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EC Spectrum Decision Expected to Boost UWB RFID Adoption

The decision spells out conditions for using ultra-wideband technology across the European Union.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 01, 2007The European Commission (EC) has formally adopted an ultra-wideband (UWB) frequency range from 3.4 to 4.8 GHz and 6 to 8.5 GHz, for use in EC member countries. This will establish several frequency limitations requiring UWB vendors to alter their technology to meet those limits. The EC opinion mandates that all 27 participating European countries accept UWB frequencies for devices used within their borders. Member countries have six months to ratify the decision.

The EC's UWB frequency range is not as far-reaching as that of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), however, which permits the use of 3.1 to 10.6 GHz by UWB devices in the United States. The EC decision designates the frequency bands of 3.4 to 4.8 GHz and 6 to 8.5 GHz for use by UWB RFID tags and interrogators, as well as for other applications, such as data networking. UWB devices utilizing frequencies between 4.2 GHz and 4.8 GHz will be permitted only until Dec. 31, 2010, by which time they must convert to the 6 to 8.5 GHz band, according to a spokesperson for the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC), which assists the EC in the development and adoption of measures aimed at ensuring harmonized conditions for the available and efficient use of radio spectrum.

Jay Cadman
UWB is a wireless technology designed primarily to transmit data over short distances. Unlike HF or UHF RFID signals, which operate over a narrow frequency band, UWB devices transmit over a wide spectrum at low power, raising some concerns about interference with other technologies.

While the FCC sanctioned the use of UWB in 2002, few UWB products have yet hit the market, says Robert Fontana, president of Multispectral Solutions Inc. (MSSI), a provider of UWB RFID tags and readers. As such, interference has not yet been an issue.

The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) undertook research for the mandate approved by the EC. CEPT developed the decision's technical conditions following compatibility studies showing how UWB transmissions might affect other spectrum uses.

The EC's decision is good news for both end users and vendors, claims the RSC spokesperson. Of 253 votes, only 17 members from Finland and Sweden voted against the measure, while several others abstained.

British UWB technology vendor Ubisense applauded this development. The company is marketing a UWB real-time location system (RTLS) that operates between 5.8 and 7.2 GHz. The company, which markets its products in both the United States and Europe, sits on a subcommittee for the working group that made recommendations to CEPT.

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