The upload of software into radio equipment – Commission’s Clarifications

Internet of Things (IoT) has been included as one of the EU’s ICT Standardisation Priorities for Digital Single Market. All “radio equipment”, including its embedded software, as well as all radio products that are part of the IoT, must comply with the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU (RED).

The essential requirements applicable to all types of radio equipment that fall under the scope of the RED are:

  • That the product is safe;
  • That the product is not to be disturbed by, nor to disturb other equipment;
  • For it to use effectively and efficiently the radio spectrum where it operates.

The RED provides also the basis for additional requirements. It allows the Commission to adopt delegated acts that can define classes or categories of radio equipment to which those additional requirements apply.

Clarifications on the initiative of upload of software into radio equipment

Recently, European Commission has issued clarifications on the initiative of upload of software into radio equipment. These are supposed to clarify the initiatives in relation to Articles 3 (3) (i) and 4 of the RED, on combination of radio equipment with software uploaded after the placing of the equipment on the market.

The RED conferred to the Commissions the following prerogatives:

  • Under Article 3 (3) (i), the Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts that specify the classes or categories of radio equipment that should support certain features. Such features are meant to ensure that software can only be loaded into the radio equipment where its compliance with the radio equipment itself has been demonstrated;
  • Under Article 4, the Commission can issue delegated acts that specify the classes or categories of radio equipment whose manufacturers together with software manufacturers should provide information on the compliance of the intended combinations of radio equipment and software with the essential requirements set out in Article 3;
  • In addition, assuming that delegated acts are adopted, the Commission may adopt implementing acts laying down the operational rules.

So far, no delegated act has been adopted for the above specific purposes

Application of the RED when new/updated software is uploaded

After the radio equipment is placed on the market, a user may upload a new software, or update it. In general, in these cases compliance with RED requirements will not have to be re-assessed. However, it will have to be reassessed from scratch, if the radio equipment has been subject to any significant change.

How is software covered by the RED?

As the Commission is empowered to adopt acts concerning the compliance of radio equipment, the compliance of the products could be affected by the software upload.

If the Commission adopts acts in this area, manufacturers of radio equipment will have the following obligations:

  • To incorporate/install features concerned by the related Commission act and ensure that the user cannot upload software that can affect the compliance;
  • To provide specific information, in relation to the combination of radio and the  updated or new software.

Affect of the software onto the operation and compliance of radio equipment

The compliance is demonstrated at the moment of placing the radio equipment on the EU/EEA market. However, the compliance can be impacted by off-the-shelf electronics.

Software could affect some aspects of the radio equipment so to:

  • Enable/disable peripherals or components;
  • Allow an increased power consumption;
  • Alter the transmitting power of radio equipment, having an impact at the overall safety of the product.

The initiative relating to the upload of software into radio equipment

The initiative focuses on the radio equipment that has the capability to change its behaviour or be reprogrammed if a new software is uploaded. It assesses the extent of regulatory action that is necessary to be taken to ensure that radio equipment remains compliant, especially after the software has been uploaded.

It is important to emphasize that the Commission’s acts cannot go beyond the scope of the RED nor amend its provisions. The Commission has worked for 2 years with the Expert Group on Reconfigurable Radio Systems in order to cover all the aspects of this matter. The stakeholders have been also included in the discussion, while interested citizens and stakeholders will have the opportunity to share their comments on the Better Regulation portal.

Nika Gavrilovic

Regulatory Affairs department


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