By Paul Barbagallo
The Federal Communications Commission has finalized its rules to allocate
spectrum for medical body area networks, or MBANs, which will allow doctors to
monitor patients' vital signs anywhere throughout a hospital or even remotely in
Under rules to be published in the Sept. 11 Federal Register, the FCC
will make available 40 MHz of spectrum--the 2360-2400 MHz band--for small,
wearable wireless sensors.
The rules take effect Oct. 10.
With the commission's final action, the United States becomes the first
country in the world to allocate spectrum--albeit on a shared, secondary
basis--for MBAN devices.
The potentially revolutionary MBANs can monitor an array of physiological
data, including temperature, pulse, blood glucose level, blood pressure, and
Unlike traditional medical telemetry systems that rely on separate,
uncoordinated links for each physiological function tested, MBANs can monitor
all of the desired data of a single patient, aggregate it, and then transmit it
to a remote location for evaluation, all using wireless technology.
By eliminating the wired cables that typically connect patients to monitoring
equipment and facilitating the aggregation and transfer of physiological data,
MBANs can improve patient mobility and comfort, reduce the risk of infection,
reduce clinical errors, and cut patient monitoring costs, health care advocates
The Aerospace and Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council had originally
opposed use of the 2360-2400 MHz band for MBANs, claiming it would result in
harmful interference to flight testing in the 2360-2395 MHz band. The council
had submitted an alternative proposal to the FCC which would have allowed the
use of MBANs in the 2300-2305 MHz and 2395-2400 MHz bands.
Ultimately, the final rules adopted by the commission reflect a compromise
proposal for use of the 2360-2400 MHz band agreed to by Philips Healthcare, GE
Healthcare, and the council.
“The commission believes that the risk of increased interference is low and
is greatly outweighed by the substantial benefits of this new technology,” it
wrote in its report and order.
MBANs will be permitted under the FCC's “license-by-rule” framework, under
which doctors and hospitals will register and coordinate the use of their
The FCC originally adopted the rules in May (see previous
For the Federal Register notice, visit http://op.bna.com/mdw.nsf/r?Open=plon-8xzshs.