Recently, we have seen an increase in interest around the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) compliance, and for good reason. This is a very important topic and one that should be taken seriously. It is vital for buyers of LED displays to understand this and do their research.
We’ve pulled together some information in this post to help you.
What is the FCC?
The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states and U.S. territories. All electronic devices used in the U.S.A. must be tested to comply with FCC guidelines.
Testing to stay under the limits
This testing certifies that the electromagnetic interference (EMI) from a device is under the limits approved by the FCC. It is important to note that only a certified laboratory can validate that a display complies with the FCC guidelines.
Why FCC compliance matters
EMI occurs when electromagnetic energy emits from an electronic device and impedes the operation of another electrical circuit. All electronics emit some amount of EMI, including LED displays.
If the interference is above acceptable standards, it can adversely affect the performance of any wireless device, including cell phones, microphones, key fobs and even emergency communication in vehicles such as those found in firetrucks, police cars and ambulances.
Issues resulting from interference are often overlooked until it becomes a serious problem. The worst-case scenario we see too often is digital display owners being required to turn off their displays or remove them completely. This lost revenue from downtime and unexpected service can be detrimental to the future of a business.
How are FCC rules being broken?
LED manufacturers approach the subject of EMI in different ways. Some have a limited number of installations, so they have little experience tailoring their products to coexist with mobile networks and other wireless transmissions that are becoming more widely used each day. They don’t understand the EMI risks associated with their product.
These manufacturers are selling a product and crossing their fingers, hoping that a problem does not arise. These companies should know that the FCC’s aggressiveness in enforcing their requirements and verification is growing. The agency is diligently instructing LED display manufacturers to maintain their suggested margins and limit interference with unintentional radiators.
This is not a hypothetical situation. We are aware of equipment sold in the U.S.A. that has not been properly tested and does not meet the FCC guidelines. Most of this equipment is being imported to the United States from other countries.
In some cases, manufacturers are providing false certificates of compliance or testing their products in ways that do not accurately represent real-world operation. Buyers of such displays are in danger of losing their investment and possibly incurring legal fees resulting from damages.
What can you do?
Make proactive choices to avoid these issues:
- During the purchase process, investigate digital display vendor(s) for compliance with FCC requirements.
- Verify that vendors have their equipment tested in an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accredited lab in the U.S.A.
- Discover how many years a company has been selling and installing similar products in the U.S.A. Choose a display manufacturer with a long history of doing business in the U.S.
Choose a company that is committed to extensive product testing, continuously refines product design for future technology advancements, collaborates with mobile network providers and provides continuous, reliable support for products in the field.
There is no silver bullet for managing EMI. Instead, superior design methodologies, meticulous component selection and strong relationships with other technology companies lead to successful EMI management. An investment in proper EMI management today is an investment in the future— one that benefits our customers and the LED display industry.
Daktronics invests in forward-thinking designs to develop display systems intended to meet compliance standards both now and in the future. Daktronics intentionally provides design for EMI compliance training for our engineers.
We leverage this knowledge to select components and utilize design methodologies to ensure our electronics circuits and component interconnects generate the least amount of EMI. Designs are then tested for EMI performance in our in-house EMI test chamber.
Once a product has passed this level of in-house EMI testing, we send it to a USA-based, ISO-accredited, third-party lab for further testing and official certification of EMI compliance.
This issue won’t go away soon
Organizations such as these have concerns about the spectrum noise floor raising:
- Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CITA)
- National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC)
- FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC)
Many believe that this increase in EMI will lead to new FCC rules or guidance and amplified enforcement. If this occurs, and it seems likely it will, buyers of displays manufactured by those not following the rules are even more at risk.