The Federal Communications Commission is getting ready to hire a Medical Body Area Network (MBAN) coordinator, who will work to remove or mitigate radio frequency interference between MBANs and other wireless systems.

MBAN technology provides a platform for the wireless networking of multiple body-worn sensors used for measuring and recording physiological parameters and other patient information or for performing diagnostic or therapeutic functions. However, MBANs have the potential for interference from legacy wireless networks that can disrupt hospital operations and adversely impact patient safety.

The FCC is seeking to minimize the risk by adopting rules permitting MBAN device to operate only over relatively short distances and as part of a low power networked system, and by providing frequencies where an MBAN can co-exist with existing spectrum users and engage in “robust frequency re-use.” The coordinator will help facilitate the use of the MBAN frequencies, which operate in shared-use bands.

Under the new rules, the FCC has decided to select an MBAN coordinator for a 10-year term. “The Commission found it appropriate to select only one MBAN coordinator at this time given the characteristics of the MBAN service,” states an Oct. 6 Federal Register notice. “The healthcare community represents a small part of the radiofrequency user ecosystem and the number of MBAN registrants is likely to be proportionally small. A single coordinator will simplify MBAN registration for healthcare institutions because there will be a single point of contact.”

According to the notice, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau—acting under delegated authority as provided in the Commission's rules—will select the MBAN coordinator. Applicants applying to become the MBAN coordinator must demonstrate that they meet the following five criteria:

  • Ability to register and maintain a database of MBAN transmitter locations and operational parameters;
  • Knowledge of or experience with medical wireless systems in healthcare facilities (e.g., Wireless Medical Telemetry Service);
  • Knowledge of or experience with Aeronautical Mobile Telemetry (AMT) operations;
  • Ability to calculate and measure interference potential between MBAN and AMT operations and to enter into mutually satisfactory coordination agreements with the AMT coordinator; and
  • Ability to develop procedures to ensure that registered healthcare facilities operate an MBAN consistent with the requirements.

 
Recognizing that it may be difficult to identify a single entity that satisfies all the minimum qualifying criteria, the FCC will allow the MBAN coordinator to rely—if necessary—on a contract with a third party for technical support to demonstrate that it would be able to provide all of the MBAN registration and coordination functions. The Commission also decided to permit the MBAN coordinator to set fees for MBAN registration and coordination with the stipulation that they are “reasonable” and reflect only the MBAN coordinator’s actual costs of providing the coordination and registration functions.

In May 2012, the FCC voted to allocate 40 megahertz of spectrum in the 2360-2400 MHz band for these low-power networks, with the 2360-2390 MHz band to be used indoors only and the 2390-2400 MHz band to accommodate outdoor use. A final rule was released in September 2012. However, the FCC in August issued a “reconsideration and second report and order” that the commission argues takes “further actions to foster the development and deployment of new and innovative” MBAN devices.

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