The FCC has always been kind to people who tinker with radio equipment, whether teenagers blowing out their parents’ fuses (that was us) or manufacturers’ research labs (maybe you). Licenses in the Experimental Radio Service allow work with radio transmitters that don’t otherwise meet FCC standards.

The problem with these experimental licenses was that most variations in transmitter characteristics required a new or modified license. They are not expensive and the FCC issues them reasonably fast (at least by federal agency standards), but still, nobody likes the paperwork and the delays.

The FCC put in a fix four years ago, but it has only just now taken effect. For most users, the most important change was the establishment of “Program Experimental Licenses” for qualifying colleges and universities, research labs, hospitals and health care institutions, and manufacturers. One such license can cover work on a wide range of transmitters. See the details here. To change the operating characteristics, the licensee simply posts the new information on the FCC website.

The new rules took effect in May 2013 – well, some of them. Many relating to the Program Experimental Licenses required additional approvals from the Office of Management and Budget. The folks at OMB must have had a lot on their minds, because those rules sections did not come through for almost another three years, in January 2016. But even then, the FCC still had to manage a lot of details.

Finally, that work is done. See the announcement here and a related FCC blog post here.

Ready to apply? Get your license here. Before each new experiment, log the technical details here. Then wait 10 days (if using non-federal spectrum) or 15 days (for federal or shared spectrum), and go to it. Oh, and within 30 days after you’re done, post on the FCC website a narrative statement describing the results of the experiment. You don’t have to mention the blown fuses.