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August 21, 2005

UK regulator calls for consultation on RFID licensing

The UK's telecoms regulator Ofcom has called for consultation on the future process whereby spectrum will be allocated for supply chain management operations using RFID technology.

By CBR Staff Writer

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has recommended EU states liberate some additional free spectrum license for RFID use. What this all means is that businesses will no longer need to buy licenses for each location where they use the new frequencies reducing the cost and bureaucracy of deploying RFID.

Ofcom has therefore called for a round of consultation to see whether there are any objecting voices to its plans to avoid the per-site license requirement. This seems unlikely, as the main voice raised to date have been against the requirement, companies such as supermarket chain Tesco arguing that it slows development of RFID.

The main objections to an end to licensing for each RFID test have been from the armed forces in France and Italy, the reason being that they have their own ambitions on the spectrum being freed up for RFID use.

RFID has, of course, been around for many years, its first appearance being during World War II to identify airplanes (i.e. friend or foe). What has really changed in recent year is the use of the UHF spectrum (868MHz in Europe, 915MHz in the US) and, in Europe’s case, regulatory permission to increase the power level from 0.5 Watts to 2 Watts (the US will use 4 Watts and needed no regulatory permission to do so.

This enables supply chain management to really harness RFID, commented Geoff Barraclough, marketing director for BT Group Plc’s Auto-ID Services.

BT offers a managed service in RFID, while its main competitor in the UK market, IBM, offers both a managed service and individual components of an overall solution for manufacturers and retailers to put together themselves.

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