[Battlemesh] FCC Contacts about Wifi Regulations

Jonathan Morton chromatix99 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 5 08:12:05 CEST 2016

> We need to be able to have Mesh Extenders imported into practically any country at short notice, e.g., if we succeed in having the Red Cross/Crescent movement adopt them.  
> Where it gets complicated is if we have the <insert random small pacific, african, european, south american, middle-eastern or other country here> regulator and customs people want a rapid assurance that the devices cannot be operated except on some band (which they might authorise for us at short notice to meet a humanitarian need). 

“Complicated” isn’t the word.  “Fundamentally incompatible requirements” is.

On the one hand, you need to be able to “rapidly reconfigure” your hardware for a different frequency band, at short notice, from generic stock, and without making actual hardware changes.

On the other hand, you anticipate needing to be able to show that the preceding action *cannot* be done to these same devices once deployed in the field.

You have a big problem here.  Something has to give.

As a related problem, consumer-grade APs are already easy to physically transport between Europe, America and Asia.  I’ve literally done that myself on occasion while visiting; I have a habit of bringing a reasonably complete computing environment with me wherever I go.

But my European AP is not FCC-compliant, because it is trivially capable of transmitting on frequencies that are not permitted in the USA (eg. 2.4GHz channels 12 & 13).  What’s more, it cannot be made FCC-compliant, even temporarily, because the firmware is locked down so that I can only select from European regulatory domains.  I suspect there’s a jumper somewhere enforcing this.

I think the correct solution is as follows:

1: Allow software-level reconfiguration of the radios.  Make it as easy as possible to select the correct regulatory domain, using geolocation if practical.  Before selling/deploying hardware, set it up correctly for its intended region, or for a failsafe composite region which is compliant in all of the most common domains.

2: Make the end-user liable for the emissions of his hardware, if he has explicitly set an incorrect regulatory domain or made hardware modifications (eg. to increase its power output).  Place a prominent notice, as Juliusz suggested, informing the end-user of this responsibility.

This solves both problems: freedom and flexibility is retained, and the FCC still has a way to enforce the regulations (with boots on the ground).

 - Jonathan Morton

More information about the Battlemesh mailing list