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Radio Equipment Directive (RED) – Directive for radio equipment in the EEA

Modern WiFi router on a clean desk, with cables connected. (A radio device in operation.)

What is the RED?

The abbreviation „RED“ stands for „Radio Equipment Directive“. The legal act has the designation „2014/53/EU“ in the Official Journal of the EU.

Key facts about the RED:

  • The RED replaced the R&TTE Directive.
  • Its application has been binding throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) since 13.06.2016.
  • Its scope is limited exclusively to radio equipment.
  • It is in line with the requirements of the „New Legislative Framework (NLF)“.
  • The RED extension directive, (EU) 2022/2380, published at the end of 2022, is applicable from 28.12.2024. Among other things, it updates the basic requirements of Article 3.

In summary, a core objective of the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) is to create a uniform regulatory framework for radio equipment in the internal market. In addition to information on standards with regard to equipment and safety, this should also enable economic operators to place technical products within the scope of the RED on the market throughout the European Economic Area without any problems.

Transposition into national law by the member states had to take place by June 13, 2016, and a transition period for radio equipment newly appearing on the EU market ended on June 12, 2017. The RED Directive 2014/53/EU replaced Directive 1999/5/EC („R&TTE“) when it came into force.


„Essential requirements“
according to the Radio Equipment Directive (RED)

In contrast to other countries, radio products are not approved by third parties according to technical standards before being made available on the European market. Manufacturers are obliged to demonstrate the conformity of a product on their own responsibility according to „Essential Requirements“. According to Article 3, this must always be done in accordance with the following requirements:

  • Protection of health and safety of humans, domestic animals and livestock (compliance with safety standards according to Article 3.1a)
  • Appropriate level of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC / 2014/30/EU / Article 3.1b)
  • Effective and efficient use of radio frequencies (Article 3.2)

For certain categories or classes of radio equipment, the Radio Equipment Directive additionally applies the provisions of Article 3.3 and, as of December 2024, the new Article 3.4. These essential requirements, marked with lowercase letters, define the following aspects:

  1. Compatibility with accessories (exclusion of equipment covered by Art. 3 (4))
  2. Interworking via networks with other radio equipment
  3. EU-wide interconnection via interfaces of appropriate type
  4. Prevention of network damage / misuse of network resources
  5. Protection of personal data and privacy
  6. Protection against fraud
  7. Ensuring access to emergency services
  8. Facilitating operation for people with disabilities
  9. Ensuring that only software that has been demonstrated to be compliant in combination with the radio equipment can be loaded
  10. Specifications for the charging function

Delegated legal acts of the EU Commission determine which elements of this subgroup apply to specific equipment classes. Since the RED adopts references of the predecessor directive according to Art. 50, we distinguish between legal acts of different origin for Art. 3.3 EU. Previously, requirements were activated according to sub-items d, e, f, g, and Art. 3.4 with different application dates.


How is the term radio equipment defined?

Within Directive 2014/53/EU, the term radio equipment means an „electrical or electronic product intended to transmit and/or receive radio waves for the purpose of radiocommunication and/or radiolocation, or an electrical or electronic product requiring accessories, such as an antenna, to enable it to transmit and/or receive radio waves for the purpose of radiocommunication and/or radiolocation.“ (Article 2 RED)

It is also important to note that according to Article 2 of the RED, radio waves include all electromagnetic waves with frequencies below 3,000 GHz. Thus, the overall scope of Directive 2014/53/EU is very broad. These definitions are essential for all economic operators involved, such as distributors, manufacturers and importers, to check whether and to what extent the RED is relevant for them or their end products.


Scope of the RED
– to which equipment does the directive apply?

In principle, the RED is applicable to almost all radio equipment (transmitters and receivers), unless they are explicitly excluded. Individual examples are:

  • Radio transmitters / receivers
  • Systems with WiFi function (router / repeater)
  • Systems with Bluetooth® function
  • Systems with NFC function
  • Systems with navigation technology (GPS / Galileo / GNSS)
  • Systems with ZigBee modules (sensors / automation / smart home)
  • Smartphones / cell phones
  • Remote controls / radio transmitters (TV / Garage / Short Range Devices)

Directive 2014/53/EU is also applicable to combined equipment. In this case, it is often necessary to check on a case-by-case basis to what extent the combination of a radio product with a non-radio product or the combination of several radio products (combined equipment, multi-radio equipment) has an influence on the device characteristics. Depending on the type and extent of integration, a completely new conformity test may be necessary for the end product.


Which products are not covered by the RED?

Article 1 as well as Annex I of the RED explicitly mention several product areas with radio technologies to which Directive 2014/53/EU does not apply. These include the following examples:

  • Marine equipment according to Directive 96/98/EC
  • Aeronautical equipment (radio equipment of manned/unmanned aircraft)
  • Test modules in research and development facilities
  • Amateur radio equipment (converted equipment as well as kits for equipment)
  • Radio equipment used exclusively for activities related to public safety (BOS radio / police / military)

Furthermore, wired products for telecommunications do not fall within the scope of the Radio Equipment Directive. If the products / components placed on the market within the EU do not fall into the above categories, the RED is very likely to apply to them.


RED infographic: Coverage by product type at a glance.The RED scope at a glance: These product types are covered.


Which directives apply in addition to RED?

