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FCC Finalizes Rules to Allocate Spectrum for Wearable Wireless Medical Devices

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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 the home.

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 respiratory function.

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 say.


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 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 equipment.

The FCC originally adopted the rules in May (see previous article).


For the Federal Register notice, visit /uploadedFiles/Content/News/Legal_and_Business/Bloomberg_Law/Legal_Reports/FCCrule(1).pdf.

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