Europe seeks to hamonise 900MHz band for next-gen IoT and RFID devices
The European Commission (EC) will make usage of the 900MHz band for short-range devices consistent across all member states. The move will make the 874-876 and 915-921 MHz bands a default frequency for applications related to smart cities, smart homes, smart farming, transport, logistics and industrial production.
As it stands, portions of these bands are reserved for the military in some countries, including in Belarus, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK. They are also of interest to other spectrum users, notably the railway industry and the internet-of-things (IoT) market, including radio frequency identification communities.
Several European Union member states have short-range devices in the band already, a few have devices for use on the railways, and others have various subsets of all three uses, the EC said. Short-range devices tend to be portable IoT products with limited functionality, such as door openers or Wi-Fi routers.
Regulation has provided spectrum for such devices until now. However, the IoT market is expected to explode, and dedicated and harmonised spectrum is required to keep costs low. The EC cited low-cost sensors for gathering data on soil actuators installed in street poles to control lighting.
While more sophisticated devices can bridge differences in spectrum by selecting different bands according to their availability, production costs would increase for short-range devices to be able to adapt to spectrum conditions. The decision to harmonise the 900MHz band will also satisfy the spectrum needs of next-generation IoT devices, said the EC.
New spectrum availability in the 900MHz range will allow for improved RFID capabilities, notably for tagging items in warehouse and factory settings, with higher speed and accuracy, and small tag sizes. It will give logistics companies the ability to tag and track smaller objects and materials.
Harmonisation of the 900MHz band, already the standard for RFID applications outside Europe, will also help with global compatibility of RFI readers, boosting the international transport and logistics sectors.
Meanwhile, the railway sector will also benefit. Only some member states are currently using the 900MHz band for the 2G-based GSM-R railway communications system, as part of the so-called GSM-R extension bands (873-876 MHz and 918-921 MHz). The new decision reserves 2 x 1.6 MHz, at 874.4-876 MHz and 919.4-921 MHz, for railway use, providing the opportunity for coordination and interoperability across the region.
At the same time, the EC said ecision acknowledges the right of member states to protect existing use of spectrum for “public order and public security purposes “ – in other words, for military usage. It provides clarity as well for developments and investments to military users.