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Australia Approves 4 Watts of Power for UHF RFID

The Australian Communications and Media Authority's lifting of restrictions is expected to improve read distance and read rates of EPC RFID systems, thereby spurring adoption of the technology.
By Dave Friedlos
Tags: Standards
Jan 26, 2009The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the government body responsible for regulating radio frequencies, has approved the use of ultrahigh frequency (UHF) RFID interrogators transmitting up to 4 watts EIRP (effective isotropic radiated power), removing restrictions and bringing the country into line with international practices. The decision follows four years of testing on the use of 4-watt RFID interrogators by GS1 Australia and could lead to a significant increase in take-up of the technology.

The majority of countries around the world limit RFID applications to 4 watts EIRP or 2 watts ERP (effective radiated power), which is the equivalent to 3.2 watts EIRP. But ACMA was concerned about the potential interference of UHF RFID systems in close proximity to GSM-based mobile phone systems and restricted the use of such systems to 1 watt EIRP at the 918 to 926 MHz band under a Low-Interference Potential Devices (LIPD) license.

Typically, RFID devices are imported to Australia from the United States, where UHF RFID interrogators and tags operate in the 902 MHz to 928 MHz band. In Australia, however, GSM-based cell phone service provider Vodafone Australia has the right to utilize the 907 MHz to 915 MHz frequency band, while RFID interrogators and tags are allowed to operate at 918 MHz to 926 MHz.

In 2005, ACMA awarded GS1 Australia with a scientific license allowing the standards-setting organization to authorize and oversee licensing arrangements with Australian companies to test site-specific RFID systems operating between 920 MHz and 926 MHz up to 4 watts EIRP. The aim was to ease concerns of interference by testing UHF EPC RFID systems in close proximity to GSM-based mobile phone systems.

In July 2008, ACMA introduced additional restrictions when it renewed GS1 Australia's 4-watt scientific license to enable only existing authorized users to continue with applications while the agency assessed the results of testing (see GS1 Australia Is Optimistic ACMA Will Adopt 4-Watt UHF Power Limit).

GS1 Australia's general manager of standards development, Sue Schmid, says the decision to now lift the restriction on 4-watt UHF RFID systems removes a barrier to adoption of UHF RFID, which is more robust and performs better as the power output is increased.

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