated with regulated products comply with the applicable NOM(s). They issue CoCs and conduct any subsequent surveillance;11 and
  • IFETEL: The Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones is the federal authority in charge of Telecommunications in Mexico. It is responsible for issuing Certificates of Homologation (CoH) and performs a surveillance role. 2

The Importance of the Local Importer

Under Mexican laws, the NOM certificate holder is responsible for warranty, maintenance, and product liability. NOM certificates are non-transferable. However, a local company that is a NOM holder may request a CB to add an importer or distributor to the CoC. If this is done, the same request must subsequently be updated on the CoH. For a local company to obtain certificates in its name and import products, it must first register with the following organizations:

  • Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público), which will issue a Mexican TAX ID (RFC).
  • One or more CBs.
  • Certification Authorities, such as IFETEL.
  • Mexican Customs in its “Importers Database” (Padrón de Importadores).

Key Documents to Clear Customs and Legally Market Products in Mexico

Various documents may be necessary to demonstrate compliance to NOMs or to meet other requirements to pass customs and subsequently commercialize products in Mexico. Customs Letters, CoCs, Constancies, and Dictamens are used to pass customs. Subsequently, a CoH is necessary to commercialize a product once it has passed customs. The following explains the role of each document:

  • Customs Letter: This document is used to clear samples that are coming in for testing purposes.
  • Certificate of Conformity (CoC): These documents are issued by a CB to prove that a product complies with a specific NOM standard. Radio and telecom certificates are subject to potential annual audits. Official holders of certificates must present CoCs during the importation process.
  • Constancies: These documents are issued by a CB to prove that a product complies with some NOMs, the most important of which is NOM-024-SCFI-2013, which defines commercial marking, user manual, and warranty policy requirements.
  • Official Opinion (Dictamen Técnico, or Dictamen): These documents are written opinions from CBs to determine which specific NOM, if any, applies to a product. If none apply, Dictamens may be used to facilitate importation acting as official documents to exempt a product from the scope of a NOM.
  • Certificate of Homologation (CoH): This is a document issued by IFETEL to prove that a product meets all Mexican telecommunications standards. CoHs are not officially required for Customs clearance, but sometimes a Customs Agent might ask for proof that a CoH is in process or in place.

PEC vs. Traditional Radio-Telecom Homologations

In Mexico, the process of complying with a radio or telecom standard, as opposed to complying with a safety standard, is known as homologation. Up until 2005, radio and telecom devices were approved without testing by certified radio/telecom experts (Peritos). However, beginning in 2005, Mexico began to establish official radio and telecom standards, including one used for WIFI/Bluetooth, one for wired-analog devices (analog phones and fax machines), and one for digital-multi-line devices (E1). Testing to these new standards became required for approval. Since 2005, the two regulatory systems have existed side-by-side. Over the years, the Federal Commission of Telecommunications (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones, COFETEL) and its replacement agency, IFETEL, have continually reformed the approval processes. The current processes have been in effect since June 27, 2022. A summary of these regulatory systems follows:12

  • Type A Conformity Process (PEC): A product that is in the scope of “Procedimiento de evaluación de la conformidad en materia de telecomunicaciones y radiodifusión” or PEC, is subject to a particular Mexican NOM standard (most common is NOM‑208-SCFI-2016) and requires testing in a laboratory accredited by IFETEL. After testing, one must obtain a CoC issued by a local CB (such as NYCE, ANCE, etc.) and a CoH issued by IFETEL. This process is outlined in the PEC and follows the four (4) Schemes of Type Approval explained in more detail below. Under the current process, a single CoC is issued, mentioning all applicable NOMs or Technical Dispositions. Then this is submitted to IFT to get a Single CoH listing all applicable Standards.
  • Type B: Expert (Perito/Traditional): This is a process for telecommunications and radio products that are not subject to a specific Mexican NOM. In lieu of testing to Mexican NOMs, the Traditional process uses the “Perito” process mentioned above, in which a certified radio/telecom expert creates a written analysis of a product to show that it is consistent with a Mexican and/or an international standard. This document is called a Technical Report or Technical Dictamen (Memoria Técnica). After an application for homologation, accompanied by the Technical Report and other required documents, is submitted to IFETEL, it issues a CoH with a validity of 2 years.
  • Type C: Combination PEC and Traditional: Considering the specifications of a product, it may be subject to both the “Perito” (Type B) and the PEC (Type A) process. One example of a product subject to both systems is a WIFI device that operates in the 2.4/5.7 GHz bands (subject to PEC) and operates in the lower 5 GHz bands (subject to the “Perito” process.) Although subject to both processes, under the current practice, a single IFETEL CoH is issued that covers both regulatory systems with a validity of 2 years.

