FCC Revamps its Part 5 Experimental Radio Service Rules

January 31, 2013

On January 31, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted major revisions to its rules governing the Experimental Radio Service, which are contained in Part 5 of the Commission’s rules. The changes, designed to spur technological advancement and widespread deployment of broadband connections: 1) add three new types of experimental licenses and 2) “revise and streamline existing rules and procedures for experimenting, testing, and marketing radio frequency (RF) devices, while protecting incumbent licensees from interference.”

The rule revisions move the Experimental Licensing system from one that requires an individual license for each separate experiment to one that will enable multiple experiments to be conducted under a single radio license. This greatly simplifies the application process and reduces costs for conducting RF experiments.

According to the FCC’s news release, the three new license types are:

  • Program experimental license: This license will allow colleges, research laboratories, health care institutions, and manufacturers that have demonstrated experience in RF technology to conduct ongoing series of research experiments and tests.
  • Medical testing license: This license will be available to health care facilities with RF expertise to assess newly developed RF based medical devices for patient compatibility, electromagnetic compatibility and to conduct clinical trials at patients’ homes or in other geographic areas that are not within the health care licensee’s control.
  • Compliance testing license: This license will provide Commission-recognized laboratories the flexibility to undertake RF product compliance testing under the Commission’s equipment authorization procedures.

Experimental license holders will be required to notify other license-holders using the same spectrum about the planned experimental uses of the affected frequencies and to develop a “specific plan to avoid harmful interference to those [other] operations.” Experimental licensees must continue to use their spectrum in a manner that does not interfere with regular licensed services. As part of this effort, the FCC will launch a web-based system “to track and manage individual experiments for program and medical testing licenses.” Other changes in the FCC’s rules affecting experimental licenses were made as well, including provisions that would allow a “greater number of RF devices to enter the U.S. for testing and evaluation purposes.”

More details will be available when the FCC releases its Report and Order.