One thing that is important to understand is that “global” does not mean "everywhere."
There is no such thing as a "global certification." Each product must be evaluated for certification requirements in each region where it will be sold, as there are different cellular bands, different certifying bodies, and different requirements by region. A cellular product may or may not work outside its country of purchase without being certified for sale elsewhere.
Going global is a very long and arduous process with lots of rules, forms, and governments to work with. Therefore, a set of well-defined use cases for the cellular product will determine what “global” means in the context of the product.
If your company is developing a new product and envisions selling globally, here are a few steps your development team can take:
If the product will travel a lot between regions (for example, tracking on intercontinental freighters), the design requirements rule out large suites of SKUs as well as the ability to disperse certification work over a longer timeframe.
Use cases that require multi-region usage also bring new challenges: cellular radio modules have to have available bands in the operating regions, further narrowing the available module options. Regardless of the product’s use cases, it is important to set those use cases concretely so further research and planning can start.
Day one planning for a new cellular product should address three things:
Data rate and usage determine the cellular category (Cat) going into the product. Higher Cats allow for larger amounts of data to be transmitted at faster data rates. This comes at the trade-off of higher power consumptions and more expensive radio modules.
Product regions are extremely important from a development side. Radio modules come in families, so to simplify the circuit design and reduce costs, it is best to stay within that family. Hence, region choice determines the viability of each module fabricator.
In addition, common operating frequencies may exist between countries as well, so setting operating regions informs the development team of the product’s antenna design.
There is also the matter of wireless certification. Many regions have common certification tests, so choosing regions provides a realistic understanding of the timeline as well as how much paperwork needs to be filed to regulatory boards. For example, the United States and Canada dole out FCC ID and IC numbers, respectively, but behind each certification is effectively the same set of tests. Likewise, the European Union’s Radio Equipment Directive (RED) sets testing standards for the EU, but additional countries, primarily those in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, also accept products which conform to RED.
Passing lab tests for these two certifications allows products to be sold in more places than just the US and EU. However, be aware countries with more developed markets such as China, South Korea, and Mexico may require additional tests on top of the EU or FCC-mandated ones.
Once the data rate, data usage, and operating regions have been addressed, take stock of existing resources. Placing a cellular product on the global market is a huge step, so be certain you consider the following points before moving forward:
Polling existing documentation from past products as well as people with expertise in design verification makes it easier to set benchmarks for product development. If neither of those resources exists in-house, consult other white papers from leading companies in the industry or hire a consulting firm.
Digi has developed deep expertise in our 30+ years of business in connected devices. Although SmartSense by Digi is the most recent product line to receive a rework treatment, the rise of 5G has made us revisit all of our existing cellular products for updates to meet our global organization's goals.
It is imperative companies looking to enter this space have talent on their development teams familiar with cellular technology and how to go global with it. Digi WDS is a world class expert in this area. Partner with Digi WDS and we will be there from the start of your program through production and launch to ensure proper planning and budgeting while steering clear of all the common mistakes.