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November 22, 2004

Wireless Industry Unprepared to Provide Hearing Aid Compatible Phones

From: America's Network - Nov 22, 2004

COMMUNICATIONS DAILY via NewsEdge Corporation :

The wireless industry isn't ready to comply with the FCC's hearing aid compatible (HAC) device requirements just yet, comments filed with the Commission last week revealed.

The FCC last year established new rules relating to hearing aid compatibility and wireless phones and adopted the American National Standards Institute C63.19 technical measurement standard for measuring and rating the wireless devices' compatibility with hearing aids. It required that manufacturers and service providers make available a minimum number of HAC wireless devices and established labeling requirements for compliant devices.

Many wireless service providers told the FCC their ability to meet Commission deadlines for implementing technological handset upgrades was dependent on the work of handset manufacturers that they couldn't control. The Commission has set Sept. 16, 2005, as a deadline for carriers to include in their handset offerings at least 2 digital handset models that comply with the hearing aid compatibility standards. It said by Sept. 16, 2006, carriers must provide at least 2 handset models complying with the "inductive coupling" requirements. By Feb. 18, 2008, at least 50% of carriers' handset models for each air interface should comply with the standards. Wireless service providers and digital wireless handset manufacturers are required to report on the progress toward compliance with the FCC rules every 6 months.

"The industry is on track to comply with the rules before the deadlines," one wireless attorney familiar with the process told us: "It's technically complicated, but service providers and manufacturing companies are working diligently to supply compatible phones before the deadline."

Service providers said in comments their handset vendors, including Motorola, Nokia, LG, Audiovox and Kyocera, were telling them that they were working on developing compliant handsets but didn't have them available yet. The Alliance for Telecom Industry Solutions (ATIS), representing many vendors, said industry and various hearing impaired groups and consumer representatives worked through needed changes referenced in the C63.19 standard "at a faster process than what is typically a standards review and approval process."

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