CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 962957 gah
Ms. Mary E. Gill
P.O Box 20046
Greensboro, NC 27420-0046
RE: Revocation of NY 816354; telecommunications receiver and transmitter
Dear Ms. Gill:
This is in regards to a New York (NY) ruling 816354, issued to you on December 27, 1995, concerning the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of a 1227-type Astrotec lightwave receiver and a 1310-type Astrotec lightwave transmitter. We have reviewed this ruling and have determined that it is incorrect. Pursuant to section 625(c)(1), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1), as amended by section 623 of Title VI, a notice was published on September 20, 2000, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 34, number 38, proposing to revoke NY 816354. One comment was received in response to this notice.
Therefore, this ruling revokes NY 816354 and sets forth the correct classification for the telecommunications receiver and transmitter.
The merchandise was described by AT&T in 1995 as a 1310-type Astrotec lightwave receiver, which translates optical signals into electrical signals, and a 1227-type Astrotec lightwave transmitter, which translates electrical signals to optical signals. These devices are put in pairs on fiber optic cable and are used in communications networks.
The 1310-type receiver contains a hybrid integrated circuit (HIC) with a silicon or gallium arsenide preamplifier, a silicon bipolar comparator, an indium gallium arsenide photo detector, all assembled together and attached to a fiber optic pigtail connector.
The 1227-type transmitter contains a hybrid integrated circuit, resistors, a CMOS integrated circuit and an indium gallium arsenide phosphide laser module. The laser module within the 1227-type device generates the optical signal and contains a laser diode and a photo diode. The photo diode acts as a back face monitor for the laser, adjusting the emissions from the laser to generate a uniform transmission. The HIC directs the conversion of the electrical signals by the laser module for generation into optical signals. All of the elements are assembled together and attached to a fiber optic pigtail connector.
In NY 816354 the receiver and transmitter were determined to be classifiable in subheading 8541.40.60 and 8541.40.95, respectively.
Are the receiver and transmitter classifiable in heading 8517 as electrical apparatus for digital line telephony or heading 8541 as photosensitive semiconductor devices assembled in modules?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRIs.
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 FR 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
Heading 8541 covers diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, including photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels; light-emitting diodes; mounted piezoelectric crystals; parts thereof. This heading contains five groups of goods separated by semi-colons. The first three groups, highlighted in bold, contain goods which are part of the receiver or the transmitter at issue. For ease of reference, we will refer to diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices as group 1. Group 2 will be photosensitive semiconductor devices, and group 3 will be light-emitting diodes.
The receiver includes a HIC, a silicon or gallium arsenide preamplifier, a silicon bipolar comparator, and an indium gallium arsenide photo detector. These components are classified in group 1 and group 2 of heading 8541, and heading 8542. The transmitter includes resistors (heading 8533), a HIC and a CMOS integrated circuit (heading 8542), and an indium gallium arsenide phosphide laser module, which contains a laser diode (group 3) and a photo diode (group 2). Thus, the receiver is a device assembled from the goods of the first two groups and heading 8542, while the transmitter is a device assembled of the goods of groups 2 and 3, heading 8533 and heading 8542.
Each of the groups of devices separated by semicolons in the heading text has distinct electronic properties. Group 2, photovoltaic cells, may be classified in heading 8541, even when they are in module or panel form. In the instant case, both the receiver and the transmitter contain a photodiode, a type of photovoltaic cell, in module form. However, these modules also contain devices of other groups within heading 8541, heading 8533 and heading 8542. EN(B)(2)(i) to the heading restates that photovoltaic cells in module form remain within the heading. It further indicates the limitations of modules and panels of this heading by an example. That example is of a solar cell (group 2) combined with a diode (group 1). When the two are combined, the light collected from the solar cell is transmitted by the diode to a motor. That combination of devices is excluded from heading 8541, and included in heading 8501. EN(B)(2)(i). The diode, in this example, does not contribute to the functioning of the solar cell. It has its own function, which is to control the direction of the current flow from the solar cell to the motor.
EN(B)(2)(iii) is also instructive on the issue of what types of modules are included in heading 8541. This EN covers photocouples and photorelays. In these devices the photovoltaic cell is coupled to an electroluminescent diode. However, these modules can be distinguished from the aforementioned type of module in that the semiconductors are coupled together for a single purpose or function. That function is the transmission of an electrical signal by the action of light on a photosensitive semiconductor.
