In times of globalization and the necessity to adapt goods to the requirements of the international market, it is essential to be familiar with relevant certificates. Each marking is proof that a product meets specific technical and safety standards specified in national legislation. With regard to the electronics and telecommunications industry, one example of such marking is the FCC certificate.

FCC – general information

The FCC label is a certification mark placed on electronics manufactured or sold in the United States. It certifies that a given device is compliant with the FCC electromagnetic interference limits. The mark bears no legal weight and is, therefore, optional in most cases. However, conformance testing and the FCC Declaration of Conformity are always required in the US market.

As it turns out, most countries that export electronic equipment have their own standards applicable to such products. However, the American FCC mark can be found on most of them. Although the FCC label is adapted exclusively to the needs of the US market, it is recognizable worldwide, as it is placed on products manufactured, exported from, or sold in the US.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an entity that establishes technical principles and standards for different types of electric equipment, including radiofrequency equipment, telecommunication terminal equipment, as well as industrial, scientific, and medical equipment, in the USA. The FCC certificate is named after the organization. This means that when an electronic equipment manufacturer is considering placing a product on the US market, he/she should obtain an FCC certificate.

FCC mark

How to obtain FCC certification?

There are three verification procedures for FCC certification: prior inspection, obtaining a declaration of conformity, and certification. It would appear that it is the FCC and TCB (Telecommunications Certification Body) that handle the inspection process. In practice, however, it is the TCB that verifies the technical documentation of electronic equipment and examines test reports carried out in authorized test laboratories. Only after compliance is confirmed an FCC certificate is issued.

Criteria for obtaining the certificate

All specific regulations that must be followed in order to obtain the FCC mark are listed in Title 47 of the US Code of Federal Regulations. These provisions specify, among others, the maximum SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) limits for human exposure to electromagnetic fields. In addition, the standards for mobile phones, satellite phones, and radio transmitters are also provided. Part 15, in turn, specifies the regulations concerning the quantitative limit of electromagnetic interference emitted by electrical equipment.

According to the amendment introduced in November 2017 concerning devices classified in Parts 15 and 18 of the above-mentioned regulations, the FCC mark has become optional, although it is still obligatory to attach the FCC declaration of conformity to these products.

Division of radio equipment

The FCC mark certifies that the equipment’s electromagnetic interference complies with the limits approved by the Federal Communications Commission. According to FCC regulations, radio equipment is divided into unlicensed and licensed radio equipment.

Unlicensed radio equipment:

  • Low power transmitters operating below 1 GHz (with the exception of spread spectrum devices), alarm systems, devices unintentionally emitting radio waves (e.g. PCs and related peripherals or TV interface devices), and certified consumer ISM equipment (e.g. microwave ovens, RF lighting, and others)
  • Low power transmitters operating above 1 GHz with the exception of spread spectrum devices
  • Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices and low-power transmitters using spread spectrum technology.

Licensed radio equipment:

  • Commercial mobile services in 47 CFR Parts 20, 22 (cellular), 24, 25, and 27
  • General mobile radio services in 47 CFR Parts 22 (non-cellular), 73, 74, 90, 95, and 97.

FCC mark and other certificates

Currently, most countries that export electronic equipment to the US market have their own standards for electromagnetic interference (EMI), which is followed by independent certification and compliance marks. FCC marking can be found on electronic equipment outside the USA, even if it has no legal significance there.

This might be misleading as, for instance, products sold in Canada often carry both the FCC and CE declarations. However, the Canadian regulatory body is ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), also known as IC (Industry Canada). This means that for Canada, both FCC and CE marks have no legal significance, although their symbols may appear on some products. In addition, it should be noted that the FCC marking has no legal force in countries where the CE marking applies. If you want to introduce electronics to the European market, you should primarily get familiar with:

  • the CE marking directives,
  • RoHS,
  • ENEC,
  • HAR,
  • the German SGS Bauart Geprüft mark,
  • the SGS Fimko mark and Nordic certification,
  • the SGS CEBEC mark,
  • the Russian GOST-R mark and the EAC mark of the Eurasian Customs Union,
  • the Norwegian PoHS regulations.

In addition, for electronic products sold outside of the European Union and the United States, the following markings apply:

  • CCC certification mark – China,
  • VCCI (Voluntary Council for Control of Interference) – Japan,
  • the KC mark of the Korea Communications Commission – South Korea,
  • ANATEL – Brazil,
  • BSMI – Taiwan.

That being said, particular attention should be paid to the promises of producers from African and Asian countries, as it is often impossible to verify whether their products are indeed compliant with local standards. That is why most countries introduce their own regulations, such as the FCC marking in the United States.