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On October 11, 2018, the EC adopted an implementing decision to harmonize spectrum for short-range devices within the 874–876MHz and 915–921MHz frequency bands. This decision will facilitate a variety of applications in support of the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as radio frequency identification (RFID).

Regulators must work together to ensure the right amount and type of spectrum is allocated to IoT

The EC's decision to harmonize spectrum within the 874–876MHz and 915–921MHz frequency bands will make spectrum available for IoT applications based on short-range devices, including next-generation RFID devices. This will facilitate various applications related to smart cities, smart homes, smart farming, transport and logistics, and industrial production. The range of possible applications is diverse and is likely to become ever more complex. The adopted decision harmonizes the technical conditions for the spectrum and should satisfy the spectrum needs of innovative "networked short-range devices," which is an alternative technological approach to connecting IoT devices independently of mobile networks.Under the EU decision, member states are expected to monitor the use of the 874–876MHz and 915–921MHz frequency bands and report their findings to the EC.

IoT is a rapidly expanding market with the potential to hugely transform the digital economy. However, for IoT to be successful and encourage greater innovation and investment, it is reliant on regulatory certainty and a positive framework that particularly relates to the essential resource – spectrum. It depends heavily on regulators supporting timely access to the right amount and type of spectrum. Not only this, but international spectrum harmonization is required, so regulators really need to work together with the industry. Spectrum bands that are widely harmonised around the world enable mass-market low-cost IoT devices by creating a large enough market to support the economies of scale of manufacturing. As the 900MHz band is the most globally available spectrum, it is ideal for supporting new global applications based on short-range devices.

It has been crucial that the EC ensures that there is harmonized spectrum available for short-range IoT devices. While most devices are sophisticated enough to operate in different bands or different portions of a band according to availability, short-range devices tend not to have this capability. Therefore, any differences in spectrum access conditions between member states would make things far more complicated and are likely to increase production costs as well as increase the risk of spectrum interference with other applications.


Further reading

5G Service Provider Tracker: 3Q18, GLB007-000140 (October 2018)

"Spectrum policy should be the top priority for regulators in the race to 5G," GLB005-000080 (August 2018)


Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation

[email protected]