Although ABB Power Transmission v. U.S., 19 CIT 1044 (1995), deals with thyristors modules classified in group 1, it is instructive on the issue of modules that are classifiable in heading 8541. The Court stated that “...the principal and sole function of a thyristor module is imparted by the thyristors acting in unison...”.
The ENs and ABB Power interprets the legal text of whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels. We interpret it to apply to all photovoltaic cells that are in module or panel form. We interpret the legal text to not include combinations of goods from two or more distinct groups enumerated in heading 8541, or combinations of goods of heading 8541 and another heading, when the combination of goods do not contribute to a single function covered by a single group enumerated in heading 8541. Thus, the instant receiver and transmitter are excluded from classification in heading 8541.
Note 5(a) to chapter 85 defines diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices as semiconductor devices the operation of which depends on variations in resistivity on the application of an electric field. These devices are classified in heading 8541 if they meet the definition of note 5(a) even if they are also described by another heading. Note 5(a) does not extend to other groups of goods classified in heading 8541, such as photosensitive devices and light emitting diodes. This is further indication that the groups of goods enumerated in the heading 8541 text are considered distinct from each other.
Both the receiver and the transmitter contain goods which are not described in the 8541 heading text. The receiver contains a hybrid integrated circuit (heading 8542). The transmitter contains a hybrid integrated circuit (heading 8542) and resistors (heading 8533). The HICs have been likened to the “brain” of the transmitter and receiver. Their function includes the amplification of the electrical signal, filtering, regeneration of the electrical signal, modulation, power control, etc. These additional goods expand the functions of the 8541 enumerated goods. Heading 8541 does not specifically describe either the entire receiver or the entire transmitter.
We have considered our view in light of the decision in ABB Power Transmission v. U.S., supra, in which thyristor modules (group 1) were classified as similar semiconductor devices of note 5(a) to chapter 85. The thyristor modules contained other circuitry, but the court found that the other circuitry served the same function as the thyristors, that of directing the flow of electric current. The instant transmitter and receiver function to direct, generate, amplify, and convert electrical and optical signals.
The 1310-type Astrotec lightwave receiver is designed for use in transmission systems or medium to high-speed data communication applications, that is, intra office or intermediate-reach applications. It converts a light pulse signal to electrical signals. The device contains a preamplifier which begins the amplification process by taking the current from the photodiode and boosting it. The output is fed to a voltage comparator which produces a clean digital output signal. The hybrid integrated circuit processes the signal further.
The 1227-type Astrotec lightwave transmitter is designed for use with the above receiver in the same applications. It converts an electrical signal into a light pulse signal to be put on fiber optic cable which is connected to a communication network. The HIC directs the conversion of the electrical signals by the laser module for generation into optical signals. It modulates the electrical signal. The optical signal is generated by the laser diode, monitored by the photodiode, and sent to the fiber optic pigtail for transmission to cable. Laser diodes also require additional circuitry to achieve acceptable stability in diverse temperatures.
Heading 8517 covers electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy... and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones. Telecommunications apparatus for carrier-current or digital line systems, by reference to the heading’s EN(III), are based on the modulation of electrical carrier-current or of a light beam by analogue or digital signals. Use is made of a variety of modulation techniques. These apparatus for line systems transmit words, data and images in a digital or analog form. Line equipment includes transmitters and receivers or electro-optical converters, and combined modulators-demodulators (modems). Thus, the EN to heading 8517 specifies transmitters and receivers as complete line apparatus within the scope of the heading text.
Receivers and transmitters are devices which are defined as accepting signals and generating signals, respectively. A. Freedman, The Computer Glossary 440, 552 (Sixth Ed. 1993). The instant goods meet these definitions and are commercially known as receivers and transmitters for use in telecommunications systems. Alternatively, the EN includes in line equipment electro-optical converters, the function of the instant goods.
Subheading 8517.50 covers other apparatus, for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems. The goods are specifically described at GRI 1 as other telephonic apparatus for line systems, in subheading 8517.50.50, HTSUS.
The 1310-type Astrotec lightwave receiver and 1227-type Astrotec lightwave transmitter are classified in subheading 8517.50.50, HTSUS, which provides for electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy…, other apparatus, for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems, other, telephonic.
In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division