FCC Touts New RF Measuring Facility

FCC Touts New RF Measuring Facility
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The FCC's new RF Anechoic Measurement Chamber in Columbia, Md., is open for business.
The facility cost about three-quarters of a million dollars. It gives the technical staff the ability to conduct more sophisticated and repeatable testing to measure RF emitted by devices regulated by the agency. ("Anechoic" means neither having nor producing echoes.)
Previously, many of these tests were done outdoors, where it's tough to compensate for RF in the environment, said Edmond Thomas, chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology, and Dr. Rashmi Doshi, chief of the FCC's lab division.
Chairman Michael Powell said as he unveiled the chamber Tuesday, "We're not just talking about broadcast RF anymore." He listed devices for new technologies tested at the lab, including WiFi, ultra wideband, broadband over power lines, GPS, cell phones, communications radios as well as wall-penetrating radars and wireless meter readers.
"We realized we were losing pace" with the testing capabilities needed for newer devices, the chairman said.
The agency needed more sophisticated measurement tools to measure RF output of devices at increasingly lower power levels. And it needed a way to verify claims made by manufacturers about whether devices fall within allowable RF limits.
Without such tools, Powell said, "We're at the mercy of companies who can make data look a certain way. ... You better have something, otherwise you're just an agency listening to lawyers."
The new chamber is part of the commission's "Excellence in Engineering" Program, intended to enhance its technical and engineering expertise.
Powell said the technical staff at the commission has increased about 15 percent since the program began a year ago. The annual budget for the Columbia facility is also around $750,000.

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