FCC Approves Dedicated Wireless Spectrum for Hospital Medical Sensors

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2012-05-25 Print this article Print

The FCC has approved a proposal allotting a dedicated spectrum for wireless medical sensors, advocated by GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare.

On May 24, the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that set aside spectrum for the development of Medical Body Area Network devices.

MBANs consist of wireless sensors patients wear to capture vital signs and transmit them to devices that physicians can monitor.

The FCC unveiled its proposal for the new wireless medical spectrum on May 17. The Aerospace and Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council along with GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare helped create the new spectrum rules.

A focus of the allotted spectrum is for indoor hospital use, where most critical monitoring takes place, Harold K. McCombs, an attorney at Garvey Schubert Barer specializing in communications, told eWEEK.

The FCC set aside the 2,360MHz to 2,390MHz range for exclusive MBAN use in indoor settings. This 30MHz range will require both registration and frequency coordination. Another 10MHz in the 2,390MHz to 2,400MHz band can be used in any location, such as in the home.

It remains to be seen how much of this potential 40MHz of radio spectrum medical facilities will require for monitoring of patients, according to McCombs.

Before deciding on the new spectrum, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Department of Defense addressed interference issues in the 2,360MHz to 2,400MHz range, according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

"Aeronautical people work in the first 30MHz€”there must be registration and coordination€”and that's where the significant potential for harmful interference exists," said McCombs. MBANs will take over spectrum formerly used by test pilots.

"A hospital with a lot of beds might need the full 40Hz," said McCombs."If you have a smaller limited setting, it could use top 10MHz and not worry about the airplanes," said McCombs, referring to the 2,390MHz to 2,400MHz range.

With the new rules, the FCC was careful not to interfere with flight test operations, FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell noted in a statement.

Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.

Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz


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