- Zeljko Baranek
European Commission Workshop and harmonization of radio spectrum
On the 19th of June 2017 the European Commission held a workshop on efficient use of the 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz frequency bands. Participants were from various industry sectors (e.g. telecommunications, retail, railway, automotive) as well as national regulatory institutions and ministries. They all met to discuss how to use these bands most efficiently in the future. The bands are currently used for civil purposes (notably by railway systems) and in some countries for military purposes. The aim is to make the band available for IoT applications empowering smart homes and cities as well as industries. Some industries with interest are farming, logistics and transport.
On the 11th of October 2018 the EC has adopted a positive implementing decision to harmonise radio spectrum for short-range devices within the 874-876 and 915-921 MHz frequency bands. The implementation deadline for EU countries was the 1st of February 2019. The newly introduced 915-921 MHz frequency band can be referred to as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) upper band.
The EC states benefits for RFID devices
RFID devices are already in use in Europe in the 863-870 MHz band to mark objects with RFID tags. For example, warehouses or factories use RFID readers, a technology which can read the tags and identify the objects. The new spectrum availability for next-generation RFID within the 900 MHz range allow enhanced technical limits, which has an impact on, for instance, reader speed, reader accuracy and tag size. However, equally important, the 900 MHz range is used almost globally for RFID, which is beneficial especially in transport and logistics.
Apart from the current usage, further advanced RFID use-cases will emerge. For example, the reduced size will make tagging of smaller objects or tagging of materials, which so far could not be tagged, possible. When using the old and the new band in parallel, it is possible to localise more accurately the tagged items.
The almost global availability of the 900 MHz range is not only beneficial for RFID systems, but will also enable new innovative global applications based on networked short-range devices, such as active global asset tracking.
Better and cheaper RFID tags
Additionally, this will open the path to a better global RFID tag design. Tags are designed with the trade-off of inlay size, supported frequency bands, performance and cost. With the harmonization of the 900 MHz frequency band, small tags with good performance that can be used globally become cheaper. Consequently, it could boost the RFID industry due to lower costs and wider range of applicable use cases.
Besides cheaper and better tags, the new band creates opportunities for new features supported by RFID readers. Using both ETSI bands could result in more accurate spatial positioning of tags. This, however, will require new hardware, including readers, antennas and other equipment. Most of the current ETSI-compliant hardware is fine-tuned for optimal performance in the lower band.