Current Homologation Processes Under the PEC Systems (Types A & C Homologations)

Currently, IFETEL has defined four PEC Schemes of Homologation based on how the product/group of products are classified. The exact scheme applicable to a product is determined by the CB used by the manufacturer. When choosing a CB, one should confirm that it has accreditation that includes all the radio/telecom interfaces included on the product because the single CoC must include all applicable NOMS. The four schemes available for PEC homologation are the following:

  • Scheme I (Single Batch): By model for one shipment.
  • Scheme II (Multiple Batch): By model for more than one shipment/batch. Subject to surveillance.
  • Scheme III (Family): By family of products with the same brand and technical design. Subject to surveillance.
  • Scheme IV (Device): Approval of similar models using the same radio device (module). This is only applicable to Internet of Things (IoT) products. Subject to surveillance.

No matter which PEC scheme is chosen, the subsequent approval process is the same. Before starting the process every local company that wishes to hold a radio/telecom approval must register at IFETEL and at a CB. Following the registrations, one must complete the following steps with the following entities:

  1. Importer: An Importer, or an authorized third party acting on its behalf, submits application forms and samples and other required documents to a CB.
  2. Certification Body: The CB analyzes the product and determines which NOMs, and certification schemes apply. It then delivers samples and required documents to an accredited Mexican lab for testing.
  3. Laboratory: An accredited laboratory tests the product and issues one or more Test Reports for submission to the CB.
  4. Certification Body: The CB then issues a CoC listing all applicable NOMs / TDs and notifies IFETEL of the process.
  5. Importer: The Importer, or an authorized third party acting on its behalf, submits application forms for a CoH, along with the test report, CoC, and other required documents including a Spanish language user guide to IFETEL.
  6. IFETEL: After a positive review of the documentation, IFETEL issues a CoH and may subsequently alert the CB of project completion to enable the CB to begin the process to maintain the validity of the CoC. Currently, CBs are not always obtaining IFETEL notifications but are instead reaching out to applicants to provide proof of CoH submission and, subsequently, of the final certification.
  7. Certification Body: Each year, CBs randomly select a percentage of CoCs that they have issued for audit. For audited certificates, it is necessary to re-test the associated products with new samples from current production.

Conformity Process (PEC), Recent Reforms

Since the beginning of the PEC system in 2005, there have been several changes to the rules affecting radio and telecom product certification in Mexico. The following summarizes major changes from the system as it appeared in 2020 (PEC 2020) to the reforms instituted on June 27, 2022 (PEC 2022).12

Approval Holder

PEC 2020 stated that every importer needed its own CoC and, if testing applied to the product, every CoC would need an independent test report. This had a major impact on companies that have many distributors/ importers. Under PEC 2022, The main holder may request the CB to include or eliminate importers who may make use of a CoC issued after the new rule implementation date. Importers added to the CoC will have all the responsibilities of the CoC holder. For this purpose, the Interested Party must comply with the requirements of Annex A and the presentation of these together with the request of Annex B of this ordinance, in accordance with the provisions of Article 11, sections V and IX.) (see above). After receiving the updated CoC, a request must be made to IFETEL to update the CoH with all affected approval holders.

Sample Requirements

SCHEME I, II, IV
The two-sample requirement per model under PEC 2020 was reduced to one.

SCHEME III
The two samples from-two-different-models requirement (total of 4 samples) was reduced to one sample from two-different-models (total of two samples).

Test Reports

The validity of test reports increased from 60 to 120 days. In addition, test reports, which previously were automatically shared by the CB with IFETEL, are now only shared upon request. This was done to increase the confidentiality of the products to be certified.

Scope of the PEC

The scope of the PEC was extended to include both new and used equipment.

Validity for PEC and Traditional CoH Certificates

Under previous regulatory processes, IFETEL issued separate CoHs for PEC and Traditional Certificates. Therefore, products that had radio interfaces subject to both processes had two certificates. Further, traditional certificates had a validity of only one year. Currently, traditional certificates (Type B) and combination certificates (Type C) have a validity of two years but then may be made permanent with new “Perito” filings. Type A certificates, although they have no expiration dates, continue to be subject to the audits for the underlying CoC.

