At the Last Moment: EU Commission Stops Wi-Fi Market Access Blockade!

The Wi-Fi industry has hotly anticipated this day for months: After initially downplaying the problem and months of unfathomable denial in Brussels, the EU Commission yesterday—just five days before the deadline—averted the impending EU-wide suspension of sales of Wi-Fi products with the introduction of an interim solution.

The background in brief: The dilemma originated with the implementation of the new EU “Radio Equipment Directive, 2014/53/EU” (abbreviated RED). From next Tuesday, any radio communications devices sold within the EU must comply with this directive. In order to satisfy this directive, however, the industry needs new, harmonized standards. Without them, manufacturers are unable to confirm that their products conform with the directive by means of self-declaration and apply the all-important CE mark.

And here lies the crux of the problem: Many of the roughly 200 new RED standards have not been delivered in time. Just one example is the standard EN 301 893, which regulates transmissions in the 5-GHz band and is thus vital for Wi-Fi manufacturers. A far-reaching supply stop for Wi-Fi products from all manufacturers within the EU threatened to come into effect on June 13, 2017. (For detailed information about the exact background, see my previous blog post from December 2016.)

Protection for Wi-Fi Products

With yesterdays edition of the European Union’s Official Journal (OJEU), this scenario has finally been averted. As a result of public pressure, the Commission conceded at the last possible moment and published an interim solution for the 5-GHz standard, which now incorporates the former R&TTE standard. This means that at least the manufacturers of Wi-Fi solutions, including us, are now able to continue shipping their products as usual.

At the Last Moment: EU Commission Stops Wi-Fi Market Access Blockade!

No Solution for Other Standards

While we can breathe a sigh of relief, the lack of harmonized standards remains a problem in other sectors. A current list from the European Commission reveals that, despite huge efforts by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the Commission—which is admittedly now working much faster—a number of important radio standards are still not in place even as the transitional period from the R&TTE to the RED comes to an end.

Just why the EU Commission refused simply to extend the transitional period, as demanded by politicians, industry associations and companies for months now, remains a mystery. That would have given us a tidy (!) solution for all of the industries and missing standards.

Exemplary: the German Government

The German government was much bolder. Concerned that their efforts in Brussels would come to nothing, they promptly adopted an interim clause into the new Radio Equipment Act (FuAG), which deviates significantly from the RED. (The FuAG implements the RED in German law.)

In this transitional provision, the German government made it clear that all manufacturers may continue to use the former R&TTE standards until the tardy RED standards are finally in place. For the German market, at least, the sale of all types of radio products had thus been secured.

The German Ministry of Economics made an emphatic effort to protect the economy, despite opposition by the EU Commission. This kind of political pragmatism would have done us the world of good in Europe, too.

PS: Cellular products are also affected by the missing standards. A special clause in the RED, however, allows manufacturers to continue to ship these products – including routers and mobile phones – without any restrictions.

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