ECC Newsletter July 2016

Short Range Devices: An update of the regulatory approach is on its way

Short Range Devices (SRD) have a huge and increasing significance in our daily lives, so the ECC is working to improve the efficiency of the bands they use. Spectrum demands are on the rise. The long list of requirements include generic SRD, UHF Radio Frequency Identification, home automation and sub metering, automotive SRD, smart meters and smart grids, metropolitan mesh machine networks (M3N) applications, alarm and social alarm systems, and assistive listening devices (including hearing aids), just to give some examples.

Our Newsletter article of October 2013 outlined how the ECC is working to improve the efficiency of the bands used by SRDs, to widen the possibilities for accessing them, and adding new usage opportunities to them.

A key milestone was reached by the ECC in June 2016 with the final approval of CEPT Report 59. It now intends to provide a supplemental Addendum to CEPT Report 59, related to the bands 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz. The final approval of this Addendum is planned for the ECC meeting in March 2017. During the public consultation for CEPT Report 59, 22 stakeholders requested a stronger harmonisation proposal in CEPT Report 59 for the bands 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz. In our Newsletter article in April 2016 (M2M Workshop Special Edition) we reported that there is a strong request for more harmonisation in 870- 876/915-921 MHz.

Updating the European regulatory framework for SRDs

CEPT Report 59 describes the proposed Sixth Update of the technical annex to the European Commission (EC) Decision on the technical harmonisation of radio spectrum for use by SRDs. It was developed in the 2015-2016 timeframe by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT). This was in response to the Permanent Mandate to CEPT to update the technical annex of the Commission Decision on the technical harmonisation of radio spectrum for use by SRDs.

The work carried out followed the guidance from the EC, and has been split into four tasks:

  1. Make bands available which have recently been added in ERC Recommendation 70-03 to SRD usage. This includes: consideration of SRD opportunities in 870-876 MHz / 915-921 MHz; provisions for a Medical data acquisition system in the frequency range 2483.5-2500 MHz, for Assistive Listening Device (ALD) applications on a tuning range basis in the frequency range 173.965-216 MHz and for an obstacle detection application for rotorcraft use in the frequency range 76-77 GHz; and extension of the existing entry for the Transport and Traffic Telematics (TTT) category from 5795-5805 MHz to 5795-5815 MHz for road tolling applications. Another aspect is an amendment of the duty cycle definition allowing more flexibility. It is believed this will lead to additional usage opportunities for SRDs in the future.

  2. Investigate the requirements for cognitive radio-enabled SRDs and any potential implications in terms of SRD harmonised technical conditions, taking into account the on-going work in ETSI under mandate M/512. These investigations led to the understanding that for the time being, at European level, there is neither a proposal nor an intention to harmonise the usage of a database to allow for new SRD applications.

  3. Re-assess, on a demand basis from stakeholders, the relevance and appropriateness of 'other usage restrictions' for the relevant SRD categories. In this context, several frequency bands were found where the regulation could be streamlined, widened, or an ‘other usage restriction’ could be removed (e.g. below 30 MHz, in 6.7 MHz, 13.56 MHz, 27 MHz, 40 MHz). In combination with a more flexible duty cycle definition, it is proposed to withdraw the ‘Low duty cycle/ High reliability’ category and to relax it to ‘non-specific SRDs’. This concept still supports reliable spectrum access opportunities for some SRDs and is considered to lead to the ultimate withdrawal of ‘other usage restrictions’. In addition, CEPT/ECC also proposes that additional information could be included into the technical annex of the EC Decision for SRDs regarding the relevant harmonised standard published in the Official Journal of the European Union in relation to the respective entry.

  4. Consider merging the existent decisions pertaining to SRDs into one encompassing decision. In this regard, the regulation for UHF RFID currently under 2006/804/EC is proposed to be merged into the EC Decision for SRDs. For UWB-technology based applications, it is important to keep the existing format and to have these applications under a permanent mandate to CEPT. This alleviates national implementation and future changes or additions to the regulations. Finally, a new entry for PMR446 equipment for the harmonised implementation of analogue and digital PMR equipment within the range 446.0-446.2 MHz is proposed to be added in the EC Decision for SRDs. The implementation date, proposed to coincide with the transition deadline, is set in the ECC/DEC/(15)05 to 1 January 2018. Harmonised implementation within Europe using the same date would avoid different implementation dates across Europe for this type of hand-portable equipment.