Depending on the type of product, it may be subject to several EU directives. For example, for a medical device with a radio interface, the Medical Devices Regulation is relevant in addition to the RED. In addition, it is always necessary to check to what extent horizontal directives apply to a product, e.g. the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) and, in the near future, the Cyber Resilience Regulation.

The Radio Equipment Directive refers in Article 3.1 to the Low Voltage and EMC Directives Thus, it refers to the essential requirements defined that a radio product must fulfil, as outlined in that document. By dispensing with firmly defined voltage limits, the requirements of the RED go beyond those of the Low Voltage Directive.


Radio Equipment Directive – ways to the declaration of conformity

If economic operators such as manufacturers, importers or distributors want to place a product on the market in the EEA, the manufacturer must demonstrate in advance of the market authorization that the products with the radio technologies contained therein comply with the requirements of the RED. Depending on the initial situation, this can be done by the manufacturer or in cooperation with a recognized testing body (Notified Body).

For this purpose, the directive provides for the following conformity assessment procedures:

  • Internal production control (assessment module A / Annex II RED)

    In this assessment procedure, the manufacturer confirms that his product or the manufacturing processes used to produce it meet all the requirements of the Radio Equipment Directive. The technical documentation and an EU declaration of conformity are kept available or issued by the manufacturer, and the radio equipment is CE marked by the manufacturer.

  • EU type examination and conformity assessment based on internal production control (assessment module B and C / Annex III RED)

    The manufacturer applies to a Notified Body of his choice for the examination of the technical design of a radio equipment. If, after examination of the application, the Notified Body comes to the conclusion that the presented type meets the specifications or parts of the specifications of the RED, an EU Type Examination Certificate is issued for the equipment. During the subsequent internal production control, the manufacturer must ensure that each radio system manufactured is identical in construction to the type described in the EU type examination certificate and that all the requirements of Directive 2014/53/EU are met. Changes to the product or the process must be communicated announced to the Notified Body, who decides whether a reassessment is necessary. Finally, the manufacturer issues an EU declaration of conformity for his product. The manufactured radio equipment is provided with the CE marking.

  • Full quality assurance (assessment module H / Annex IV RED)

    In this conformity procedure, a manufacturer must declare to a Notified Body of his choice that his own quality assurance system is applied for the design, manufacture, testing and final inspection of the respective products, which ensures the conformity of all products with the requirements of the RED. After a positive assessment procedure including on-site inspection, the quality assurance system is approved by the Notified Body. This authorizes the manufacturer to carry out conformity assessments for the above-mentioned products in accordance with assessment module H. An existing certification according to EN ISO 9001:2015 is advantageous.

    In addition to the relevant analysis of the system, this conformity assessment procedure also includes a monitoring mechanism. This provides that the Notified Body may carry out both planned audits and unannounced on-site inspections of the approved quality assurance system to ensure continued compliance with all requirements of the RED. The manufacturer shall grant the auditors full access to premises and documentation for this purpose. Finally, the manufacturer shall issue EU declarations of conformity for his products covered by Annex IV. The radio equipment shall bear the CE marking in conjunction with the identification number of the Notified Body.


Radio Equipment Directive (RED)
– Harmonized standards and their role

If harmonized standards are used for a radio equipment to prove the essential requirements according to Article 3.2 (radio spectrum), Article 3.3 and in future Article 3.4, manufacturers are free to choose the conformity assessment procedure that suits them best. If no harmonized standards are available or if they are not (fully) applied, a Notified Body must be involved. Part of the conformity assessment is therefore either an EU type examination (Annex III RED) or the existence of an approved full quality assurance system (Annex IV RED).

Important: For the conformity assessment of a product according to the requirements of Directive 2014/53/EU – apart from the internal production control – the cooperation with an independent Notified Body is mandatory. An overview of the institutions that are officially allowed to perform assessments and testing projects in this function can be found in the NANDO database of the EU Commission.


Frequency use (Art. 10.10)

If there are restrictions on commissioning or if certain requirements must be met for the authorization of use, the packaging shall indicate the Member State or geographical area in which the respective restrictions on use apply. More details are provided in the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1354.

As an auxiliary tool, the ’old‘ classification of radio equipment into Class 1 and Class 2 has been retained and continued in terms of content.

The reason for these requirements is the fact that despite vehement harmonization efforts, frequency allocations will continue to have national characteristics in the future. The RED does not represent a frequency harmonization directive. Frequency management will remain under national control in the future.


Adaptations of the RED Directive: legal acts at a glance

To ensure that the specifications for and requirements of radio equipment keep pace with technical developments, several amendments have already been adopted at EU level, albeit without affecting the content of the directive. An overview of these delegated acts can be found on the EU’s RED page.

One of the latest delegated acts to the Radio Equipment Directive unlocked basic cybersecurity requirements under Article 3.3. The main issue here is what risks arise in the area of cybersecurity or what measures are to be taken to prevent digital fraud attempts and to protect the privacy of EU citizens.

About the author and this article

cetecom advanced is a global testing and certification service provider and part of the RWTÜV Group.

We are a state-recognized testing laboratories that is accredited worldwide for a wide range of testing services. With our testing services in accordance with international regulations, we help to bring electrical/electronic products safely onto the international market. Furthermore, we carry out product approvals in over 180 countries and renowned brands from all industries have been relying on our expertise since 1993.

This technical article was written according to strict editorial standards. All information contained in the article is the result of careful research on the subject. All specialist articles have been checked by the relevant specialist departments in our laboratories, which are responsible for testing and approving a wide range of radio products on a daily basis.

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