Harmonized Frequency Bands

Harmonized UHF Frequency Bands from 2020 in the EU?

No New Published Harmonized Standard Yet – What Happens Next!

No New Published Harmonized Standard Yet – What Happens Next!

At the beginning of 2020, the final document of the harmonized EU standard EN 302 208 should enable the use of the upper UHF frequency band throughout Europe. This is a result of the ETSI meeting in Sophia-Antipolis on October 15, 2019.

Josef Preishuber-Pflügl, Vice-Chairman of ERM TG34 RFID at ETSI since 2005, gave a keynote speech on October 30, 2019 at the RFID & Wireless IoT tomorrow where he presented the latest information from the standardization process. "ETSI has completed its work on standardization. The ball is now in play on the court of the EU Commission and the member states to ensure swift implementation," says Preishuber-Pflügl.

Josef Preishuber-Pflügl, Vice-Chairman ERM TG34 RFID, ETSI, in an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global

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Status Quo of the EU-Wide UHF Frequency Band Usage

In October 2018, the European UHF RFID industry reached a milestone. The European Commission's implementing decision 2018/1538 allowed the use of 915-921 MHz frequency bands for UHF RFID devices in Europe. This made it possible to use the upper band described by ETSI in EN 302 208. The commission decision called on member states to draw up implementation plans by February 1, 2019.

The incorporation of the EU decision into national law is a mandatory prerequisite for UHF RFID users to be able to use the additional frequency bands. At the RFID & Wireless IoT tomorrow, Josef Preishuber-Pflügl motivated the stakeholders of the RFID industry to work with the responsible government agencies to ensure a swift implementation.

ETSI Upper Band Enables Dual Performance

The ETSI Lower Band, which can currently be used for UHF RFID communication in all EU member states, has four transmission channels with a width of 200 kHz and an interval of 600 kHz each. UHF RFID readers operating in this frequency spectrum may utilize a maximum output of two watts. The upper band described in the implementation decision of the EU Commission allows for a doubling in all areas. With full implementation, the width of the transmission channels increases to 400 kHz, the distance between the channels to 1200 kHz and the maximum transmission power of the readers increases to four watts.

At a meeting in July 2018 of the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC), which is responsible in the EU for specific technical measures required to implement the broader spectrum policy, the EU decided to introduce a so-called "squeeze option" for the use of the frequency band between 915 MHz and 919.4 MHz.

The Implementation is Inconsistent Across the EU

Despite the Commission's decision and the call to implement it by February 1, 2019, the number of countries that have released the ETSI upper band for nationwide use is low as of the end of June 2019. A total of 20 of the 28 member states, as well as some other European countries, have implemented the possibilities offered by this decision. These include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Sweden, Albania, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

A number of other states have announced that they will follow the implementation decision, but without presenting a concrete timetable. Italy is currently carrying out studies on implementation, but also without an exact timetable. Two states, the Netherlands and Germany, currently do not allow the usage.

National Law Stands Above EU Decisions

In the implementation decision of October 2018, the EU Commission underlined that, "member states shall retain the right to organize and use their radio frequencies for public order, and security and defense purposes. In accordance with Article 1(4) of Decision No 676/2002/EC, member states should remain free to protect the existing and future use of these and neighboring frequency bands for military and other public policies and security purposes, while pursuing the objective of making harmonized minimum core frequency bands available for shortrange networked devices in accordance with the technical conditions laid down in this decision.”

Thus the states are encouraged to actively promote the usability of UHF RFID for companies by implementing the decision. At the same time, however, any state can partially or completely prohibit the use of the upper band with reference to public security concerns.

What are the Next Steps?

ETSI sent EN 302 208 for feedback in June 2019. ETSI's work was completed in September 2019 and it was planned to release the ETSI standard for the first panEuropean vote in October 2019. Unfortunately, a new requirement from the European Commission requires additional testing methods. According to Josef PreishuberPflügl, the document was released for voting in January 2020. It is therefore expected that the final ETSI EN 302 208 will be available in the course of 2020.

The standardization expert now expects the majority of EU member states to implement the decision of the European Commission (to release 915 - 919.4 MHz for RFID) at the beginning of 2020. The implementation of the corresponding test standard EN 302 208 by the EU member states will probably be postponed until the second half of the year, unless further new changes are defined by the European Commission.

ETSI and the ERM TG34

ETSI is a European Standardization Organization (ESO). The organization is the standardization institute in the EU for telecommunications, broadcasting, and other electronic communications networks and services. ETSI's tasks include the development of harmonized European standards in support of European regulations. Only the standards developed by the three ESOs (CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI) are approved as harmonized European standards (ENs). The function of the TG34 within ETSI is to develop standards and other documents for all RFID products in the UHF RFID frequency range.

Josef Preishuber-Pflügl 

Josef Preishuber-Pflügl is Vice-Chairman ERM TG34 RFID within ETSI since May 2008. As EVP, CTO, and Managing Director RFID+NFC of the company CISC Semiconductor, he has been active in the field of RFID since 1995. He is the creator and co-author of numerous patents related to RFID technology. As a project manager, he works on numerous standards in the RFID sector, such as ETSI EN 302 208, the harmonized EU standard for the use of UHF RFID, based on the EU Directive 2014/53/EU or the international UHF RFID standard ISO/IEC 18000-63.  

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