GE Healthcare wants the FCC to restrict usage of channels adjacent to Wireless Medical Telemetry System frequencies.
Patient safety could be at risk unless GE Healthcare and other IT
heavyweights persuade the Federal Communications Commission to protect the
wireless medical telemetry channel from possible interference.
When cable converts to a digital signal in 2009, wireless frequencies called
"white spaces" will become available, including channels 36 and 38,
which are adjacent to the Wireless Medical Telemetry System (WMTS) that resides
on channel 37, said Tim Kottack, engineering general manager for systems and
wireless for GE Healthcare.
Kottack said while consumer technology companies are advocating that white
spaces be used for next-generation wireless consumer devices, GE has petitioned
the FCC to ensure that white spaces adjacent to the WMTS
spectrum remain protected.
Some of the devices that might use channels 36 and 38 include technology
that provides Internet access wirelessly to rural areas, high-powered
gaming devices, and even some higher-powered smart phones and Internet devices,
according to Kottack. Depending on the power of these devices, he said,
their use could bleed over and cause interference with channel 37, interrupting
patient monitoring devices.
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"This involves wireless, life-critical patient monitoring,"
Kottack said. "We want to make sure that what happens with white spaces
never interferes with patient care."
Wireless medical telemetry devices can monitor patients' physiological
activity, including heart rate, blood pressure, electrocardiograms and other
vital signs while allowing the patients to be ambulatory and still be monitored
by nurses remotely, Kottack said.
"Hospitals are increasingly using these applications because they find
people can get healthier faster if they're moving around," he said.
These television white spaces make up a spectrum that's largely unused in
cities or municipalities if they don't have any channels in that spectrum,
Kottack said. In 2000, with the use of mobile consumer devices and
wireless medical telemetry technology increasing, and with a number of
interference incidents already occurring, the FCC mandated that channel 37 be
set aside specifically for the WMTS.
Kottack said GE Healthcare has raised its concerns with the FCC by
submitting formal comments to the agency, as well as meeting with the FCC
engineering office to explain and educate the agency on potential interference
"One of our main recommendations is that because channel 37 is already
the WMTS channel, that channels 36 and 38 are treated as 'guardband' and aren't
available for use by certain high-powered consumer devices," Kottack said.
In addition to GE, consumer electronics companies and IT heavyweights such
as Google have also acknowledged that channels 36 and 38 should be set aside to
avoid interference, and that the FCC seems receptive, Kottack added.
The FCC is expected to issue a final decision on the issue
in June 2008.