Industry seeks regional support for UHF-RFID

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Wireless Forum is pursuing the use of the ultra-high frequency spectrum for RFID on a regional level, a move that will pave the way for a truly global tagging system.

An industry group will meet next week in Malaysia to discuss and, hopefully, gain approval for the draft recommendation supporting the common allocation of spectrum for RFID (radio frequency identification) technology in the UHF band.

The sub-working group of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Wireless Forum (AWF), which comprises governments, telecom service providers and communication equipment manufacturers in the Asia-Pacific region, are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 17 -18.

The group will discuss the recommendations that were drafted in September 2005 at the second AWF meeting held in Shenzhen, China, said a spokesperson for the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which has been leading this industry effort at the AWF.

According to the draft report, the AWF recommends: one, the allocation of a minimum of 2MHz of spectrum in the 860 – 960MHz band for RFID; two, a minimum effective radiated power (e.r.p) of 0.5 W for UHF RFID, subject to any local regulatory constraints.

"The popularity of the UHF 800-900MHz bands for RFID usage is really a recent phenomenon; it probably started with regulators and organizations like Walmart championing its wider usage beginning in 2004," he said. Before this, RFID applications had already been made available via the 13.56MHz and 433MHz bands, for example.

RFID refers to technologies that use radio waves to remotely store and retrieve data. Consisting of a tag and a reader, a RFID system could make it easier for businesses such as retailers, logistics providers and manufacturers to track products and raw materials.

According to the draft, AWF's push for designating UHF for RFID applications is in line with several trends and industry developments. These include:

  • A number of organizations and retail companies based in the United States and Europe have issued compliance directives for RFID to be used in their supply chain. In turn, a significant number of suppliers from the Asia-Pacific region may be required to use RFID

  • The use of the UHF band for RFID is gaining popularity and passive UHF RFID systems are increasingly featured in logistics and supply chain management

  • The ubiquitous use of RFID systems in the distribution infrastructure could lead to greater efficiency and cost effectiveness for the logistics and supply chain industry

  • The widespread adoption of RFID systems on a regional level will reduce the cost of implementation for such systems through economies of scale

  • There are currently two standards for passive UHF RFID systems and both of these standards, EPCglobal and the ISO 18000-6, specify the 860-960MHz band for operation

  • RFID systems operating in the 860-906MHz band are readily available

Besides Singapore, which expanded its frequency bands in November 2004, Brunei, India, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Malaysia have also opened up the UHF band for RFID applications.

ZDNet Asia understands that Indonesia is in the process of confirming its proposal for frequency allocation in the 866-869MHz and 923-925MHz bands, while China has established provisional allocation in the 917-925MHz band.

On the impact of a country's non-decision to adopt UHF, the IDA spokesperson said the decisions made on RFID "will be intertwined with the economic benefits that this application can bring to business processes".

"When the importance of supporting RFID applications become clear, administrations will surely allocate the necessary spectrum in due course," he added.