Validity for CoC Certificates

Under PEC 2020, many importers obtained CoCs but subsequently failed to obtain CoHs. This is because the CoCs enabled them to import the products successfully, and by failing to obtain CoHs, they saved on further compliance expenses. Under PEC 2022, if the homologation process with IFETEL is not completed, the CoCs are canceled after five business days.

IFETEL Label Requirements

  • Currently, each Approved Product must have a physical or electronic marking or label that contains the number of the current CoH, following the format “IFT XXXXXXXX-XXXXXX.”
  • Physical markings or labels must be permanently fixed (engraved, stamped, printed, or affixed) and easily visible to future users.
  • In the event the product is too small for physical labeling or marking, the label or mark may be displayed electronically in the product’s operating system, included in the product’s user manual, and/or included on the product packaging.
  • Some TDs may include additional labeling and/or warning statement requirements.
  • If the product is a “device” (module) approved under Scheme IV of the PEC, the mark or label must be applied only to the end products.
  • If a product is subject to a Safety or Radio/Telecom NOM, it must also bear the NOM mark. Products subject only to the Traditional regulatory process, and which are not subject to safety NOMs may not require the NOM mark.
  • On December 26, 2023, IFETEL Issued “The Guidelines for the use of the IFT Seal” (Lineamientos para el uso del Sello IFT) on approved products, equipment, devices, or devices intended for telecommunications or broadcasting. Examples of vertical and horizontal versions appear in Figure 2. More details can be found in the Federal Government’s Official Gazette. This will be mandatory after October 2024.13
Vertical and horizontal versions of the IFT seal
Figure 2: Vertical (top) and horizontal (bottom) versions of the IFT seal

Conclusion

Every country presents challenges in complying with national radio and telecom regulations. In Mexico, the technical challenges are not especially difficult as it has harmonized its standards with the ITU and, in the case of radio standards, has mostly harmonized with the requirements of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The greater challenge for manufacturers is to keep up with customs requirements, understand the scopes of particular standards, and classify products under an evolving dual regulatory system (PEC vs Perito). In order to successfully navigate these issues, one must develop a team that includes importers, customs house brokers, test labs, certification bodies, and a third‑party expert when warranted.

End Notes and Citations

  1. Diario Oficial De La Federación, Secretaria de Gobernación, https://www.dof.gob.mx.
  2. NOM-208-SCFI-2016, https://approve-it.net/nom-208-scfi-2016-has-been-published-in-the-official-gazette.
  3. NOM-221-SCFI-2018, https://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.phpcodigo=5581692&fecha=12/12/2019.
  4. Instituo Federal de Telecomunicaciones, https://www.ift.org.mx.
  5. IFT-016-2023 & IFT-017-2023, https://approve-it.net/mexico-ift-extends-public-consultation-on-ift-016-2023-and-ift-017-2023.
  6. “Ligie: Acerca de,” Servicio Nacional de Información de Comercio Exterior, Gobierno de México, https://www.snice.gob.mx/cs/avi/snice/ligie.info22.html.
  7. “Mexico – Import Requirements and Documentation,” Export.gov, October 17, 2019, https://www.export.gov/apex/article2?id=Mexico-Import-Requirements-and-Documentation.
  8. Foreign authorized labs, Lista de Laboratorios de Prueba de Tercera Parte Extranjeros Reconocidos en el marco del correspondiente Acuerdo de Reconocimiento Mutuo | Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones – IFT.
  9. Mexican authorized labs, Lista de Laboratorios de Prueba de Tercera Parte Nacionales Acreditados y Autorizados | Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones – IFT.
  10. Authorized Telecommunication Peritos/Experts, https://www.ift.org.mx/industria/registro-nacional-de-peritos.
  11. Authorized Certification bodies for Telecommunications, Lista de Organismos de Certificación | Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones – IFT.
  12. “Mexico IFT Updated PEC Now In Effect,” https://approve-it.net/mexico-ift-updated-pec-now-in-effect.
  13. The Guidelines for the use of the IFT Seal on approved products, equipment, devices or devices intended for telecommunications or broadcasting https://approve-it.net/mexico-ift-issues-guidelines-for-ift-seal-use.

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