FCC Part 15

The Federal Code Of Regulation (CFR) FCC Part 15 is a common testing standard for most electronic equipment. FCC Part 15 covers the regulations under which an intentional or unintentional (incidental) radiator that can be operated without an individual license. FCC Part 15 also covers the technical specifications, administrative requirements and other conditions relating to the marketing of FCC Part 15 devices. The process for FCC Part 15 compliance is dependent on the type of the equipment. Devices fall under either declaration of conformity or certification.

Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC)

The Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) is a procedure that requires the party responsible for compliance ensure that the equipment complies with the appropriate technical standards. The responsible party, who MUST be located in the United States, is not required to file an equipment authorization application with the FCC. The responsible party, or any other party that markets the equipment must provide test reports and other information to demonstrate compliance with the rules upon request by the FCC. Use of the FCC logo on SDoC authorized products is voluntary. The responsible party must compile and retain all pertinent records to show compliance with the FCC rules. The test report showing compliance must be signed by the responsible party. Products authorized using the SDoC procedure must include a compliance information statement in the product user manual, or as a separate sheet with the device. If the manual is only provided digitally, the statement must be included in the digital form of the manual.


Certification is the most rigorous approval process for RF Devices with the greatest potential to cause harmful interference to radio services. The authorization is issued by an FCC-recognized Telecommunication Certification Body (TCB) based on the evaluation of the documentation submitted by the responsible party. Testing must be performed by an FCC-recognized accredited testing laboratory. Information including the technical parameters, and descriptive information for all certified equipment is posted on an FCC maintained public database.

See the FCC website for more descriptive information on these classifications.

FCC Part 15 Subpart A contains specific information regarding testing and certification. Information such as scope of the rules and legal implications, definitions, prohibition against eavesdropping, labeling, etc.

Definitions of interest from FCC Part 15:

Digital Device - “An unintentional radiator (device or system) that generates and uses timing signals or pulses at a rate in excess of 9,000 pulses (cycles) per second and uses digital techniques; inclusive of telephone equipment that uses digital techniques or any device or system that generates and uses radio frequency energy for the purpose of performing data processing functions such as electronics computations, operations, transformations, recording, filing, sorting, storage, retrieval, or transfer. A radio frequency device that is specifically subject to an emanation requirement in any other FCC Rule part or an intentional radiator subject to Subpart C of this part that contains a digital device is not subject to the standards for digital devices, provided the digital device is used only the enable operation of the radio frequency device and the digital device does not control additional functions or capabilities.”

Intentional Radiator - “A device that intentionally generates and emits radio frequency energy by radiation or induction.”

Class A Digital Device - “A digital device that is marketed for use in a commercial, industrial or business environment, exclusive of a device which is marketed for use by the general public or is intended to be used in the home.”

Class B Digital Device - “A digital device that is marketed for use in a residential environment notwithstanding use in commercial, business and industrial environments. Examples of such devices included, but are not limited to, personal computers, calculators, and similar electronics devices that are marketed for use by the general public.”

FCC Part 15 Subpart B applies to unintentional radiators. The category of unintentional radiators includes a wide variety of devices that contain clocks or oscillators and logic circuitry but that do not purposely generate radio frequency emissions. Among the common unintentional radiators are personal computers, peripherals, receivers, radios, TV sets, and cable TV home terminals.

The following table from FCC Part 15.101 indicates the classification of these various devices.

Type of Device Equipment Authorization Required
TV broadcast receiver Verification
FM broadcast receiver Verification
CB receiver Declaration of Conformity or Certification
Superregenerative receiver Declaration of Conformity or Certification
Scanning receiver Certification
Radar detector Certification
All other receivers subject to part 15 Declaration of Conformity or Certification
TV interface device Declaration of Conformity or Certification
Cable system terminal device Declaration of Conformity
Stand-alone cable input selector switch Verification
Class B personal computers and peripherals Declaration of Conformity or Certification
CPU boards and internal power supplies used with Class B personal computers Declaration of Conformity or Certification
Class B personal computers assembled using authorized CPU boards or power supplies Declaration of Conformity
Class B external switching power supplies Verification
Other Class B digital devices & peripherals Verification
Class A digital devices, peripherals & external switching power supplies Verification
Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) Certification
All other devices Verification

Two levels of radiation and conducted emissions limits for unintentional radiators are specified in FCC Part 15 Subpart B. The two levels are Class A digital devices, the higher or less strict limits, and Class B digital devices, the lower or more strict limits. Manufacturers are encouraged to meet the Class B digital device limits.

FCC Part 15 Subpart C applies to intentional radiators. The various types of intentional radiators covered by Subpart C include cable-locating equipment, cordless telephones, remote control and alarm transmitters, field-disturbance sensors for opening doors, and spread-spectrum systems for wideband data transmission. Intentional radiators governed by FCC Part 15 Subpart C must either have a permanently attached antenna or provide a unique connector to prevent the use of unauthorized antennas. The FCC Part 15 Subpart C rules for operation of radio transmitters detail the fundamental field strength, power, power density, frequency accuracy, and permitted harmonic and spurious emissions.

FCC Part 15 Subpart D outlines the regulations for unlicensed personal communication service (UPCS) devices operating in the 1910 – 1930 MHz frequencies bands.

FCC Part 15 Subpart E sets out the regulations for unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices operating in the 5.15 – 5.35 GHz, 5.47 – 5.725 GHz, and 5.725 – 5.825 GHz bands.

FCC Part 15 Subpart F sets out the regulations for unlicensed ultra-wideband transmission systems.

FCC Part 15 Subpart G sets out the regulations for Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) devices operating in the 1.705-80 MHz band over medium or low voltage lines. This section outlines the geographical area within which Access BPS operations are not permitted in certain frequencies bands.

FCC Part 15 Subpart H sets out the regulations for Television Band Devices (TVBDs) which are unlicensed intentional radiators operating on available channels in the broadcast television frequency bands at 54–60 MHz, 76–88 MHz, 174–216 MHz, 470–608 MHz and 614–698 MHz bands.

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