From a Raco Wireless Whitepaper – So you have the next innovative, connected device that’s going to give sliced bread a run for its money as the greatest thing ever. You’ve partnered with a great M2M enabler who has set you up with state-of-the-art connectivity and management tools, and your potential customers are now lining up around the block. All that stands between you and world domination is a little thing known as device certification. Don’t be intimidated, we’ll walk you through the basics and have you taking over the M2M world in no time.
What is device certification?
Glad you asked. Device certification is the process through which a wireless device receives approval for market release, network connection and commercial utilization. Prior to initial deployment, all wireless devices must undergo extensive trial testing and review programs through a regulatory or network organization. The certification demonstrates, through a series of tests, that a device operates safely and properly when connected to a wireless network.
Device certification is typically a mandatory requirement for any new module or device, as well as for modifications to an already approved device and is a requirement for bringing new devices onto existing carrier networks. If a device is not certified, it may be blocked from a network.
Why is it required?
In a rapidly evolving industry that lacks uniform standards, certification is critical to ensure compatibility and performance of devices in order to build more universal and integrated M2M systems.
The primary goal of device certification is to identify and repair issues related to quality of service and interoperability before commercial deployment. Networks are able to ensure that a device works as designed and will not cause service disruption due to rogue data consumption, interference, or other factors that could potentially jeopardize a network’s infrastructure. Also, they can verify that devices operate seamlessly across different networks to ensure global interoperability.
Certification benefits device manufacturers, as well as M2M operators and retailers because it provides a mechanism to mitigate operational issues before a device is commercially deployed. They are able to reduce costs of in-field service issues, minimize service disruption and maximize performance.
Who requires what?
There are essentially three layers of certification that are required to get a connected device to market. First, the device must receive regulatory approval from the FCC to make sure it will not conflict with other networks or emit dangerous signals. This first step has become less onerous because many pre-approved devices are available from manufacturers.
Second, a device must receive approval from an industry association – typically GCF. (Global Certification Forum) or PTCRB (PCS Type Certification Review Board) – to ensure the device will not harm the network. The GCF is an independent certification scheme for mobile phones and wireless device based out of Europe, and PTCRB is its North American equivalent.
Third, each mobile network operator may have their own set of requirements that an M2M device must meet that are specific to their respective networks. These standards will vary from network to network depending on unique operator network configuration. We recommend that you contact your MNO to obtain any operator-specific requirements.
The PTCRB is a forum comprised of North American network operators that serves to certify devices for a certain set of networks and bands. Solution providers can be denied service for devices that do not comply with proper certification. PTCRB has empowered CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) to act as the administrator for PTCRB certification, and has a number of accredited testing organizations around the country.
What is required to get PTCRB certification?
The process for approving a device through PTCRB is as follows:
- M2M developer sets up an account on the PTCRB website and sends an email to email@example.com requesting access to the PTCRB certification database
- Create the PTCRB test request on the PTCRB website including basic information about the device, and select an accredited testing organization and schedule a test
- PTCRB notifies the selected test lab to gather device samples and initiate testing
- Completed test results are uploaded to PTCRB database
- CTIA reviews the results and notifies the developer of the decision
The certification process can take about 2-3 weeks, and the cost ranges from $15-50K, depending on the complexity of the device.
How and where can I get help?
There are many experts in the M2M world that specialize in device certification. Like any other critical piece of your business, trust those that have proven experience to help you through.
PTCRB Approved Devices: http://www.ptcrb.com/vendor/complete/complete_request.cfm?tab=Certified
Global CCF: http://globalccf.org/ccf-mobile-m2m-certification
Accredited PTCRB Testing Sites:
CETECOM – http://www.cetecom.de
7Layers – http://www.7layers.com
AT4 Wireless – http://www.at4wireless.com
Bureau Veritas ADT – http://www.adt.com.tw
RFI Global – http://www.r-global.com
GS Wireless – http://www.sgs.com
Device certification should be a key piece of your project roadmap. If you could use a little advice on some steps to consider, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.