I. What is FCC certification?
FCC certification is a type of product certification for electronic and electrical goods that are manufactured or sold in the United States. It certifies that the radio frequency emitted from a product is within limits approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The Federal Communications Commission has produced technical standards for testing electronic and electrical equipment based on the type of radiofrequency emitted. The FCC’s rules and regulations are set out in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). There, testing is divided by device type and named as follows:
- FCC Part 11 “Emergency Alert System”
- FCC Part 15 “Radio Frequency Devices”
- FCC Part 18 “Industrial, Scientific and Medical Equipment”
- FCC Part 22 “Public Mobile Services”
- FCC Part 24 “Personal Communications Services”
- FCC Part 90 “Private Land Mobile Radio Services”
- FCC Part 95 “Personal Radio Services”.
In general, FCC certification is required for any electronic device that can oscillate above 9 kHz. Manufacturers must make sure that their products will neither interfere with other products nor cause risk and harm to the public. All electrical devices must be tested and fulfil the emission requirements to receive FCC Certification. If manufacturers sell products without the appropriate approval, they will receive a monetary fine and their products will be recalled.
II. Where is FCC certification required?
Any radio frequency equipment that is produced, sold or distributed in the US must have FCC certification. The label is often found on products sold outside the US because those products were either manufactured in the States and then exported or are also sold in the USA. This makes the FCC certification mark recognisable not only in the US but all around the globe.
III. Which products should have FCC certification?
The Federal Communications Commission requires electrical goods with radiofrequency to undergo testing to stay in compliance with the EMC directive. The following types of products often need FCC certification:
- Electronic products,
- Electromagnetic compatibility products,
- Power adapters,
- IT equipment,
- Radio and telecommunications terminal equipment,
- Bluetooth devices,
- Wireless local area networking equipment,
- Wireless medical telemetry transmitters,
- Garage doors and openers,
- Remote control transmitters,
- Land mobile radio transmitters,
- Equipment and protective systems meant for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.
As overall, products that require FCC certification are divided into two groups:
- Intentional radiators of radiofrequency energy (e.g. smartphone) – such products must broadcast radiofrequency energy as part of their operation.
- Unintentional radiators of radiofrequency energy (e.g. digital camera) – such products can create and broadcast radio signals as an accidental result of their operation.
IV. FCC testing requirements for products
The FCC has three options for equipment approval under the EMC directive: verification, certification and Declaration of Conformity. Each procedure presents its own challenges. The option for approval depends on product type and power of radio frequency emission.
Verification testing is used for Part 15 devices or electrical products such as class B external power supplies and class A or B digital devices that aren’t PC-related. Class A devices are used primarily in industrial, engineering and commercial settings. Class B products are for consumer purposes. Manufacturers can carry the tests at a non-accredited test centre. This procedure helps determine how much radiofrequency energy is emitted by a product. If a product complies with the FCC’s technical requirements, the same can be released for sale without FCC approval. Manufacturers must maintain a file that contains their products’ test reports and documentation.
Declaration of Conformity
This procedure is stricter than the verification testing. It is typically required for Part 18 electrical devices or products like personal computers or PC-peripherals. Manufacturers must perform the tests at an ISO Guide 17025-accredited test centre. The testing helps determine the radiofrequency energy expelled from a product and ensure that the product fulfils all relevant FCC’s technical requirements. Any compliance product must have the FCC marking affixed on itself. Manufacturers must maintain a file that contains their products’ test reports and documentation, as well as create a Declaration of Conformity. In the Declaration of Conformity must be stated that all information in the documentation file is accurate and up to date.
FCC product certification is the stringent, most detailed and formal procedure. It is for electrical products that are most likely to interfere with other products, signals and emergency information. E.g. Bluetooth devices, WLAN, intentional radiators, and more. Manufacturers are obliged to test their products in an accredited test institute. If a product is deemed compliant with all relevant FCC’s technical requirements, it must feature an FCC ID on its label.
V. Steps in the FCC certification process
The FCC certification process consists of the following steps:
- Step 1: Selection of radiofrequency
Producers of electrical products must make sure that the radio frequency is within the legal limits. They can use the FCC’s guidelines on radio spectrum allocation as a reference. Factors to consider: radio range, power consumption, propagation of radio waves and optimisation.
- Step 2: Pre-compliance testing during the product development
Manufacturers need to perform as many pre-compliance tests in-house as they can to ensure that their products will be developed in accordance with the legal framework. The performance of pre-compliance testing will help them avoid any expensive surprises later on.
- Step 3: Registration with FCC
To obtain certification authorisations, the electrical products using radio spectrum must have an FCC Registration number (FRN). Manufacturers can obtain FRN at FCC’s CORES. They need to provide their business address and contact information to get the FCC number.
- Step 4: Compliance testing in an accredited test centre
Manufacturers need to get in touch with an FCC-registered testing facility to perform all required external tests. Then, they need to send a product sample to the test centre. Depending on product complexity, testing can run from a few days to several weeks.
- Step 5: Certification & Filing
When a product’s tests have been completed successfully, a TCB (Telecommunication Certification Body) will review the product’s test reports and issue the FCC approval on behalf of the FCC. The TCB will upload the product’s information to the FCC database and send the manufacturer a Grant of Equipment Authorization (GEA). The GEA allows a product to be legally marketed and sold in the United States.
VI. How can you obtain FCC certification?
Obtaining FCC certification can be challenging. But if you want to sell or distribute products using radio spectrum in the United States, Clever Compliance can help you gain market access. We have created the Product Compliance Marketplace that connects manufacturers with renowned test centres and consulting firms such as KIWA, Nemko, SIQ and AFRY. Every day, the Compliance Marketplace helps lots of manufacturers, importers and distributors get the compliance service they need.
Visit the Compliance Marketplace and request FCC approval to get help with the entire FCC certification process.