Telecommunications Equipment Regulatory Process

1. Overview

International organizations, such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), bring governments and industry together to create voluntary international technical standards for telecommunications equipment. Individual governments then base their domestic technical regulatory standards on these recommendations from the international community.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is the government department responsible for regulating telecommunications equipment in Canada. Section 5 of the Radiocommunication Act and Section 69.3 of the Telecommunications Act give the Minister of Industry the authority to develop technical standards and to ensure that telecommunications equipment 1 meets these standards.

Compliance with domestic technical regulatory standards is necessary in order to prevent radiocommunication interference, harm to the Canadian public telecommunications networks, and to ensure the safety of personnel working on telecommunications facilities and the safety of users. All telecommunications equipment entering Canada must meet the applicable ISED technical standards and marking requirements.

Manufacturers, importers, distributors and vendors have a legal obligation to ensure that all ISED regulated telecommunications equipment deployed in the Canadian marketplace has been certified or declared to comply with Canadian regulatory standards and that the equipment sold in the Canadian marketplace continues to meet those standards during the entire product life-cycle. Where testing shows that equipment does not comply with an applicable standard, these entities are responsible for taking prompt and effective remedial action.

There are many stages in the end-to-end regulatory process for telecommunications equipment. Table 1.0 lists the stages from when international standards are developed, to when the product is deployed and market surveillance is carried out to verify that products in the marketplace comply with relevant standards. The responsible players for each stage are also listed.

Table 1.0 - Stages of the Telecommunications Equipment Regulatory Process
International standards development Governments/Industry
Domestic regulatory standards development Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada / Industry
Conformity assessment scheme ISED
Product designManufacturers
Conformity assessmentCertification Bodies/Manufacturers
Market surveillanceCertification bodies / ISED

2. ISED Telecommunications equipment technical regulatory standards

While manufacturers of telecommunications equipment must design, build and test their products to meet industry standards for performance and interoperability, their products must also meet the technical regulatory standards developed and approved by ISED.

In Canada, telecommunications equipment is categorized as:

  • Telecommunications apparatus;
  • Category I 2 radio and broadcasting equipment; or,
  • Category II 3  radio, broadcasting and interference causing equipment.

The technical regulatory standards pertaining to each of the three categories of equipment are:

1. Telecommunications apparatus -

CS–03 : Compliance Specification for Terminal Equipment, Terminal Systems, Network Protection Devices, Connection Arrangements, and Hearing Aids Compatibility.This specification is developed through the Terminal Attachment Program Advisory Committee (TAPAC).

2. Category I radio and broadcasting equipment -

The Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) advises on the development of Radio Standards Specifications (RSS) and Broadcasting Equipment Technical Standards (BETS). These standards can be found on the Category I Equipment Standards List.

3.  Category II radio, broadcasting and interference-causing equipment -

ISED adopts Interference Causing Equipment Standards (ICES) based on international standards developed by the Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques (CISPR).The Category II Radio Standards Specifications (RSS), Broadcasting Equipment Technical Standards (BETS) and ICES are found on the Category II Equipment Standards List.

The complete list of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada standards and procedures are found on the Official publications website.

3. Conformity assessment schemes

Telecommunications equipment must meet regulatory standards set by ISED before it can be imported, sold or used in Canada. Responsible parties 4 have to demonstrate that their telecommunications equipment meets the appropriate standards.

There are three conformity assessment schemes for telecommunications equipment in Canada: Certification, Declaration of Conformity (DoC) and Supplier's Declaration of Conformity (SDoC); with Certification being the most stringent and SDoC the least stringent.

  1. Certification is the conformity assessment scheme used for Category I radio and broadcasting equipment. A Certification Body ( CB) issues a certificate based on the assessment of the test report produced by a manufacturer selected testing laboratory. Certification must be performed by a domestic CB recognized by ISED, a foreign CB recognized by ISED under a Mutual Recognition Agreement/Arrangement ( MRA or, in rare instances, the ISED Certification and Engineering Bureau (CEB). The testing laboratories used for Category I equipment testing are now required to be recognized by ISED (as of March 15, 2019). After a CB has certified a Category I equipment, the CB submits the certification file along with test reports, contact information for a Canadian representative and a listing fee to the CEB. If the CEB is satisfied with the information submitted, it will list the Category I equipment on the Radio Equipment List (REL). CBs are required to retain test reports for a minimum of 10 years.
  2. Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is the conformity assessment scheme used for telecommunications apparatus that connect directly to the public switched telephone network. Telecommunications apparatus must be tested by a domestic testing laboratory recognized by ISED or a foreign testing laboratory recognized by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada under an MRA. A responsible party declares that its telecommunications apparatus meets the CS–03 specification and submits the declaration along with the test reports, contact information for a Canadian representative and registration fees to the CEB. If the CEB is satisfied with the information submitted, it will register the telecommunications apparatus and add it to the Telecommunication Apparatus Registry (TAR). The declaring party is required to retain test reports for a minimum of 10 years.
  3. Supplier's Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) is the conformity assessment scheme used for Category II radio and broadcasting equipment. The responsible party tests the Category II equipment and ensures that it meets the appropriate technical standards and labels the equipment as required by the standards. Equipment testing does not have to be performed by a recognized ISED testing laboratory. Category II equipment is exempt from certification and registration.

