Ofcom announces that RFID will not be regulated in the UK

United Kingdom

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify objects. An RFID chip is made up of a microchip containing data, and an antenna. RFID chips can be read by specially designed chip readers which are activated whenever the RFID chip is in range. The most often used example of how RFID technology will “change our lives forever” is that it will enable a shopping trolley full of products to be scanned instantly without the need to take anything out from the trolley. It also allowed TopGolf to be created (www.topgolf.co.uk) which, on its own, means the technology is a good thing.

Ofcom is responsible for use of the radio frequency spectrum in the UK. In order to protect existing users of the radio spectrum from interference, it authorises the use of new frequencies by granting licences. It is illegal to use or install radio transmission equipment without holding a valid licence.

In August 2005, Ofcom published draft regulations which confirmed that it would be making the radio spectrum available for the use of RFID equipment (e.g. RFID chips and readers). The draft regulations also confirmed that it would not require users of RFID technology to obtain a licence, so long as the equipment only operated in the 865 – 868 MHz frequency band. In November 2005, Ofcom confirmed the draft regulations in a decision and the licence exemption is now in place.

This article first appeared in our Technology Annual Review, March 2006. To view this publication, please click here to open in a new window.