Several organizations develop standards and regulations with jurisdiction over certain regions, such as Europe. There are also national standardization and regulatory organizations that usually closely cooperate with the regional and international organizations and adopt the rules specified by these authorities.
The main standardization organizations in Europe that produce standards related to RFID systems are as follows:
European Committee for Standardization (CEN)
European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC)
European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT)
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)
We will look at them in more detail in the following sections.
CEN is an organization contributing to the objectives of the European Union and European Economic Area with voluntary technical standards promoting free trade, worker and consumer safety, interoperability of networks, environmental protection, and other areas.
CENELEC prepares voluntary electrotechnical standards that help develop the Single European Market/European Economic Area for electrical and electronic goods and services. CENELEC consists of the national electrotechnical committees of 29 European countries and affiliates. CENELEC produces directives with assessments and limits for radio frequency emissions, such as the following:
Assessment of electronic and electrical equipment related to human exposure restrictions for electromagnetic fields (0–300 GHz)
Information technology equipment-Radio disturbance characteristics-Limits and methods of measurement
Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)-Part 6-4: Generic standards-Emission standard for industrial environments
Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)-Part 6-3: Generic standards-Emission standard for residential, commercial, and light-industrial environments
Limits for harmonic current emissions, and other emission and exposure limits
CEPT includes the following organizations:
Electronic Communications Committee (ECC)
European Radiocommunications Office (ERO), which supports ECC
European Postal Committee (CERP), which takes care of the postal communications
CERP translates into "Comité Européen des Régulateurs Postaux."
The ECC's main function is the development of radiocommunications policies, primarily regarding frequency coordination, allocation, and utilization. The ECC publishes "ECC decisions," which are then presented to the governments of each European country. These decisions can be accepted and implemented or not, depending on the country's choice.
The ECC's decisions and recommendations are published by the ERO, whose functions besides supporting the ECC are to provide consultations on frequency spectrum issues, work with national frequency spectrum management authorities, identify and promote best practices in national numbering schemes, and generally provide expertise and advice to the ECC in the radio and telecommunications fields.
ECC decisions related to RFID include documents regarding nonspecific short-range devices:
ERC/DEC(01)01 ERC decision of March 12, 2001, on harmonized frequencies, technical characteristics, and exemption from individual licensing of nonspecific short-range devices operating in the frequency bands 6765–6795 kHz and 13.553–13.567 MHz.
ERC/DEC(01)04 ERC decision of March 12, 2001, on harmonized frequencies, technical characteristics, and exemption from individual licensing of nonspecific short-range devices operating in the frequency bands 868.0–868.6 MHz, 868.7–869.2 MHz, 869.4–869.65 MHz, and 869.7–870.0 MHz.
ERC/DEC(01)05 ERC decision of March 12, 2001, on harmonized frequencies, technical characteristics, and exemption from individual licensing of nonspecific short-range devices operating in the frequency band 2400–2483.5 MHz.
ERC/DEC(01)06 ERC decision of March 12, 2001, on harmonized frequencies, technical characteristics, and exemption from individual licensing of nonspecific short-range devices operating in the frequency band 5725–5875 MHz.
ETSI is an organization spun off from CEPT and is officially recognized by the European Commission as an authority that produces standards for information and communication technologies (ICT) within Europe. These standards include telecommunications as well as Internet, broadcasting, and related areas.
ETSI describes operation of RFID systems in the following standards:
EN 300 220 Electromagnetic compatibility and radio spectrum matters (ERM); short-range devices (SRDs); radio equipment to be used in the 25–1,000 MHz frequency range with power levels ranging up to 500 mW.
This UHF regulation allows a maximum reader-transmitted power of 500 mW in a band of 250 kHz at 869.4–869.65 MHz.
The UHF band is limited in power, bandwidth, and duty cycle when compared to the United States.
Readers are required to either use listen-before-talk (LBT) or transmit in duty cycles, which limit them to operate in only a short period within each hour (for less then 10 percent of the time within 869.4–869.65 MHz at 500 mW).
EN 302 208 Electromagnetic compatibility and radio spectrum matters (ERM); radio frequency identification equipment operating in the band 865–868 MHz with power levels up to 2 W. This is a new standard, which creates better conditions for adoption and implementation of RFID in the UHF band in Europe.
The UHF band got an addition of 3 MHz, 865–868 MHz, which was divided into three sub-bands. For 865–865.6 MHz the allowed transmitted power is up to 0.1 W (ERP); for 865.6–867.6 MHz it is up to 2 W (ERP); and for 867.6–868 MHz it is up to 0.5 W (ERP).
The allowed power in Europe is provided in effective radiated power (ERP). If you convert it to effective isotropically radiated power (EIRP), you will get about 3.26 W EIRP, which is very close to the allowed power in the United States, although the frequency band is still a lot smaller (only 2 MHz in Europe as opposed to 26 MHz in the United States.)
This regulation does not require operation in duty cycles, but requires using LBT and triggered interrogation in order to reduce interference.
In North America, the main regulatory authorities specifying functions and restrictions for communication technologies are the FCC and ANSI.
