By Kendra Casey Plank
A coalition of health care organizations has urged the federal government to
protect a portion of the nation's broadband spectrum currently reserved for
certain medical devices and radio astronomy from being opened for use by
submitted Jan. 25 to the Federal Communications Commission, the Wireless Medical
Telemetry Service (WMTS) Coalition said allowing unlicensed devices to share the
608-614 MHz spectrum band--known as Channel 37--with WMTS devices threatened
WMTS devices are used by hospitals to monitor patients' physiological
data--such as heart rates and blood pressures--without limiting mobility as is
the case with traditional wired monitoring devices. The devices transmit patient
data to receivers in the hospital over the spectrum band allocated for such
purposes; this allows clinicians to monitor changes in patients' physiology that
could indicate life-threatening problems.
The WMTS Coalition's comments were in response to a notice of proposed
rulemaking [FCC 12-118] adopted Sept. 28, 2012 concerning “incentive auctions”
of broadcast spectrum bands. The incentive auction is an attempt by FCC to
reclaim airwaves now used for broadcast television and then auction them off to
wireless carriers led by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., with a portion of
the proceeds paid to the broadcasters. The aim of the proposed plan is to make
additional spectrum available for consumer wireless technology use and targets
the 600 MHz band for reallocation, which includes the 608-614 MHz band (Channel
37) used primarily by WMTS devices.
But, the WMTS Coalition argued that Channel 37 should be preserved for
wireless medical telemetry and not reallocated for mobile or broadcast use.
“The potential threat to patient safety created by the widespread use of
unlicensed devices operating co-channel with WMTS devices is too great to allow
such devices to 'share' this band,” the coalition wrote.
The coalition is led by the American Society of Healthcare Engineering
(ASHE), a group affiliated with the American Hospital Association. Other
coalition members include the American College of Clinical Engineering, the
Association for the Advancement for Medical Instrumentation, GE Healthcare, and
“If any new services are allowed to use Channel 37, they should only be
authorized to do so after it can be conclusively demonstrated that such use will
not create even the smallest threat of interference to the WMTS licensees who
are operating in the band,” the coalition argued.
The group also urged FCC to consider how any changes to allocation of
adjacent spectrum to Channel 37, Channels 36 and 38, might affect the use of
Channel 37 by WMTS licensees.
Already, digital television operations in the adjacent channels “greatly
constrains” WMTS uses in certain parts of the country, the coalition warned
The coalition said WMTS users in those cases “appear to have no grounds on
which to complain” when operating in proximity to digital TV stations, and have
developed their own solutions, which often include using less than the full
available spectrum in Channel 37 or deploying their wireless operations in other
“But incumbent Channel 37 systems already in place will not have the
advantage of this foresight in design if, after repacking and reallocation [of
broadband spectrum], additional DTV stations or other higher powered licensees
are introduced into these adjacent channels,” the coalition said.
The coalition's comments are available at http://www.ashe.org/resources/WMTS/pdfs/wmts_coallition_public_comments.pdf.
Additional information about the incentive auction is available at http://www.fcc.gov/document/broadcast-television-spectrum-incentive-auction-nprm.