FCC launches new system for experimental licensing

The FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) announced a new way for experienced RF engineers to get the licenses they need to conduct radio transmission experiments that will lead to new technologies and services.

The new system allows greater flexibility for universities, research labs, healthcare facilities and manufacturers of RF equipment to get the permissions they need to do their work.

There are three categories: Qualified parties with experience in RF technology such as colleges, research laboratories and manufacturers may apply for the new “program license"; testing laboratories may apply for the new “compliance license"; and healthcare facilities may apply for the new “medical testing license.”

The web-based registration system is designed to ease the burden for licensees managing their experiments while at the same time allowing all spectrum users and stakeholders to track experiments undertaken under these new licenses, the FCC said in a press release.

Details of proposed experiments must be posted on the website 10 days (when exclusively using non-federal spectrum) or 15 days (when using federal spectrum) prior to the planned start date of the experiment. The posting also must include a narrative statement including a general description of the experiment, the technical details of the experiment and a contact point for additional information about the experiment. As usual, the narrative statement must include a “stop buzzer” contact so that any urgent concerns of other potentially affected spectrum users can be addressed.

Each year, the FCC’s OET typically grants more than 2,000 experimental licenses, according to Julius Knapp, chief of OET, in a blog post. Many of the services and technologies deployed today were first tested under the experimental licensing program. In fact, many experimental licenses are currently supporting work looking toward the introduction of next-generation 5G services, he said.

Knapp thanked the New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering and the University of Colorado, Boulder, which conducted beta trials of the system and made suggestions for improvement. “We look forward to the submittal of applications for the new program experimental licenses and stand ready to answer any questions and assist parties to make this process flow smoothly,” he said.

NYU Wireless, located in NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, was jazzed about being a part of the process. The research center, which will host the Brooklyn 5G Summit at NYU April 19-21 with Nokia, was proud to be one of the two academic institutions chosen by the FCC to help test, debug and provide feedback on the web-based licensing system.

“The license will allow the center to do cutting-edge work throughout the spectrum, not just at frequencies critical to 5G, but also far beyond,” said Theodore (Ted) Rappaport, founding director of NYU Wireless and the David Lee/Ernst Weber Professor of Electrical Engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, in a press release.

He added that the FCC’s new experimental licensing process is perhaps the first like it in the world, and it promises to reduce the waiting time and burden for innovators to experiment in the radio spectrum, allowing experimenters to focus on science and engineering while giving a rapid, 15-day turnaround on experimental license decisions in most cases.

He said that Yunchou Xing, an electrical and computer engineering doctoral student at NYU Wireless, worked closely with the FCC staff as a beta tester for the new portal, helping to test two websites within the experimental license platform: the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology’s Experimental Licensing System, for which he verified log-in and application procedures, and the new Experiments Notification System, which lets a program experimental licensee alert others of plans to conduct research within a particular radio band within a particular geographic region. The feature allows entities that hold licenses in those bands—as well as those who stand to be affected by the applicant’s research—to object or to comment.