FCC inundated with mobile-device approval requests

The Federal Communications Commission is struggling to keep up with wireless device authorizations as new mobile devices of all kinds swamp the market.

In order to keep up, the agency has had to increase the pool of company-specific identification codes, which was in danger of being exhausted, according to an announcement issued this week.

FCC also is exploring new ways to approve devices as its current resources for evaluating equipment is strained. Two areas the agency is studying are clarifying or modifying the administrative requirements and the responsibilities of the Telecommunications Certification Bodies that perform equipment certification.

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The number of new codes issued annually has risen from 954 in 2006 to 1,275 last year. Devices requiring codes “range from cell phones and police and marine radios, to computers and microtransmitters placed in computers, to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, to implanted wireless medical devices, to remote-control devices, to security tags, to inventory trackers, and many more in variety and number,” the agency said in its release.

Equipment authorization codes are issued by the FCC to regulate usage of the radio frequency spectrum. The codes apply to such things as electric guitars and amplifiers as well as mobile communications devices, and ensure, for instance, that handsets are compatible with hearing aids, the FCC said.

Mobile devices requiring codes cannot be imported or marketed unless they comply with FCC regulations to operate properly and not create harmful interference.

Separately, on the same day, the FCC announced proposed rules on improving usage of the 4.9 GHz band for public safety communications.

“Using 4.9 GHz spectrum, public safety users can set up temporary mesh networks that support data, voice, and video communications at scenes of emergencies; monitor sensitive locations remotely with point-to-point video links; and set up citywide Wi-Fi networks to give first responders dedicated broadband access,” the release states. “The 4.9 GHz spectrum holds great potential to complement the national public safety broadband network for backhaul; facilitate safer operation of our nation’s critical infrastructure and utilities; and provide wireless broadband connectivity in remote or sparsely populated locations.”

The FCC is seeking comments in several areas, including usage by the First Responder Network Authority and direct licensing by non-public-safety agencies. Specifically, the agency is seeking comment on whether FirstNet is or should be eligible for a 4.9 GHz band license, particularly for backhaul links in support of the 700 MHz network.

Also, the commission tentatively concluded that allowing non-public-safety entities to obtain licenses directly rather than entering into sharing arrangements with public safety licensees would remove a barrier to entry and stimulate more investment in the band.

Recently, a bipartisan group from the House Appropriations Committee requested the FCC look into swapping mobile broadband provider LightSquared’s spectrum for more suitable airwaves controlled by the Defense Department, IDG News Service reported

LightSquared planned to build a nationwide 4G LTE mobile network but its plans were shot down by the FCC in February because its network would interfere with a wide range of Global Positioning System transmission, GCN reported at the time.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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