The Federal Communications Commission has adopted a Report and Order in the matter of software-defined radios and cognitive or "smart" radios, a proceeding it began in 2003. I've quoted the Introduction in the post continuation area below. Click here for the complete Word document. --Dennis
1. Advances in technology are creating the potential for radio systems to use radio spectrum more intensively and more efficiently than in the past. Perhaps none of these advances holds greater potential for literally transforming the use of spectrum in the years to come than the development of software-defined and cognitive, or “smart,” radios. Regardless of the regulatory model – licensed, unlicensed, or other new models – these technologies are allowing and will increasingly allow more intensive access to, and use of, spectrum than possible with traditional, hardware-based radio systems.
2. Software defined and relatively simple cognitive radio systems are already in use today. They include current cellular radio systems with capabilities such as transmit power control, handoff reconfiguration, and real time network control such as registration and control channel signaling. In addition, wireless local area networks are currently using adaptive techniques for channel identification, dynamic frequency selection, and adaptive modulation schemes for varying data throughput. The Commission has recognized cognitive capabilities in the rules as a means of allowing more efficient spectrum use. Multiple organizations such as the Software Defined Radio Forum and the European Union are dealing with specific technical issues of importance to the deployment of software defined and cognitive radios. Numerous companies, often working with governmental agencies, are actively developing new products to take advantage of these capabilities. For example, one manufacturer has developed and obtained approval for a cellular base station that is designed to be remotely modified by software to enable operation with different modulation formats, thereby allowing a single base station to communicate with handsets employing different transmission formats. We expect to see additional software-based products with new capabilities over the next few years.
3. Some parties envision that the full development of cognitive radio capabilities will, or should, lead to a vastly different model for spectrum use. These “futurists” see “smart radios” operating on an opportunistic basis, finding idle spectrum, using it as they need, then vacating the band for others to use, all without human intervention. This model presumes no need for spectrum policy, allocation tables, or regulatory bodies to manage spectrum resources. While we recognize that this model exists, we also believe that many technical, cost, and business issues will need to be addressed in the marketplace before widespread deployment of such radios may take place. Therefore, we need not, and do not, address today the potential implications of such a radical paradigm shift. We do need to consider, however, whether the advent of these ongoing developments in software-defined and cognitive or smart radios require changes or clarifications in our current rules and procedures. We neither wish to have our processes inadvertently be a barrier to the development and deployment of these technologies nor wish to permit the widespread deployment of radios easily susceptible of being misused to cause harmful interference to others.
4. In this Report and Order, we thus continue the
process of modifying our rules to reflect these ongoing technical developments
in radio technologies. When the
Commission first adopted rules for software defined radios, it recognized that
manufacturers were beginning to use software to help determine the RF
characteristics of radios, and that our equipment rules, which assumed hardware
changes were needed to modify a radio’s behavior, held the potential of
discouraging development of software defined radios by requiring repeated
approvals for repeated software changes. In light of the Commission’s experience with
these rules, and the record in this proceeding, we are here modifying and
clarifying our equipment rules to further facilitate the development and
deployment of software defined and cognitive radios. Specifically, we are eliminating the rule
that a manufacturer supply radio software (source code) to the Commission upon
request because such software is generally not useful for certification review
and may have become an unnecessary barrier to entry. We are requiring that a manufacturer supply a
high level operational description of the radio software that controls its RF
characteristics for certification of a software defined radio. We are also clarifying our rules to permit
manufacturers to market radios that have the hardware-based capability to
transmit outside authorized United States United States
 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 15.323 and 15.407(h).
See First Report and Order in ET
Docket No. 00-47, 16 FCC Rcd 17373 , 17377
 We always retain the right to request and examine any component (whether software or hardware) of a specific radio system when needed for certification under Commission rules.