What is the future of SAR testing?
Facts & fakes Read 14420 times

What is the future of SAR testing?

The requirements for SAR levels has remained largely unchanged for many years (requirements depend on the country/region). In fact, the FCC mobile/handset specific regulations are derived from levels determined in the 1960s during early research of radiation hazards.

Meanwhile, mobile phone designs advanced at lightspeed while the systems and methods made to test the SAR of those devices remained relatively unchanged for twenty years.

Times are changing now, though, and we’d like to use the ART-Fi crystal ball to look down the road to see how these changes will turn out.

Wearables will impact public perception of SAR

To date, there is no conclusive or convincing evidence that the SAR levels emitted under current standards are harmful to your health. However, public perception does not always align itself with scientific consensus (which is often a good thing).

Never before has the typical citizen worn an antenna attached to their head, which will be the case if Google glasses become a big hit. In that case, ART-Fi expects SAR to become more important in the minds of consumers. It’s natural that interest in SAR will spike.

Wearables will not impact actual requirements

Whether or not increasing public interest will have any tangible effect on requirements or testing equipment is unknown, but we think it’s unlikely. Current levels are set far, far below what would be considered unsafe.

HOWEVER, wearables and public perception will impact the type and nature of SAR testing

SAR measurements are currently performed for one main reason: to meet certification requirements. A secondary reason is to optimize antenna performance, but the main priority is getting certified so the product can be sold.

The SAR results given to bodies like the FCC represent the absolute highest SAR output for the device to comply with current regulations, but do not represent any type of average or median SAR output under a given set of conditions.

When a wireless device has a poor signal, it consumes more energy to ensure a quality connection, which also increases the electromagnetic radiation of the device. Therefore, current SAR testing is really simulating usage when reception is at its very poorest. A low SAR result reported to the FCC doesn’t provide the consumer with information about habitual usage, and does not help consumers interested in SAR to compare products.

If people start wearing wireless devices on their head or around their face, we predict that they will be interested in SAR. Sooner or later, regardless of what the science says, the public may want to see SAR results that more accurately reflect their daily conditions, and would allow them to compare devices. 

New technologies will mean more SAR testing

Recent and new technologies that are meant to improve the performance of handset antennas will also mean more SAR testing. Here are a few examples:

Powerful chipsets that support more bands

Chipsets like the Qualcomm RF 360 that support 40 bands mean that thousands of tests must be performed, rather than just hundreds. As chipsets become more powerful and band combinations to support LTE Advanced become more numerous, the amount of SAR testing required to launch a handset or mobile device will only increase.

Dynamic Antenna Tuning

Dynamic antenna tuning, for example the Qualcomm GFE15, improves antenna performance as the environment interacts with (gets in the way of!) antennas in handsets and other wireless devices. If you cover the antenna with your hand, for example, dynamic antenna matching adjusts the frequency to ensure the best possible reception.

This does, however, affect SAR. The FCC is still currenty in the process of deciding exactly what needs to change in terms of taking SAR measurements to ensure that dynamic antenna tuning does not put SAR out of limits.

What it likely means is a whole new set of tests designed to account for and trigger Dynamic Antenna Tuning.

LTE Carrier Aggregation

LTE Carrier Aggregation combines carriers at the device, using more bands to get more bandwidth and, of course, faster downloads and better performance. “Bursty” applications that require sudden bursts of bandwidth will run much better, likely improving the lives and concentration of people around the world.

However, all of this affects SAR and will require additional SAR testing, especially as LTE Advanced becomes more common, and more and more combinations of bands are used across the spectrum to deliver content.

At some point, the FCC may reassess current requirements

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a wide-ranging review of SAR limits and testing in July 2012. In this study, the GAO drew two conclusions that the FCC may draw upon if they decide to change requirements.

First, the FCC requires that devices be within 2.5 centimeters of the body phantom for SAR testing. What’s the problem? The problem is that people often use their devices immediately next to their body, and that distance of 2.5 centimeters makes a significant difference in SAR measurements.

Second, current requirements for SAR levels in the head phantom are 1.6w/kg, even though European standards are set at 2.0w/kg and appear to be based on more recent studies. The GAO warns that the stringent regulations “may impose additional costs on manufacturers and limitations on mobile phone design.”

Clearly, there is a move towards more accurate measurements and appropriate limits in measurement technology. The body measurement requirements are likely to change because the current methodology is not accurate for many consumers. The head limits, however, are likely to stay the same as the FCC has acknowledged that “research on RF energy exposure is ongoing.”

SAR testing will only get faster

This one is easy for us to predict, because ART-Fi is at the forefront of the new “Fast SAR” technologies. These technologies use a vector-based system that greatly reduces the time it takes to perform testing on handsets, as well as other innovations that can reduce the time-to-market for some handsets by a couple of weeks--- a boon for competitors in the race to release new products.

With the release of ART-MAN, the entire SAR equipment industry was put on alert and is now focusing on improving their legacy products. ART-Fi continues to lead the race to make SAR testing faster, and is preparing to release new time-to-market features on ART-MAN.


High precision solution for Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing & measurement. SAR measurement solutions. Manufactured in France. Precise SAR testing services.  SAR Testing for IEC and FCC | SAR Compliance Testing. ART-Fi provides solutions to accelerate wireless regulatory compliance across development, pre-compliance testing, and certification using innovative electromagnetic field measurement technologies. ART-Fi also offers professional services for antenna design, development, and 3D-EM simulation. All ART-MAN systems are manufactured in France. Solutions de mesures de haute précision du débit d'absorption spécifique (DAS).  

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