The task of ascertaining eligibility is sufficiently complex that the FCC would rather start fresh with an application for a new license.
Last February, when the FCC overhauled its rules to create new kinds of experimental licenses, it omitted mention of whether the licenses could be transferred to another party, as by assignment or transfer of control. Now the FCC has spoken. The answer is no.
The February order set up three new categories:
- "program experimental licenses" for certain colleges and universities, research laboratories, manufacturers, and health care institutions;
- "compliance testing licenses" for FCC-recognized test labs; and
- "medical testing licenses" for health care facilities conducting clinical trials of wireless medical technologies.
Each of these categories has its own stringent standards for eligibility. None has yet taken effect, pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget. (The FCC left unchanged the current species of experimental license, which is available to pretty much anyone.)
The FCC has now decided that licenses in the three new categories may not be assigned or transferred. The task of ascertaining eligibility is sufficiently complex that the FCC would rather start fresh with an application for a new license.
The ruling sets up a potentially deadly trap for companies that acquire others, or that transfer technology-related assets. Ordinarily the two companies’ lawyers go through a well-worn routine of filing requests to assign or transfer two-way radio licenses, FCC certifications, and various other commonplace authorizations. (Transactions involving broadcast, satellite, and some wireless licenses are more complex.) Now, though the acquiring company may have to take on the additional step of applying anew for its own program experimental, compliance testing, or medical testing license. Processing at the FCC may take time. Worse, we can foresee situations in which the acquiring company may not qualify for the license.
Our best advice: plan ahead.