On December 4, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) released an item revisiting its radiofrequency (RF) emission rules for the first time since 2013 and seeking comment on proposals to, among other things, expand the range of frequencies subject to RF exposure limits. The item comes at a critical time as efforts to deploy 5G products and services gain momentum. All five Commissioners unanimously voted to:
affirm existing RF emission exposure limits and terminate its inquiry into revising these standards further;
amend implementing rules, including criteria for exemption from RF exposure evaluation, requirements for establishing compliance with RF exposure limits, and methods to mitigate RF exposure risks;
seek comment on proposals to adopt additional RF emission exposure limits for devices operating in gigahertz frequencies and extend these limits to terahertz frequencies, as well as seek comment on proposals to permit wireless power transfer (WPT) equipment under Part 15 and Part 18 of the Commission’s rules subject to compliance with specified exposure limits; and
affirm the Commission’s prior ruling that the pinnae (the outer ears) are considered extremities for purposes of the agency’s RF emission exposure rules.
The FCC’s action upholds the sufficiency of existing regulations and terminates the inquiry into the need to revise these standards, finding that there is no basis in the record to conclude these standards need to be revised. However, the technical proposals in the FCC’s action will affect a broad swath of stakeholders, including wireless carriers, device manufacturers, broadcasters, satellite earth station operators, microwave operators, medical equipment manufacturers, and innovators developing connected devices. Industry engagement during the next steps of the proceeding will be critical, particularly as next-generation 5G technologies are developed and deployed.