FCC commissioners today unanimously approved rules that will enable medical body-area networks (MBANs) to operate on 2360–2400 MHz spectrum to support the transmission of health-monitoring data from patients using body-worn sensors.

"This technology has tremendous potential to untether patients from tubes and wires, and improve the quality of health care and ensure better outcomes for patients," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, citing a recent study that indicates monitored hospital patients have a 48% chance of surviving cardiac arrest, but as few as 6% survive such an event without monitoring.

Under the new rules, MBAN technology — to be used in hospitals, clinics, doctors offices and patients' homes — will be deployed on a secondary basis in the 40 MHz of spectrum that traditionally has been almost exclusively by commercial test pilots.

The spectrum-sharing arrangement was reached after the FCC worked with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to address interference issues in the band.

"This order represents a multi-industry effort to foster innovation in this spectrum band by allowing distinct but compatible users to share airwaves," Genachowski said. "This item is a great example of how parties working together and with the FCC can achieve win-win outcomes for various industries and for the American people."

By identifying the spectrum for MBANs, the FCC is providing the regulatory certainty needed for medical vendors to invest in the development of products leveraging the monitoring technology — a fact noted by both Genachowski and Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC's office of engineering and technology.

"Now that we have rules in place, people can start to plan for networks, design products and go through the authorization process," Knapp said during the press conference after the commission meeting. "There's also the step of going through FDA's approval process — until the spectrum was nailed down, you really couldn't go forward on that front."