CEPT Report 59 has already identified some important issues for the next update process. This includes, inter-alia, to investigate further harmonisation in the 870-876 MHz/915-921 MHz frequency bands, new applications such as Smart-Tachograph and Weight and Dimensions, and usage conditions for DECT/SRD devices in the 1900-1920 MHz band.

A major milestone, driven by demand is in front

At present, the range 863 to 870 MHz is used extensively for SRDs. However, these ranges are filling up quickly and a lot of new developments are anticipated, as set out in ECC Report 182 (a survey about the use of the frequency band 863-870 MHz) and by ETSI in a set of seven System Reference Documents1. In addition to capacity constraints, the bandwidth of the existing plans is limited to developing applications, e.g. a wider bandwidth for individual UHF RFID devices will improve their performance and function. With machine mesh networks, the required bandwidth of the systems would not fit into the existing narrow bandwidths that are available in the existing frequency band 863-870 MHz.

Another CEPT survey in 2012 revealed a great variety in the European countries’ state of readiness for the release of these bands on a licence-exempt basis. It showed that the bands are partially or completely available in some countries; some countries use all or parts of the spectrum for governmental use; and some countries are reserving the 873-876/918-921 MHz spectrum for national extended GSM-R use. This is reflected in the diagram below:

Availability to consider future new usage for SRDs in 870-876/915-921 MHz

Based on ERC Recommendation 70-03, 14 CEPT administrations have already implemented, at national level, some provisions for SRD and/or RFID usage in this frequency band (status June 2016).

The supplementary Addendum to CEPT Report 59 has the following main targets:

  • for the band 870-876 MHz to foster a new SRD regulatory framework for European harmonisation, aiming to assist emerging new applications for SRDs;

  • for the band 915-921 MHz to foster a new SRD regulatory framework for new applications. This will have the clear benefit of achieving a global harmonisation.

Existing investigation results described in ECC Report 189 will be used for this purpose, and ongoing studies for the 862-870 MHz frequency range may also have an impact on these considerations.

The aim will be to find a CEPT proposal for the flexible and balanced minimum implementation target for European harmonisation. This will only be possible when achieving a consensus amongst all stakeholders (SRD, governmental, railway) about a compromise solution.

It is hoped that an appropriate harmonisation step will make it possible to achieve a variety of economically important benefits in support of new applications, as well as better service qualities. It should reduce the cost of products, through greater economy of scale productions, or make them viable for the next generation of the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Examples for such M2M/IoT applications include:

  • RFID: 915-921 MHz presents an opportunity to better define the RFID interrogator signal than was previously permitted in the more limited bandwidth at 865-868 MHz. Technical conditions support faster data rates and greater penetration into pallets containing high numbers of tagged goods, and so a successful tag read becomes more likely;

  • Home automation and sub-metering: The need for more comfort with sub-metering functions for heating or electricity, more security with picture checking in case of intrusion, and a strong emphasis on global energy savings require the use of systems with advanced control protocols.These protocols permit the use of dynamic functions that coordinate the operation of actuators though advanced automatic controls and sensors.

  • Smart meters: Proposals for smart metering have the objective of securing spectrum for technologies intended to deliver significant savings in energy consumption. Smart electricity meters’ consumption is intended to give users the necessary information to enable them to use energy more wisely. It is anticipated that this will educate consumers on the impact of their lifestyle choices on energy consumption and reduce the peak and overall demand. This better balancing of the electricity load could potentially reduce the need for the generation capacity to meet peak demand. Smart gas meters consumption would allow for the smarter distribution of the supply where consumers could modify their consumption, particularly in periods of high demand. Smart meters will also allow electricity network operators to understand supply outages (and restoration) in real time, as well as providing detailed information on the quality of the supply to individual homes. Finally, service restoration switches can allow electricity to be disconnected from properties that are unoccupied.

Thomas Weber, European Communications Office,
Chairman of the Short Range Devices Maintenance Group

1 Generic SRD, RFID, Home Automation & Sub Metering and Automotive SRD, TR 102-649-2, Smart Meters and Smart Grids, TR 102 886]; Metropolitan Mesh Machine Networks (M3N) applications, TR 103 055; Alarm and Social Alarm systems, TR 103 056; Assistive Listening Devices, TR 102 791; Wideband SRDs with advanced spectrum sharing capability, TR 103 245; and Technical characteristics for Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) SRDs operating in the UHF spectrum below 1 GHz, TR 103 435.