So the other day my pal Dave Mathis calls me up to talk about how some people don’t seem to understand the FCC requirements on certain wireless chips. See, a lot of people hear “unlicensed” ISM (industrial scientific and medical) bands and think that means “unregulated.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. What “unlicensed” means is that the end user does not have to register your wireless device to use it. But the FCC does put power level restrictions and harmonic spur requirements on your gizmo. And it is not just for the radio, it is for the whole system including the power supply. So if you have some sloppy switching power supply churning out interference, you will fail your FCC certification, even if you use a wonderful Atmel wireless chip for the radio.
Selling uncertified wireless gear can get you in trouble. The FCC puts a $10,000 fine per gizmo on infringers. That adds up pretty quick. Now it seems like the FCC is ignoring a lot of the wireless systems coming into the country without certification. And you are welcome to take your chances just slapping a chip on a board and hoping you would pass if you ever go to get certified.
Dave tells me the testing costs about $10,000, so it is not cheap. But if you want to be sure you are squeaky clean and legal, just buy a pre-built module. Atmel makes them under the name ZigBit. They are pre-certified so you can sell them without worrying about the FCC busting you. You get an MCU, the radio and power and everything you need for low-volume wireless systems – all in a well-built and tested module.