Tough questions asked at ICASA’s Type Approval public hearing

December 15th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT

 

The Independent Authority of South Africa (ICASA) councillors and Type Approval experts asked the industry some tough questions at a public hearing held on 14 December 2016. The hearing related to which type of communication equipment should be exempted from Type Approval.

“Type Approval” means certifying that a product meets certain requirements for its type, for example cell phones operating in a certain frequency band. Type Approval is granted for a product that meets a minimum set of regulatory, technical and safety requirements by a competent body.

Councillors Keabetswe Modimoeng and Peter Zimri leading the Type Approval discussion at ICASA.

In September 2016  ICASA published a discussion document in the Government Gazette with the purpose of soliciting input from industry on prescribing the types of equipment, electronic communications facilities and radio apparatus, the use of which does not require approval where such equipment, electronic communications facilities and radio apparatus has been approved for use by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) or other competent standards body where the equipment complies with Type Approval; and the  circumstances under which the use of equipment, electronic communications facilities, radio apparatus and subscriber equipment does not require approval, including uses for research and development, demonstrations of prototypes and testing.

In terms of section 35 (1) of the Electronic Communications Act, (Act No. 36 of 2005) (ECA) the Authority is mandated to consider for approval, any type of electronic communications equipment or electronic communications facility, including radio apparatus, used or to be used in connection with the provision of electronic communications.  The current scope of equipment requiring Type Approval is very broad in that it comprises all types of equipment, electronic communications facilities and radio apparatus. Section 35(2) of the ECA, however, provides for the limitation of the scope by empowering the Authority to prescribe the types of equipment which does not require

ICASA in the spirit of section 35(2) of the ECA, read with Regulation 3(1) of the Type Approval regulations, initiated a project to review the Type Approval regulatory framework in order to determine the requirements for exempting certain equipment from the Type Approval process by 2017.

ICASA invited industry to make written input and on 14 December 2016 provided an opportunity for discussion around the input papers. The discussion was robust with some difficult questions asked of the industry by ICASA councillors and ICASA subject experts.

Companies which attended the public hearing and who made presentations were Intel, Telkom, the South African Radio League (SARL), SABC, the Square Kilometre Array and Apple.

All the presenter welcomed the ICASA approach.  There was general consensus that equipment that had already been type approved by ETSI and other competent accredited agencies should be exempted.  Intel suggested that ICASA should perhaps consider to set up alliances with other accredited bodies to ease the process. Equipment that are good candidates for type approval exemption  will still require the ICASA approved label. While this may be an administrative process ICASA will have to give consideration to this to ensure that the process is transparent and fast.

The SABC suggested that equipment should categorised  into three areas: Broadcast receivers, systems and equipment for content creation and test, measurement and laboratory  equipment and be exempted from Type Approval if they already comply with ETSI or CE (European Conformity) standards. They also proposed that wireless microphones should be exempted. ICASA councillor Peter Zimri said it could become a huge problem as various wireless microphones available on the world market and imported into South Africa use broadcast and other frequencies which are not designated in South Africa for that purpose  and could create a huge interference problem.

Telkom said that exemption of Type Approval would allow new technologies come to market must faster. They however also made the point that equipment must confirm the SABS and or EN standard speciation.

The South African Radio League argued that as radio amateurs are by nature experimenters, Type Approval would kill this prime objective of the hobby. It would be like regulating engineers in development laboratories and requiring them to Type Approve any new development before they could continue their development to the next level.  SARL’s Nico van Rensburg pointed out to the panel that current radio frequency spectrum regulations allow for ICASA to rule any equipment to be switched off should it create interference to any other licensed service, and that . “That in itself should be consideration for exemption.”

The SKA South Africa said the organisation as in favour of exemption of Type Approval for certain equipment, particular in the development stage. Their circumstances are different as new developments   are installed in their underground bunker which will not cause inference to any other services.  They however believe that Type Approval exemption should come with conformances to accepted standards such as the South African Bureau of Standards and ETSI.

The chairman of the Public Hearing, councillor Keabetswe Modimoeng, said that hearings like this are of great benefit as it allows discussion between industry and the regulatory authority. ICASA is clearly concerned to strike a fair balance by encouraging fast tracking developments but at the same time provide enough protection for other industry users and the public. He invited the industry to make further input and address concerns raised by ICASA during the discussions. The deadline is 13 January 2017.

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