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Comparison Between RFID Systems: Low Frequency vs High Frequency

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Aug 22, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Systems  Low Frequency vs High Frequency

“A comparison between different RFID systems, like Low Frequency vs High Frequency, allows buyers to properly inspect & select the system that is best for their applications.”

RFID technology has been a persistent part of industries and supply chains for years at this point. These systems allow users to track assets and provide visibility over the operations. The initial two classes of RFID were LF & HF. And before the introduction of UHF technology, these both ruled the market. They still play a significant role in many markets and are constantly competing with each other. So, today we will discuss who will win in a Low Frequency vs High-Frequency RFID scenario.

Introduction to Low-Frequency & High-Frequency Systems

There are many types of RFID systems, operating at different ranges of radio frequencies. Based on the frequency, there are four types of such systems. But, today, we will focus on only two of them, namely – LF (Low Frequency), and HF (High Frequency).

Low Frequency (LF) RFID

These are the types of RF systems that operate on the lowest frequency ranges. Their operational frequency lies anywhere between 125 kHz to 134 kHz.

High Frequency (HF) RFID

As the name suggests, these systems operate on a higher frequency than LF systems. HF systems work by broadcasting signals at a frequency of 13.56 MHz.

Comparison Between Low Frequency & High-Frequency RFID Along Different Criteria

After reading the above section you are probably aware of the basic difference between the two systems. But, to get a better picture, it’s a good idea to compare the two along different performance criteria.

So, let’s get to it.

(A). Operational Frequency

As you already saw above that both these systems operate on different frequency ranges. However, the complete frequency bandwidth of these systems is slightly bigger than mentioned above. According to international standards, Low Frequency refers to any system that operates within the range of 30 kHz to 30 kHz. High Frequency refers to systems that function by using radio signals in the range of 3 MHz to 30 MHz.

However, depending on the region you are in, these standards can deviate depending on the standards set for the particular place. All the components within a system must operate at the same frequency to make the system functional.

(B). Data Transfer Rate

If you don’t know it already, the rule of thumb when it comes to wireless communication is that frequency is directly proportional to data transfer speed. So, let’s try to understand why that is the case. These systems communicate data in binary format, meaning, in the forms of “0” and “1”. The frequency of a signal means the number of waveforms per second. And each waveform represents a bit (0 or 1) of data.

This means, that as the frequency of a signal increases, the more data it is capable of carrying. All radio signals travel at the same speed, regardless of the frequency. Therefore, the signal with more data-carrying capacity will transmit data faster.

There is a huge difference between the transfer speeds of LF & HF systems. Low-Frequency RFID systems have a data transfer rate of around 10 kilobits/second. And in the case of HF systems, the transfer speed can be as high as 424 kilobits/second.

(C). Programmability

Another important factor that affects the value of an RFID system, is its ability to be programable. An RFID tag consists of a substrate with an antenna and a microchip. The chip is capable of storing data, that can be read by the readers.

LF tags generally have Read-Only memory available, meaning that users cannot reprogram them with new information. HF tags, on the other hand, have a Read/Write memory. Meaning that you can use an NFC reader to store new information in it.

This feature makes most LF tags only suitable for one item/product. However, HF tags having Read/Write feature, makes them usable for different items.

(D). Vulnerability to Environment

RFID systems work by communicating data using radio signals. Every wireless communication system has to worry about signal issues, like signal degradation and distortion. In the case of RF systems, the biggest problems arise from liquids and metals. 

Metals can hamper the functioning of a tag by causing attenuation (changing the frequency of the signal or antenna). The size of an antenna is inversely proportional to the frequency it operates at. This is because the length of an antenna is directly proportional to the wavelength of the signal. When the antenna of a tag comes in contact with a metal surface, the entire surface starts acting like an antenna. This causes the tag’s antenna to attune to a lower frequency that the rest of the system.

Water is a good conductor of electricity, so when it comes into contact with a radio signal, it dissipates it. This happens because a radio wave has to oscillate charges to keep moving, which requires energy. So, the higher the oscillation per second (frequency), the more energy the wave will need to move through the water.

Low-frequency tags a good at communicating in environments with metals and liquids, due to the low frequency they suffer minimal disturbance. High-frequency tags, on the other hand, can work in such environments but are far more vulnerable to signal degradation and detuning.

(E). Communication/Read Range

There are many factors that can affect the communication range of an RF system. One of the major factors is the operational frequency. As the frequency of a signal increase, so does its power input, meaning that higher-frequency signals have more energy. Therefore, these signals can travel farther.

Both LF and HF signals have very limited communication range, compared to other types of systems. Low-frequency tags have a read range of up to 6 inches at most, while high-frequency tags can be read up to 12 inches from the antenna.

(F). Tag Form Factor

The form factor of a tag refers to the form and application of the tags. The most common form factor for these tags is Smart Cards, Key FOBs, Disks, Labels, etc. However, Low-Frequency tags also come in the form of Embeddable Bio Glass for animal tracking), Plastic Ear tags, and Inlays. High-Frequency tags, additionally, come in the form of Hard tags made from high-quality ABS plastic.

Applications of LF & HF Systems

Now that you have read till here, you are probably aware of almost everything you need to know to understand the difference between different types of RFID systems. Based on these differences, low-frequency & high-frequency systems are more suitable for different applications.

The usual applications of High-Frequency systems are – Access Control, Library Book Tracking, Ticketing, Payments, Authentication, and IoT Automation. 

On the other hand, users employ Low-Frequency RFID Systems for applications like – Animal & Livestock Tracking, Access Control, Automotive Control, Healthcare, etc.


There are major differences between Low Frequency & High-Frequency RFID technology. From operational frequency (as the name suggests) to real-world applications. Although, ever since the introduction of UHF technology, both of these have lost some of their popularity. However, the affordability and resistance to metals & liquids keep them a worthy competitor.

Depending on the application and the industry, one might be more suitable for a particular user than the other one. For example, for small operations, LF works perfectly due to their reduced cost. However, in applications where the volume of items is large, most users prefer HF tags due to their higher data transfer speed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is HF in RFID

HF refers to High Frequency, it’s a type of RFID system that operates by communicating using frequency bandwidth between 125 kHz to 134 kHz.

Q2. What is the highest frequency for RFID?

There are many types of RFID systems, based on their frequency, namely – Low Frequency, High Frequency, Ultra-High Frequency, and Active. Active tags tend to have the highest frequency for any RF system. They have an operational frequency of 3.5 GHz.

Q3. What is the range of low-frequency RFID?

The range of an RF tag/label depends majorly on its frequency. This is because, higher-frequency signals carry more energy, meaning that they can travel further. In short, low-frequency tags have the lowest communication range. Mostly, a low-frequency RFID tag can be read up to 6 inches from the antenna.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Aug 22, 2023

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