Complying with the new radio rules

Author : Jean-Louis Evans, TUV SUD Product Service

05 October 2016

The Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EC (RED) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 22nd May 2014.

(Click here to view article in digital issue)

As of June this year, it superseded the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive 1999/5/EC (R&TTE), which was originally published in 1999. Between June 2016 and June 2017, manufacturers have the option of using the R&TTE Directive or the RED. However, from June 2017, the RED is mandatory, and economic operators (manufacturer, importer, distributor, authorised representative), which import, market or sell radio equipment and devices in the EU must comply with the RED from 13th June 2017. 

Products bearing the CE Mark are presumed compliant with the requirements of the RED as well as the requirements of all other applicable directives, thereby assuring legal access to all EU member states.

This means that designers and manufacturers of radio equipment now face a new set of requirements, having become familiar with the implementation of the R&TTE compliance standards over the last seven years. Indeed, the new RED requires a shift in mind-set, as it introduces clearer obligations for all economic operators. 

With the world going wireless, radio equipment covers an ever growing variety of products, driven by the growth of mobile devices and wearable applications aiming to provide connectivity to the consumer market. As both the requirements and the number of products that fall under the RED have changed, so many economic operators are finding achieving compliance to be a significant challenge.

What is the RED?

The RED is applicable to all electrical and electronic devices that intentionally emit and/or receive radio waves at frequencies below 3000 GHz. As you would expect, radio equipment falls within the RED’s scope, but for the first time its requirements also cover broadcast radio and TV receivers.

The RED excludes equipment that is: “radio equipment exclusively used for activities concerning public security, defence, State security, including the economic wellbeing of the State in the case of activities pertaining to State security matters, and the activities of the State in the area of criminal law.”

Marine equipment that falls within the scope of Council Directive 96/98/EC is also excluded, as are airborne products, parts and appliances falling within the scope of Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 216/2008, and custom-built evaluation kits designed for professionals to be used solely at R&D facilities. Another exclusion is radio equipment assembled or modified by and used by radio amateurs. 

While the RED will become the required method to show compliance of radio and telecoms equipment sold across the Europe Union, equipment compliant with the current R&TTE Directive may continue to be placed on the market until 13th June 2017. 

Key changes

To enable full traceability, every economic operator within the supply chain must identify who has supplied them and to whom they have supplied radio equipment. 

There are also two new options for the Declaration of Conformity (DoC): 

1. Include a copy of the full DoC covering all applicable Directives with each piece of radio equipment. 

2. Include a simplified DoC, which must include the exact website address where the full version can be obtained. 

The RED states that the product must be accompanied by instructions in a language which can be easily understood, as determined by the Member State in which the product is being sold. It also requires that the manufacturer’s contact details are in a language easily understood by end-users and market surveillance authorities. For the first time a manufacturer must undertake a safety assessment that takes into account the reasonably foreseeable use, not just the intended use as outlined in the equipment’s instructions.

New responsibilities for importers have now been introduced as they are required to carry out sample testing of radio equipment being sold, as well as investigate and maintain a register of complaints and product recalls, keeping distributors informed of such monitoring. 

Importers are required to keep a copy of the DoC 10 years after the radio equipment has first been placed on the market; and ensure the availability of the compliance documentation; as market surveillance authorities have a right to request a copy during that period of time. 

The RED introduces new rules regarding re-branded radio equipment, as importers and distributors now take on the responsibilities as if they were the manufacturer where radio equipment is supplied under their own name or trade mark.

The RED’s Essential Requirements also state that: “radio equipment interworks with accessories, in particular with common chargers”, supporting the European Commission’s push for portable devices to be compatible with a single charger.

Another significant change is that Telecommunication Terminal Equipment (TTE) i.e. fixed line terminal equipment, now sits outside the scope of the RED and is instead covered by the EMC and Low Voltage Directives.

The RED also places additional emphasis on efficient and effective use of the spectrum. In particular, radio equipment needs to demonstrate the performance of its receiver part, as well as its transmitter, as both are considered to affect the efficient and effective use of the spectrum.

Harmonised standards not up to date

The RED requires compliance with essential requirements associated with health and safety, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and the effective and efficient use of the radio spectrum. Radio equipment covered by the RED is not subject to the Low-Voltage Directive (LVD) or the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive (EMCD). Instead, the essential requirements of those Directives are covered by the essential requirements of the RED, with certain modifications.

As with other EU directives, the RED relies on harmonised standards for specific technical requirements, and compliance with these provides a presumption of conformity with the Directive’s essential requirements. 

However, as the scope of the RED differs from the R&TTE, and the essential requirements have also been changed, additional standards are required and existing standards must be amended. While harmonised standards are being reviewed for publication under the RED, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) stated earlier this year that it would not possible to complete all of the required standards by the 13th June 2016 switchover deadline. Likewise, some standards produced by CEN/CENELEC still require amendment.

The European Commission published a Harmonised Standards list for the RED in the Official Journal (OJ) of 8th July 2016 with a subsequent list on 12th August 2016. However, a total of only six standards are included in this latest list. Updates to the list are expected at regular intervals.

In the absence of ETSI RED standards published in the OJ, it is mandatory for any manufacturers wishing for an early implementation of the RED to apply to a Notified Body for a Type Examination Certificate or a Full Quality Assurance Approval. Likewise, although Harmonised Standards provide a presumption of conformity, they are never compulsory. This means that even when RED OJ listed standards are available a manufacturer has the option to request a Type Examination from a Notified Body

The RED’s wide ranging changes demand some significant adaptations to how radio equipment is manufactured and supplied. It is therefore essential that those in the supply chain understand their specific obligations so that their equipment complies and it can continue to be sold on the European market after the deadline.

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