There’s a buzz among manufacturers and distributors, sometimes with an air of urgency, regarding changing regulatory requirements being implemented January 1, 2015. Designed to mitigate crowding and interference in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band as well as to provide clearer, more precise, and even new test methods, this change will require fast action if manufacturers want to continue to distribute their products throughout the European Union (EU).
Who Will Be Affected?
The new requirements apply to all manufacturers, importers and integrators who wish to distribute and market their wide band data transmission equipment operating in the 2.4 GHz band. Such equipment includes, but is not limited to, wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee.
Many Reasons For Change
At present, many different wireless technologies use the 2.4 GHz spectrum. In years past, this was not typically the case and spectrum crowding and interference were not issues; this was mainly due to the ability of similar technologies to mitigate sharing. Now that many different technologies coexist in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, there is no assurance of equal access and spectrum sharing.
The industry has also recognized that technical characteristics of devices currently in the marketplace were being misrepresented, and test modes – allowed for evaluation under previous standard revisions – were the culprit. This is especially evident for devices where the power output can change from burst to burst under normal operating modes, and where test modes are inadequate for emulating.
With its predecessor deemed insufficient to guarantee presumption of conformity with respect to spectrum sharing, the European Telecommunication Standard Institution (ETSI) released the harmonized European standard EN 300 328 v1.8.1. The new standard meets the industry’s need for new, better defined and more precise test requirements.
Although the previous version of EN 300 328 listed spectrum sharing (Medium Access Protocol) as a mandatory essential requirement, it did not provide test methods and therefore the requirements were mostly ignored. With the release of EN 300 328 v1.8.1, spectrum sharing and usage requirements are well defined and include test methods for a variety of different technologies and spectrum sharing techniques. The newer requirements are designed to promote equal access and include such test suites as Medium Utilisation, Adaptivity and Receiver Blocking.
In addition, the test methods in EN 300 328 v1.8.1 for other essential requirements are much more complex and time consuming: even for existing requirements where previous test methods were trivial (e.g. output power, power spectral density). In addition, the new standard outlines new test methods for those essential requirements where test methods did not previously exist (e.g. frequency hopping characteristics).
Equally important, the new regulations no longer allow test modes; this is especially key for spectrum sharing and output power measurements. This will require manufacturers to provide realistic modes of operation to ensure that measurements during testing accurately represent devices in the marketplace.
In one aspect or another, the new regulations affect essentially every requirement for presumption of conformity. Whether it is methods of measurement, modes of operation or conditions of testing, something is changing.
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With EN 300 328 v1.8.1 being the sole harmonized standard for 2.4 GHz wide band data transmission equipment starting January 1, 2015, manufacturers, distributors, and integrators need to understand the potential impact in getting end-products and components to market.
Industry workers need to consider the increased cycle time during the testing phase, the increased cost of testing, and the necessary modifications to hardware and firmware. Manufacturers should review the new standard and consult with a test lab to examine the new testing requirements and determine what testing their products need. They must also ensure that their suppliers are making the necessary changes to components, so that exports to Europe don’t hit any unnecessary roadblocks because of non-conforming third-party equipment.
Achieving the new wireless standard in Europe may cause temporary discomfort in the production cycle; however, the demand for fast wireless access continues to grow with the increase of wireless capable devices. Getting ahead of the game in Europe will keep manufacturers ahead of this accelerating curve.