New “Medical Body Area Network” device proposed

Having previously “gotten under our skin”, the FCC now proposes to lie on top of us. They have issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments on the spectrum allocation and service rules for yet another wireless medical telemetry device — a Medical Body Area Network (MBAN). The idea is to place multiple inexpensive, wireless sensors on a patient’s body to read temperature, pulse, blood glucose level, blood pressure, and so on. Little built-in antennas would send the data wirelessly to a hub device that is either worn by the patient (if there is room) or located nearby. The hub might process the data before relaying to a point elsewhere in the facility.

With respect to spectrum allocation, the proponent (GE Health Care) seeks 2360-2400 MHz – currently allocated to airborne telemetry – which is primarily used by the Federal government. Other parties interested in use of the spectrum for telemetry appear to be concerned about interference, and have counter-suggested an allocation of 2300-2305 and 2395-2400 MHz. Other proposed possible allocations include 2400-2483.5 MHz, which is currently allocated for use by: Industrial, Scientific and Medical equipment; amateurs; fixed and mobile services. This band is also heavily used by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cordless phones, and a vast host of other consumer devices. Another suggested alternative is 5150-5250 MHz, allocated to aeronautical radionavigation but also available on an unlicensed basis for wireless data networks.

With respect to a licensing regime, the FCC asks for comments on three alternatives: (1) Part 90, with non-exclusive individual licenses subject to frequency coordination and entitled to protection from interference; (2) Part 95, like some other medical telemetry, licensed by rule rather than individual licenses, and again entitled to a degree of interference protection; or (3) Part 15 unlicensed operation with no interference protection.

Not mentioned in the NPRM is whether the network will also interface with the patient’s iPod.

The deadlines for comments and reply comments have not yet been announced.