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Telekom Austria Launches Managed RFID Services

Currently focused on the fashion industry, the offering includes tags, interrogators, software, installation and integration.
By Rhea Wessel
May 11, 2007Telekom Austria has announced plans to offer an all-inclusive managed RFID service, comprised of tags, interrogators and software, as well as installation and integration. The service is designed to lower the cost of deploying and using RFID, and to make the technology more accessible to a wide range of companies. The telecommunications operator already offers business-to-business services, such as hosting and managing data networks, and has added RFID to its portfolio of offerings.

Instead of purchasing RFID hardware and software, then hiring a systems integrator to make it all work together, companies looking to use RFID can hire Telekom Austria to design, set up and operate an RFID application for them. The customer pays a flat fee per transponder, avoiding the cost of having to purchase and integrate RFID hardware and software. The per-transponder fee allows companies to calculate budgets with exact costs, thus avoiding estimates based on pilot applications. What's more, Telekom Austria says, since it is bound by service-level agreements, customers can steer clear of the risk that hardware might become outdated, or that standards might change. Contracts are typically signed for three to five years, with minimum service-level agreements covering everything from tag read rates and hardware maintenance to data throughput rates.

Christian Fritz
"We call this an all-inclusive offering," says Christian Fritz, head of the productivity and identification section of Telekom Austria's business-to-business division, known as Business Solutions. Several other telecommunications service providers are already offering similar services. Last year, for instance, BT Auto-ID Services, the RFID unit of British Telecom, launched a managed service involving active RFID tags (see BT Debuts Managed RFID Service). And in the United States, AT&T recently rolled out three managed RFID solutions as well (see AT&T Expands Its RFID, Sensor Service Offerings).

At present, Telekom Austria is focusing on the fashion industry. However, it eventually expects to expand its offering to the automotive, pharmaceutical and health-care industries.

Telekom Austria announced the new service in April and says it has already signed two customers. Although the carrier has declined to release the companies' names, Fritz says both are small to midsize firms in the fashion industry, one based in Austria, the other an international customer.

The Austrian customer makes mid- to high-priced clothing, Fritz explains, and will pay "well under 30 euro cents" ($0.40) per transponder for its complete RFID solution. Two processes will be tracked: First, the clothing company will deploy reusable RFID transponders that will stay within its factories in Asia or Africa and be used to track production. Second, it will employ disposable tags to track individual garments moving from the distribution center to the retail floor. Telekom Austria has finished a pilot with this customer, and is rolling out the application. Once it completes the rollout at the end of the year, the clothing maker intends to use 1.5 million to 2 million transponders annually.

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