Certifying your IoT Device

Tags: IoT
A picture of Ken-Tristan  Peterson
Written by
Ken-Tristan Peterson

The success of IoT solutions is not dependent only on the solution itself or even the business case behind it. Often totally forgotten or only considered as the last step before launching is certification.

Whether you are a cellular device manufacturer yourself, or you are using devices from a third party, it's crucial to follow the certification rules set in place in your target countries.

From the article below, you'll learn why certification should be considered during the product or business design phase.

Certification layers

Certification involves different authorities who need and want to make sure your device is working according to established standards. These can be divided into three main layers.

Regulatory certifications

The first step is to make sure your device will be allowed for circulation in a particular target country. In Europe, cellular devices need to follow the CE (European Conformity) certifications. In the United States, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) standard is regulating the radio, television and phone industries. IC (Industry Canada) is a similar certification agency for Canada.

These standards make sure that the devices comply with health, environmental and safety regulations.

Telecommunication certifications

While the first layer is for all products in general, then for cellular networks, there are additional standards and certification models. In Europe, this is regulated by GCF certification. In the United States, PTCRB certification is followed for mobile communication technologies including 2G, 3G, 4G and new LPWAN technologies.

GCF and PTCRB cover testing based on 3GPP standard, GSMA standards, antenna performance, the SIM or eSIM functionality and more.

Telecommunication standards confirm device interoperability across different networks to ensure that there are not devices causing network interference or damage to the network.

Operator certification

In addition to government and network certifications, the last step is to check if the intended operator network has any additional certification needs or preferences. It is common for US Tier 1 operators to request in-house certifications on top of the previously mentioned ones.

Operator certifications typically perform specific tests related to their particular network configuration and network parameters. This confirms that devices on their network will not cause issues, for example signalling storms, or negatively impact the performance of an operator’s network.

How do operator certifications work?

Government and also cellular network certifications are quite straight forward and more often considered. Still, operator certifications come as a surprise for many.

Operator certifications can be a challenge, as every operator is different. You may want to use the same device on multiple networks or want the device to switch between networks in some conditions. Therefore you would have to carry out the process with each operator.

Furthermore, some operators only need certified devices for certain radio access technologies. For example, AT&T only certifies devices based on 5G NR, LTE, LTE-M, and NB-IoT technologies.

Operators firstly emphasize the certification of cellular modules. The cellular module, which is in direct communication with the networks, must be following the operator specifications.

Certifying the cellular module is a complicated process. Therefore many cellular module manufacturers are partnering up with these network operators and conducting the tests themselves. So as a device manufacturer, it would be easier to choose a pre-certified cellular module for my product.

For example, T-Mobile has a list of certified modules, chipsets and devices.

But even in the case of using a pre-certified cellular module, you may need to certify your whole device. These steps should be more manageable if an approved cellular module is used.

The process is different for every operator and can change at any time. We suggest you always contact the operator and verify the information.

Some links to get you started with operator certifications:

Operator certifications are more often enforced in the US and Canada. In Europe, the certification process is less strict for the most part.

As you can see, certification is an unavoidable step for device manufacturers but also businesses using third party devices. It would be wise to plan the certification process ahead of or as part of product development. This helps to avoid complicated certification processes or delays in your production.

If you have any questions or need clarifications about the certification process, please feel free to contact us sales[at]1ot.com.