Protecting Medical Telemetry
In 2013, FCC staff met with TerreStar and urged the Company to address potential interference concerns with users of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS) in immediately adjacent 1.4 GHz spectrum. Following this, major medical device manufacturers informed TerreStar that its Smart Grid networks were potentially incompatible with WMTS, posing a serious risk to patient safety. Though TerreStar was fully compliant with FCC rules, WMTS interests warned that the Company’s Smart Grid emissions would likely impair or even disable life-critical patient monitoring networks at thousands of hospital deployments across the United States. What followed was a multi-year collaborative effort between TerreStar, the FCC and the medical community, which shuttered Smart Grid deployment operations and has the potential to create a new protected commercial medical telemetry band.
Medical Telemetry Serves a Life-Critical Healthcare Function
WMTS provides the wireless link between high-risk patients and the medical professionals that care for them. This link enables real-time cardiac monitoring, giving hospital clinicians immediate notice of life-threatening conditions as soon as they begin developing.
WMTS Has Become an Essential Component of US Healthcare Infrastructure
WMTS has grown rapidly because it saves lives while reducing the overall cost of patient care. Today, WMTS systems are utilized at more than 8,500 major hospital installations and can accommodate nearly half a million critical care patients.
“Harmful interference could have serious and immediate consequences since WMTS can involve matters of life and death.”
- Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
The Vulnerability in Thousands of Life-Critical Hospital Networks
Due to limitations in current receiver filter technology, medical telemetry systems in the 1.4 GHz WMTS band were designed without an ability to reject signals from the adjacent commercial spectrum. Thus, commercial networks compliant with the current FCC rules for licensed spectrum in adjacent bands can interfere with patient telemetry in hospitals.
“The interference potential of deploying WiMAX 802.16 systems adjacent to WMTS spectrum is very real and of significant concern to the WMTS community.”
- Philips Healthcare
How FCC Compliant Commercial Services Cause Patient Monitoring Failure
While the FCC created rules to limit out-of-band emissions from commercial systems to medical systems, rules do not mandate medical receiver immunity to clean in-band emissions. Thus, commercial operations compliant with the current FCC rules for licensed spectrum in adjacent bands would cause medical telemetry failure.
Turning Danger Into Opportunity: TerreStar and the medical community would transform interference producing commercial licenses into spectrum that expands the capacity and functionality of medical telemetry networks.