Action paves way for continued equipment approvals in China, elsewhere

As we’ve reported, about 18 months ago the Commission issued new rules modifying its equipment authorization procedures. Those procedures, of course, have long relied in large measure on independent labs that test devices and certify their compliance with FCC standards. In a key change, in its 2014 decision the Commission sought to improve the reliability of its processes by requiring that test labs performing such certifications be accredited by properly authorized accrediting bodies (ABs).

This created a problem, particularly on the international front. As several parties noted in Petitions for Clarification and/or Reconsideration, a number of Asian countries to which U.S. corporations go for testing, certification, and manufacture of wireless equipment do not have Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with the U.S. That’s a problem because, without an MRA, the U.S. (and, thus, the FCC) does not automatically recognize a non-MRA’s country’s ABs. And while the new rules provide for recognizing the accreditation of a non-MRA country’s test labs, they don’t describe how this can be done. Under the rules adopted in 2014, not-yet-accredited test labs would have lost their recognition by July 13, 2016.

There were two obvious possible fixes for this. First, the U.S. could have successfully negotiated MRAs with China and other countries. The U.S. apparently tried that route, but we understand the effort did not go well. The second possibility: the FCC could simply modify and clarify its newly adopted rules to provide a clear route for recognition of ABs in countries without MRAs. FCC has chosen the latter. In an order addressing the petitions, the Commission has:

  • Provided a mechanism for ABs located in countries without MRAs to be recognized as properly authorized to accredit test labs for FCC purposes. Specifically, the FCC has directed its Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) to provide, in its Knowledge Database (KDB), “specific guidance” as to how an AB in a non-MRA country can seek recognition as an “authorized accrediting body”. The guidance would include both the form and substance requests for such recognition should take; and
  • Extended the time that FCC will continue to recognize non-accredited laboratories, through July 12, 2017. This gives such labs some breathing room so that, ideally, they can get themselves accredited by an FCC-recognized AB.

Manufacturers can thank TIA and Motorola for raising these issues with the Commission, and the Consumer Technology Association and Huawei for supporting them.