Radio technology is used worldwide, with a big variety of applications. Radio equipment and the use of radio spectrum are subject to regulations, which are co-ordinated between National governments.

Most European countries adopt ETSI European Standards (ENs) for radio equipment. The 48 CEPT countries co-ordinate their National frequency regulations via the CEPT. CEPT also co-ordinate European interests in World Radio Conferences to harmonise the use of radio spectrum worldwide. ETSI provides input to the European spectrum harmonisation via System Reference Documents published in the form of ETSI Technical Reports.

The European Commission also requests ETSI to develop European Standards (Harmonised Standards) as the technical basis for equipment regulation in Europe. Where Harmonised Standards are cited in the Official Journal of the European Union, manufacturers who declare their equipment to be compliant to these Harmonised Standards can presume that their equipment conforms to EU legislation, and so can freely place their equipment in the market in any EU Member State, or a country that has signed an appropriate agreement with the EU.

ETSI Harmonised Standards cited in the OJEU can be used to declare compliance with the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive (2014/30/EU) and the Radio Equipment Directive (2014/53/EU). Even when not yet cited, ETSI European Standards represent the generally accepted state of the art and can be used at the basis of technical files to Notified Bodies under these Directives.

ETSI has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT), and is represented in key committees within the European Commission (including the Electromagnetic Compatibility Working Party (EMCWP), the Expert Group on Radio Equipment, the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) and the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG)) to ensure that the necessary spectrum is available for ETSI radio standards. Before attending these groups, ETSI officials hold briefing conference calls with interested members. These calls are announced via the ETSI RADIO_BRIEFING list, which is open to ETSI members.

ETSI also has close liaison with Notified Bodies via the EU Association of Notified Bodies (EUANB) and the RED Compliance Association and advises EU Market-Surveillance Authorities on technical matters via the appropriate Administrations Co-ordination (ADCO) groups.

ETSI and CEPT/ECC have published brochure on the European regulatory environment, which can be freely downloaded.

Radio Spectrum

Global co-ordination

At the global level, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) seeks to co-ordinate spectrum use. The ITU's World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) take place approximately every four years to review and, when necessary, revise the Radio Regulations which form the international treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum. These regulations also govern the geostationary and non-geostationary satellite orbits.


An introduction to the European regulatory environment for radio equipment and spectrum and some key information for newcomers is available in the Radio eBrochure.

The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT) performs a somewhat similar role of co-ordinating spectrum use, although the ultimate allocation rests with individual national governments.

The European Commission may mandate the CEPT to identify frequency bands and spectrum use conditions in support of an EU policy. ETSI provides technical input to spectrum-sharing studies via System Reference Documents. In addition, individual ETSI Members may participate in CEPT spectrum-sharing studies to provide technical support.

CEPT measures are offered to the 48 Member Administrations for adoption on a voluntary basis. The European Commission incorporates these measures into Commission Implementing Decisions, that are binding on EU Member States.

Equipment Regulation

European Union Directives like the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive (2014/30/EU) and the Radio Equipment Directive (2014/53/EU) are part of the EU legislative package (the New Legislative Framework (NLF)) for the Single Market for Goods. Detailed information is available in the European Commission’s “Blue Guide”.

Each of the New Legislative Framework Directives identify “essential requirements” which equipment needs to meet to be placed on the EU single market. European Standards Organisations like ETSI are requested to develop Harmonised Standards to enable manufacturers to demonstrate that their equipment conforms. All electrical equipment has to meet safety requirements defined in the Low Voltage Directive (2014/35/EU) and the EMC Directive. In addition, all radio equipment has to demonstrate that it uses the radio spectrum efficiently and effectively. Some classes of equipment may have additional requirements. For example, marine distress and safety equipment has to include features to ensure that the user can contact emergency services in case of need.

ETSI Harmonised Standards that are listed in the OJ provide presumption of conformity, but they are never compulsory. Even before being cited in the OJEU, an ETSI European Standard represents the generally accepted state of the art and can be used as the basis of a submission to a Notified Body.

More details of how to place equipment on the market can be found in the European Commission’s Guide to the EMC Directive, and Guide to the Radio Equipment Directive.