The FCC is an independent agency of the U.S. government that regulates interstate and international communications via radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable, including telephone, telegraph, and cellular networks. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
FCC Part 15 specifies regulations under which an intentional, unintentional, or incidental radiator may be operated without an individual license. It also contains the technical specifications, administrative requirements, and other conditions relating to the marketing of devices regulated by Part 15. If the operation of the radiator is not in accordance with the regulations, it has to be licensed or you could be fined for every day of using such a radiator.
Section 15.225 specifies the operation within the band 13.110–14.010 MHz, which applies to the HF frequency of 13.56 MHz used for RFID systems.
Section 15.240 regulates the operation in the band 433.5–434.5 MHz, which is used for UHF active tags.
Section 15.247 defines the operation within the bands 902–928 MHz, 2400–2483.5 MHz, and 5725–5850 MHz (UHF and microwave frequency). Radiators have to employ frequency hopping or digital modulation.
Real World Scenario-Differences between American and European installations
Once, I had to put together a collection of RFID equipment (readers, antennas, and printers) for a training session taking place in Europe. Although I had enough RFID devices on hand in the United States, I had to do research and purchase new devices that would comply with European standards. I had to make sure not only that this equipment was ETSI compliant (which is not always the case), but also that it had correct power supplies and plugs for the country where the training was taking place. As you may know, in Europe the electrical sockets are not "one size fits all" and it is useful to have a converter or a correct plug for your device. Also, do not forget that although the United States uses 110 V power, Europe usually runs at 220–240 V.
Rules for systems operating at 902–928 MHz using frequency hopping are as follows:
If the 20 dB bandwidth of the hopping channel is less than 250 kHz, the system should hop across at least 50 channels, with the average time in one channel not exceeding 0.4 seconds within a 20-second period. Such a system can transmit up to 1 W.
If the 20 dB bandwidth of the hopping channel is 250 kHz or greater, the system should hop across at least 25 channels, with the average time spent in one channel not exceeding 0.4 seconds within a 10-second period. The maximum allowed 20 dB bandwidth of the hopping channel is 500 kHz. If the system employs between 25 and 49 hopping channels, it can transmit up to 0.25 W.
Rules for systems operating at 2400–2483.5 MHz using frequency hopping are as follows:
Systems should hop across at least 15 channels, with average occupancy time less than 0.4 seconds within a period equal to 0.4 number of hopping channels.
If the systems hop across at least 75 nonoverlapping channels, the allowed transmitted power is up to 1 W. If they hop across fewer channels, the allowed power is 0.125 W.
Rules for systems using digital modulation at 902–928 MHz, 2400–2483.5 MHz, and 5725–5850 MHz bands are as follows:
The minimum 6 dB bandwidth has to be at least 500 kHz.
The allowed transmitted power is up to 1 W.
The FCC specifies that the output power limits are based on antennas with directional gains under 6 dBi. If an antenna has higher gain than 6 dBi, the power output has to be reduced in order to stay within the transmitted power limits. As you recall, I explained the reason for this in Chapter 1 on physics (yes, those crazy calculations). There are exceptions to this rule for systems operating at 2400–2483.5 MHz and 5725–5850 MHz when these systems are used for fixed, point-to-point operations.
One watt of the interrogator output power with a 6 dBi antenna means that the EIRP of this system is 4 watts.
The FCC also publishes limits for radio frequency radiation exposure (Section 1.1310) related to occupational as well as general public exposure.
Another important standards organization in the United States is ANSI. This institute develops voluntary consensus-based standards and recommendations for various regulatory organizations and industries.
One ANSI technical standard related to RFID systems is ANSI INCITS 256, which defines RFID devices that are operating without restrictions on available international frequency bands at power levels that do not require a license. This standard intends to promote interoperability and compatibility between RFID devices by defining a common API and limited Physical and Data-Link layer options. It also supports item management applications and provides flexibility in the physical layer definitions.
ANSI also developed recommendations for radiation exposure that were used by the FCC for its Section 1.1310 standard.
In Asia, every country has its own administration and regulations, and the frequencies used differ from country to country. I will go through some of the countries that you are most likely to encounter in worldwide trade.
In China, the main standards authority is the Standardization Administration of China (SAC); this organization issues standards and regulations for RFID systems. China has not fully developed its RFID standards yet, and so far has assigned the temporary frequency band of 917–922 MHz for RFID and requires a temporary license.
Hong Kong (under China's special administration) has its own regulation agency, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA). Hong Kong has established two frequency bands for UHF RFID operation, 865–868 MHz and/or 920–925 MHz. OFTA also creates the requirements for electrical safety, radiation protection, and technical requirements for operation in these bands. RFID equipment should operate on a "no-interference, no-protection basis," and the manufacturers and suppliers of RFID systems should consider the interference due to using frequencies that may be shared with other technologies.
Japan has had a hard time selecting the frequency band for RFID because of its high population density and number of RF-emitting devices. Finally, the frequency band of 952–954 MHz was made available for UHF RFID systems. These do not need a license, but have to be registered. RFID in Japan is regulated by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts, and Telecommunications (MPHPT).