Government rules are slowing down 5G phone launches, tech association warns

The Consumer Technology Association is pushing the FCC to relax rules around pre-orders and imports for 5G phones, arguing the move would improve the US marketplace for the next-gen network technology.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

July 9, 2020

3 Min Read
Government rules are slowing down 5G phone launches, tech association warns

Federal rules designed to prevent excessive radio-frequency emissions and interference are slowing down the 5G marketplace in the US, according to a new complaint by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). This trade group represents tech companies and holds the annual CES trade show.

"As innovators race to develop and deploy products and services for the 5G economy, companies sorely need greater flexibility to market and pre-sell devices to the public prior to obtaining FCC equipment authorization," CTIA wrote to the FCC in a recent filing. "The Administration and the Commission have made 5G global leadership a priority – yet the current prohibition on conditional sales to consumers and the very limited ability to import devices prior to authorization, even for activities to ready such devices for retail display, impede innovation in 5G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and more."

The CTA argued that the FCC should allow device makers to accept pre-orders from consumers for their devices prior to receiving FCC authorization to sell the gadgets. The association said the move would give manufacturers a better sense of end-user demand, help smaller manufacturers reserve factory space and attract investors, and reduce waste.

Further, the association argued that device makers should be able to import a "limited number" of devices into the US in order to ready their retail strategies. "Preparing for a global product launch is an intense, multistep process, yet the current rules offer only a limited ability to import devices prior to FCC authorization. Manufacturers are unable to undertake pre-marketing activity such as software imaging, packaging, and preparing devices for retail display, thus delaying the timeline for consumers to be able to physically examine devices," CTA wrote. "The inability to front-load preparation of display devices unnecessarily delays consumers’ ability to experience the devices once they are fully launched at retail."

One of the FCC's jobs is to certify every device sold in the US that emits RF signals, to ensure the gadget does so at agency-approved levels.

The CTA couched its request in the context of the US push toward 5G network technology. "If the US is to be a global leader on 5G and technology verticals such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, our nation cannot afford these types of delays," the association wrote.

That's noteworthy considering companies and associations across the technology industry have used the "race to 5G" argument to push their own agendas, whether it's to release additional spectrum for commercial uses, to make changes to cell towers more easily, or to obtain government funding for research and development projects.

The CTA filed its petition on the topic to the FCC earlier this month. Given the agency's efforts to streamline rules to benefit the 5G industry, it's like the CTA will find a receptive audience at the agency.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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