MBAN Announcement Was a Feel-Good Moment Between Private, Govt Sectors

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

Despite potential reservations by the aeronautical industry, the MBAN announcement by the FCC was a "feel-good" moment of partnership between the private and government sectors, McCombs suggested.

The aeronautical industry went along with the plan. "They could have easily said no way in the world would we consent to this, but they figured out a way to make it work," said McCombs. "They were genuinely concerned that planes would fall out of the sky and crash," he added.

"The FCC's ruling is the culmination of strong collaboration between the medical industry, regulatory officials and aeronautical stakeholders," said Mike Harsh, vice president and chief technology officer at GE Healthcare, in a statement.

With the focus on indoor hospital settings for most of the new spectrum, a wireless channel for MBANs in ambulances could follow in the future.

"The hope is that down the road there will be a way to figure out how to use this technology inside the ambulance, inside rescue vehicles and in homes so that when patients go home they can continue to be monitored," McCombs explained. "But that's not there today," he added.

"Today's item will help maximize the potential of MBAN technology by providing access to relatively quiet spectrum where this technology can develop and flourish," Genachowski said in a statement.

The medical devices require protection from interference by WiFi and various consumer devices, according to GE and Philips, two vendors that are developing MBAN devices.

"The expansion of wireless monitoring capabilities will help allow earlier clinical diagnoses, decisions and interventions, supporting the delivery of better patient care at lower costs," Anthony Jones, chief marketing officer for patient care and clinical informatics at Philips Healthcare, said in a statement.

The new spectrum could work alongside new machine-to-machine (M2M) medical monitoring over 3G, 4G and WiFi networks, said Genachowski.

An example is the Pod from Sprint and Ideal Life, which the companies unveiled at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Pod's M2M technology enables patients to send vital health data from one device to another.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must approve wireless medical devices, but the FCC and FDA have shown a willingness to work together, McCombs noted.

The FCC's new rules on wireless spectrum are part of its National Broadband Plan, unveiled on March 16, 2010, to facilitate broadband use in areas such as health care, education and government.

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,, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents,, USA Weekend and, 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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