The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules and formally approved the use of 40 MHz of spectrum (from 2360 to 2400 MHz) on a secondary basis that will enable the use of Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs) by healthcare institutions. MBANs use wireless low-power wideband networks to transmit data from patients wearing body sensors to a control device. The sensors can record a variety of physiological data such as pulse rate, temperature, blood pressure and blood glucose level. The wireless MBAN devices allow for medical monitoring without the need to tether patients to hospital beds. According to a study cited by the FCC, only 50 percent of hospital patients are monitored, even though a monitored hospital patient has a 48 percent chance of surviving a cardiac arrest while a non-monitored patient only has a 6 percent chance.
MBAN devices will share the spectrum used on a primary basis by aeronautical mobile telemetry licensees, and the rules are a product of a spectrum sharing agreement between GE Healthcare and Phillips Healthcare and the Aerospace & Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council. With the FCC’s approval of spectrum for MBAN use, device manufacturers can now begin the process of approval with the Food and Drug Administration.
The new rules will permit MBAN devices to operate on a “license-by-rule” basis, meaning that users will not have to obtain an individual license for each device. Devices in the 2360-2390 MHz band can only be used indoors at health care facilities. These devices will require registration with a designated MBAN coordinator, and in certain locations may require additional coordination. Devices in the 2390-2400 MHz band will not require registration or coordination and can be used in any location, including in-home. The FCC has released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking questions about how an MBAN coordinator (or coordinators) might be selected. The FCC’s timeline for the completion of this proceeding is not clear at this time.