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GS1 Australia Is Optimistic ACMA Will Adopt 4-Watt UHF Power Limit

By year's end, the Australian Communication and Media Authority says it will finish weighing the results of trials testing the effect of 4-watt UHF RFID devices on the nation's GSM-based mobile phone systems.
By Dave Friedlos
The regulatory body indicates it is considering the results of trials involving 4-watt RFID devices, and that it expects to conclude the necessary consultation by the end of this year. Geoff McMillen, ACMA's spectrum engineering manager, says it was vital to determine if RFID services had the potential to interfere with other radio communications services, particularly the mobile phone network operated by Vodafone throughout Australia.

"Typically, RFID devices are imported to Australia from the United States, where their spectrum use includes that used by Vodafone in Australia," McMillen explains. "It is important that RFID devices do not operate in the part of the spectrum used by Vodafone." In Australia, the company utilizes the 907-915 MHz frequency band, while 1-watt RFID devices operate at 918 MHz to 926 MHz. The United States, meanwhile, designates the 902-928 MHz band for various devices, including RFID equipment.

"ACMA's operating principles include maximizing the overall public benefit from using the radio frequency spectrum," McMillen states. "We are considering the results of trials of 4-watt devices to determine what action, if any, is required."

Raising the RFID power limit to 4 watts, Schmid says, would align Australia's regulations governing UHF RFID with those of most other nations. An increase in power, she adds, will also deliver a more robust RFID system, with greater read ranges for interrogators and more accurate tag-read rates.

While 1 watt is suitable for short-range applications, such as handheld devices, power of up to 4 watts is more geared toward RFID gateways and other applications requiring accurate reads at greater distances. Schmid hopes changes to the license conditions will increase the take-up of UHF RFID in Australia.

"Industry has been waiting for changes to the license conditions before going ahead with RFID tests," Schmid says, "but ACMA needed some businesses to provide test data to make changes to the license—it is a little like the chicken and the egg. I don't think the restriction on new licenses will affect current take-up, because the number of requests in the past 12 months [for third-party authorizations] has been on the low side. But once the barrier is removed, it could certainly increase activity. Many companies are investigating 4-watt UHF RFID and dipping their toes into the water, and hopefully that will continue once the license conditions are changed."

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