Figure 1.0: Provides a logical flow for the deployment of telecommunications equipment in the Canadian marketplace, from design to market surveillance

La figure 1.0 donne le cheminement logique du déploiement de l'équipement de télécommunications sur le marché canadien, de la conception à la surveillance du marché
Description of Figure 1

Illustrates how Category I & II radio equipment, along with telecom apparatus, must meet the applicable conformity assessment regime, e.g. certification, supplier's declaration of compliance or declaration of compliance. Once they meet the applicable conformity assessment regime, Category I radio equipment is published on the radio equipment list (REL) and the telecom apparatus is published on the telecom equipment list (TEL) - there is no requirement for the listing of Category II equipment with the department. Once published, they along with the Category II equipment, are imported for distribution and sale on the Canadian market. Market surveillance follows thereafter.

4. Streamlined market access
Mutual Recognition Agreements/Arrangements (MRAs)

The purpose of the MRA is to expedite the trade of telecommunications equipment. In the past, most countries including Canada, required telecommunications equipment (imported or locally produced) to be tested and certified within their own territories. With the globalization of trade in telecommunications equipment, exporters consider it redundant to conduct conformity assessment in the importing country since these assessments have already been done in the exporting country as part of the testing and production processes. The WTO considers the requirement for conformity assessment in both the importing and exporting country to be a technical barrier to trade.

MRAs address this problem by enabling the participating countries to mutually recognize the competence of each other's testing laboratories and certification bodies and subsequently, mutually accept the conformity assessment results (test reports and certification). This expedites the approval process and results in faster times to market and savings to the manufacturer in regulatory compliance costs.

Canada has signed or endorsed the following MRAs:

  • Canada/European Community MRA;
  • Canada/European Economic Area-European Free Trade Association (Iceland Liechtenstein, and Norway) MRA;
  • Canada/Switzerland MRA;
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Telecommunications and Information Working Group (APEC TEL) MRA; and
  • Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) MRA.

In addition, Canada continues to negotiate MRAs with other economies.

5.   Market surveillance

Market surveillance is conducted to promote continued compliance of telecommunications equipment with applicable ISED regulatory standards, in order to prevent radiocommunication interference, harm to the Canadian public telecommunication networks and to ensure the safety of telecommunications personnel and users.

In the case of telecommunications equipment that requires certification, such as Category I radio and broadcasting equipment, CBs are required to conduct market surveillance on at least 5% of the equipment they certify and on at least 1% of equipment subject to radio frequency exposure requirements outlined in Radio Standard Specification-102 (RSS-102), Radio Frequency Exposure Compliance of Radiocommunication Apparatus (All Frequency Bands). If a device fails to comply with the applicable regulatory requirements, CBs are required to notify ISED immediately and take all possible actions to resolve the issue.

The roles and responsibilities of CBs in market surveillance are specified in CB-02, Recognition Criteria, and Administrative and Operational Requirements Applicable to Certification Bodies for the Certification of Radio Apparatus to Industry Canada's Standards and Specifications.

As an additional check on the integrity of the process, ISED conducts a small number of audits each year on Category I radio and broadcasting equipment certified by CBs. ISED also conducts market surveillance on a small sample of telecommunications equipment that does not require certification (telecommunications apparatus and Category II radio and broadcasting equipment).


Footnote 1

The term "telecommunications equipment" is used as a generic term covering telecommunications apparatus (terminal equipment which connects directly to the public switched telephone network), radio equipment (equipment intended for, or capable of being used for, radiocommunication), broadcasting equipment (radio and TV equipment intended for broadcasting services) and interference-causing equipment (equipment, other than radio receivers, that causes or is capable of causing interference to radiocommunications).

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Footnote 2

Category I equipment comprises radio and broadcasting equipment subject to technical regulations for which certification is required, such as cordless phones, cell phones and television broadcasting transmitters.

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Footnote 3

Category II equipment comprises radio, broadcasting and interference-causing equipment, subject to technical regulations for which certification is not required, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) receivers, television sets and fluorescent lights.

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Footnote 4

Responsible party is a generic term for an entity such as a certificate holder, manufacturer, testing laboratory, certification body, supplier, distributor, service provider or importer that is responsible for registered and/or certified telecommunications equipment. The responsible party is the party which responds to inquires, provides test samples, test reports, and/or quality control data upon request by the department

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