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EPCglobal Director Says No Need to Wait for China to Officially Condone EPC

The organization's global development director says the nation's new UHF RFID regulations mean global companies can now use EPC tags and readers to track Chinese-made goods throughout the supply chain.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 01, 2007In April, China's Ministry of Information Industries (MII) approved bandwidth in the 840.25 to 844.75 MHz and 920.25 to 924.75 MHz ranges for use by UHF RFID passive tags and interrogators in that country (see China Approves Requirements for UHF Bandwidth).

Ian Robertson, global development director and Asia Pacific regional director for EPCglobal, says that when he visits Beijing in August, he intends to thank ministers at China's State Radio Regulation Committee (SRRC), which MII oversees. Robertson has been discussing UHF RFID with the SRRC longer than anyone, having first broached the subject in 2004, and he sees China's approval of UHF bandwidth as the fruit of that labor. The three-year effort has included work by Robertson, the SRRC, EPCglobal and global product manufacturers.

EPCglobal's Ian Robertson
In 2004, Robertson served as the RFID director for Hewlett-Packard (HP). At that time, he began seeking permission to use UHF RFID bandwidth in countries in which HP's factories operated and tagged goods destined for U.S. stores. HP, he says, needed UHF RFID bandwidth in China for the seven factories that export products, so that it could tag those products for supply chain visibility.

Robertson says he met with the SRRC and asked for allocation in the 900 MHz band (860 to 960 MHz range). "They informed me there wasn't any bandwidth [available for RFID] in that range and told me 'Good morning.'" In fact, he adds, China had already designated the 900 MHz band for internal purposes, including GSM cellular phone networks.

After that, Robertson says, he "came back and back and back," to the SRRC throughout 2004, in an effort to negotiate the use of the desired RF spectrum. In September of that year, Robertson hosted a meeting with SRRC members to provide them the opportunity to perform frequency testing. A month later, he recalls, EPCglobal asked him to speak on its behalf, as part of its own quest to have China adopt UHF bandwidth for RFID. In December 2004, the SRRC granted Robertson the first temporary license for UHF RFID in his personal name, for use by HP manufacturers for one year. "That set up a precedent," he says, and China began allowing other companies to apply for six-month temporary licenses as well.

Few companies were comfortable with temporary licenses, however, which run the risk of not being extended after the initial six months have passed. Therefore, HP, along with Wal-Mart, Intel and other firms, continued working with the SRRC toward the permanent authorization of UHF RFID bandwidth in China.

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