Frequency Allocation for Radio Frequency Identification Equipment (II)

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1 For Discussion on 16 May 2007 RSAC Paper 2/2007 Frequency Allocation for Radio Frequency Identification Equipment (II) Purpose This paper seeks the views of the Members on the proposed allocation of the 433 MHz band (centered frequency at MHz, with an occupied bandwidth of 500 khz) for radio frequency identification ( RFID ) application. Introduction 2. An RFID system includes a host system, tags and interrogators. The host system runs an application programme, which controls interfaces with the tags and interrogators. The tag is intended for attachment to an item, which a user wishes to manage. It stores a tag ID number and other data regarding the tag or item and communicates this information to the interrogator. The interrogator is a device, which communicates to tags in its radiofrequency communication range. The host system and interrogator controls the protocol, reads information from the tag, directs the tag to store data in some cases, and ensures message delivery and validity. 3. The International Standard Organisation ( ISO ) has defined the standards of the RFID technology in various frequency bands. They include 135 khz, MHz, 433 MHz, MHz and 2.45 GHz bands. In Hong Kong, except the 433 MHz band, all the frequency bands for RFID devices, among the other apparatus, have been opened for public use on a licence-exempt basis under the Telecommunications (Telecommunications Apparatus) (Exemption from Licensing) Order. The major applications of RFID devices in the exempted frequency bands are summarised below: 1

2 RFID Frequency Band Major Application in Hong Kong MHz Electronic payment system such as Octopus card 2.45 GHz Electronic toll collection system such as Autotoll card MHz Automatic Baggage Handling and Reconciliation System at the Hong Kong International Airport Standard for 433 MHz RFID System 4. In 2004, the ISO issued Part 7 of the ISO standard 1 on RFID for item management which governs the parameters for active air interface communications at 433 MHz. Under ISO/IEC , RFID should operate at MHz with an occupied bandwidth of 500 khz and a peak transmitting power of 5.6 dbm EIRP or 3.45 dbm ERP (which is equivalent to 2.2 mw). Similar to RFID systems operating in other frequency bands, a typical 433 MHz RFID system consists of the interrogators connecting to the host system and the tags attached to the items under management of the host system. Frequency Allocation and Licensing Requirement of 433 MHz RFID in Overseas Countries 5. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) permits the use of RFID subject to the regulation of Part 15 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulation. The 433 MHz RFID systems in the United States are intended for containers tracking and limited primarily to industrial locations such as shipyards. These systems must be registered with the FCC. 6. In Europe, the MHz band is allocated to short range device ( SRD ). According to the European Commission Decision of 9 November 2006, the maximum ERP of the short range device in MHz is 10 mw with duty cycle up to 10%. Audio and voice signals in this band are excluded. RFID devices in the 433 MHz band are therefore permitted to be operated in Europe as SRD devices without licensing requirement. 7. In Asia, the 433 MHz band is available in China for radio equipment 1 ISO/IEC : Information Technology - Radio-frequency identification for item management, Part 7: Parameters for active air interface communications at 433 MHz 2

3 operating with transmitting power less than 10 mw ERP and occupied bandwidth of less than 400 khz. In addition, the China State Radio Regulation Committee has recently granted type-approval certificate to a US-based company for their 433 MHz RFID equipment meeting the ISO/IEC standard. In other Asian countries and regions including Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, similar arrangements are in progress to facilitate the deployment of 433 MHz RFID. Frequency Availability of 433 MHz in Hong Kong 8. In Hong Kong, the MHz band has been assigned to a public service for vehicle location service ( VLS ) since At the 24 th RSAC meeting held on 15 April 2002, RSAC Paper 7/2002 titled Additional Frequency Allocation for Low Power Devices proposed frequency sharing with the vehicle location service by short range devices operating at MHz (from to MHz) with a maximum power of 0.1 mw ERP and duty cycle less than 10% for data transmission. Study of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority ( OFTA ) concluded the interference between SRD and VLS would occur when the stations of both systems are operated in close proximity (within 2 metres). The issue was shelved without further deliberation among concerned parties as there was no strong demand for the use of low power device at the frequency range concerned at that moment. 9. In late 2002, OFTA issued a trial permit for testing RFID interrogators and active RFID tags operating at the 433 MHz band at Kwai Chung Container Terminal for a period of six months. The power levels of the RFID interrogators and RFID tags involved in the trial were 0.6 mw ERP. During the trial period, there was no reported interference case. OFTA s Consideration 10. Noting the status of overseas spectrum deployment for 433 MHz RFID operation, it is anticipated that the 433 MHz band will become the frequency band for RFID employed by the container shipping industry worldwide. Being a leading container shipping port in the world, it is essential for Hong Kong to make available the 433 MHz band for RFID operation. 11. The 433 MHz RFID is designed primarily for the container shipping 3

4 industry and hence their operation will be confined in the Kwai Chung container ports area. At present, a VLS company operates its radio location system at MHz. According to the ISO/IEC standard, the maximum ERP of the tags is 2.2 mw. By calculation, the received power at a distance of 3m from a tag is only -31 dbm which is comparable to the spurious level 2 of VHF/UHF mobile units. 12. The active RFID tags would not emit radio waves until being triggered by the RFID interrogator. When triggered, RFID tags will randomly select one of the available time slots to reply to the interrogator. Therefore, it would be suffice to license the RFID interrogators in order to avoid any potential interference caused to other radiocommunications systems. 13. The RFID system might be susceptible to interference caused by the VLS base stations or mobile stations operating in very close proximity to the RFID devices. Nevertheless, the inherent collision arbitration mechanism of RFID system is designed to overcome the problem of corrupted data caused by interference. In fact, in the Mainland and overseas countries including the US and Europe, 433 MHz RFID operation shares the frequency band with other services. The Proposal 14. Having considered the global trend in the deployment of 433 MHz RFID by the container shipping industry and its benefits to the shipping industry, OFTA proposes to allocate the 433 MHz band for RFID equipment operating in compliance with ISO/IEC standard in Hong Kong. To ensure the 433 MHz system would not cause interference to the existing radiocommunications system operating in the 433 MHz band, the RFID interrogators would be subject to licensing control. 15. Since there are millions 3 of RFID tags transiting the container ports of Hong Kong, it would be impractical for OFTA to license the RFID tags. This would create unnecessary licensing burden on and inconvenience to the users. Unnecessary licensing requirement would not be conducive to the business 2 With reference to HKTA 1002, the limit of spurious emission of any VHF/UHF mobile unit shall not exceed -26 dbm. 3 According to the 2006 Edition of Hong Kong in Figures published by the Census and Statistics Department, the port containers throughput of Hong Kong in 2005 was about 22 millions standard sized containers. 4

5 development of the logistics management sector. The use of these RFID tags should either be exempted from licensing or regulated by a class licence. 16. In summary, OFTA proposes that 433 MHz RFID should be permitted to be used in Hong Kong under the following conditions: (a) 433 MHz RFID equipment should be operated in compliance with operating frequency range and transmission power specified in ISO/IEC standard; (b) the 433 MHz interrogators installed at fixed locations would be subject to licensing; and (c) the 433 MHz RFID tags would be allowed to use on a licence-exempted basis with the following characteristics: Frequency band: MHz centered frequency Occupied bandwidth: 500 khz Output level: 2.2 mw ERP Equipment: complying with ISO/IEC standard and operating as RFID tag. Advice Sought 17. Members are invited to give their comments on the above proposal. Office of the Telecommunications Authority April

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