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New FCC Rules Block Development of Prototyping Board Tessel 2
The new Tessel 2.
The new Tessel 2

Note: This story has been updated from the original to clarify the effect the FCC’s rulings have on projects like this one.

From the beginning of June new FCC rules came into effect in the United States for Wi-Fi devices such as Access Points. The rules were designed to ensure that devices were secured so that users couldn’t operate them at non-compliant frequencies or using too high a power.

In response hardware vendors started locking down their hardware so end users couldn’t install custom firmware, such as OpenWRT. This has had a knock on effect throughout the world, as these changes have affected routers not just in the United States but also in Europe and the east.

The ruling has also had an effect on development and prototyping products. The most recent project affected: The Tessel 2 board, which is based on OpenWRT and thus runs directly afoul of the ruling.

While the FCC rules are in place primarily to govern Internet routers and switches, Maker devices such as the Tessel 2 are subject to the same FCC oversight and testing requirements.

Last week Technical Machine sent out a status email to those that had pre-ordered the new board, and amongst the good news — they’d just received their first run of manufactured hardware — was some bad:

FCC Issues Blocking Release: We have a software issue preventing us from completing FCC certification. We’re working actively to solve this, as this blocks us from shipping Tessel. Read more about it on our tracking issue. If you have OpenWRT experience, we’d love your help! Reach out to team@technical.io.

The team’s post on OpenWRT forum requesting help so far has been met with silence,

Can someone can help us troubleshoot or discover exactly what failure mode we are running into? Are there any other test modes or things we should be doing besides monitor mode/packetspammer? It would be a huge help, as this is the last blocker before we can move forward to full production.

Unfortunately this is probably the first of many incidents where the FCC’s rulings cause problems for Makers producing development boards.

The new rules are targeted at mass manufactured routers and Wi-Fi Access Points, not microcontroller boards like the Tessel. But devices like the Tessel 2 can clearly conflict with rules designed to keep shared bandwidth clean or secure.

Though complying with FCC guidelines can introduce burdensome costs to product design and delay shipping of many radio-based products, it is a reality of doing business.

3 thoughts on “New FCC Rules Block Development of Prototyping Board Tessel 2

  1. Their FCC problem doesn’t seem to be related to that ruling. Their problem is that in order for their device to be tested, they need to be able to generate a test transmission without any other wireless equipment present. Pretty much any wireless device out there has some official way to do this, but they’re using a Mediatek chip so I guess if documentation on how to do FCC testing on it exists they don’t have access to it.

  2. This is straight from Tessel: “Tessel 2 is seeking FCC approval. Tessel 2 runs OpenWRT, a distribution of Linux designed as open firmware for routers with very granular control over wireless capabilities. Currently Tessel 2 is stuck in FCC approval pending its demonstration of being able to generate packets in the 802.11n range.”

    So WHY are you making up an entirely different story? The issue that Tessel is facing in one entirely of NOT BEING ABLE TO get the chip to respond to their commands properly, NOTHING to do with OpenWRT at all, since other people are not facing this issue, but most likely an issue with their MT76 driver.

    I’ve noticed A LOT of stories on Make lately that are nothing less than trash journalism. With the prices that you charge for everything you sell, you should certainly be able to hire some competent writers that can actually UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY.

  3. This Latin inscription appears on a building in Washington DC:

    Populus faciens effercio. Lets evertat illud pro eis

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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

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