ASHE Alert: Update on Relocation of WMTS

November 5, 2012

Registration with ASHE is critical

In June 2012, AHA and ASHE reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was considering relocation of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS) from TV Channel 37 (608-614 MHz). This FCC evaluation was part of a much larger effort to reallocate portions of the UHF-TV bands for provision of new wireless broadband services. Earlier this month, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to establish rules for this effort. We are pleased that, according to the NPRM, the FCC has tentatively concluded that WMTS systems will not be required to relocate to a different band. WMTS systems will not be required to relocate to a different band.

In reaching the tentative conclusion announced in the NPRM, the FCC used data from the WMTS database managed by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE). ASHE has demonstrated that more than 2,700 health care facilities have deployed nearly 104,000 WMTS devices in Channel 37. ASHE estimates it would require replacement costs of $0.7 – $1.4 billion for equipment and installation alone if these systems were rendered unusable by reallocation of Channel 37. In addition, through discussions with WMTS manufacturers, ASHE has learned that the actual installed base of WMTS devices is much higher, as many of the installed WMTS systems are operating without the protection afforded by licensing in the WMTS.

Despite the cost to health care facilities if they have to move WMTS devices to another band, the FCC’s proposal is subject to modification based on evaluation of comments from other interested parties who respond to the FCC’s proposed band plan. In fact, in the NPRM the FCC has asked whether WMTS could be accommodated in other bands and, if so, at what cost and in what timeframe. In addition, the FCC seeks comment on whether Channel 37 could also accommodate other unlicensed devices, including wireless microphones and, if so, how WMTS might be protected from interference from such uses.

ASHE has already met with medical device manufacturers, hospital users, and other parties interested in developing a series of positions that will support the FCC’s initial analysis and serve the health care community’s interests by demonstrating that it would not be in the public interest to require relocation of WMTS devices to another band.

To provide the strongest arguments in favor of retaining Channel 37 for WMTS, it is critical for ASHE and its allies to have an accurate count of the number and location of all WMTS systems. An accurate count will also help demonstrate that the FCC would be ill-advised to open up this band to uses by other low-powered devices. To that end, it is critical that the WMTS database reflect all operating WMTS systems.

Registration with ASHE before operating a WMTS system in this band (and in the upper bands of 1395-1400 MHz and 1427-1432 MHz) is a requirement of the FCC regulations. If your WMTS system is not registered with ASHE, the FCC does not treat it as a licensed system. Moreover, if you have not registered your medical telemetry system with ASHE, you may not be eligible to receive compensation if relocation from Channel 37 is necessary. It is therefore critical for your institution’s self-interest, as well as the interest of the WMTS community as a whole, that all operating WMTS systems be registered as soon as possible!

Will I have to move my medical telemetry system? How soon and how much will it cost?

In the NPRM, the FCC does not propose reallocation of Channel 37 or relocation of any WMTS licensees. Therefore, it is not yet known whether facilities will have to move their WMTS systems to another band. Until a final decision has been made, there is no reason for any hospital to take precipitous action in moving or avoiding Channel 37.

ASHE’s ability to provide convincing arguments, based on solid data, will be the key to preserving Channel 37 as it currently exists. We remain confident that such arguments can be developed and will prevail when the FCC makes a final decision, but we need the WMTS community’s support, through timely registration, to assure that result. ASHE and AHA will keep members informed as the process continues.

What should I do now?

The most important action you can take now is to review your medical telemetry systems and verify that all WMTS equipment is registered with ASHE, the designated WMTS frequency coordinator. Registration is a requirement of the FCC rules for all systems installed in this band, and registration is the only way the system can be protected from interference from other systems operating in the band. It is critical for those fighting to retain the WMTS allocation in Channel 37 to have the most accurate information on how many systems already reside in this band. Thus, if you have not already done so, please register your WMTS equipment through the ASHE website today.

Registration is quick and easy. To learn more, visit ashe.org/wmts.

ASHE will continue to provide information as it becomes available to the WMTS community regarding any FCC proposals that may affect the use of the spectrum between 608 and 614 MHz. If ASHE and other members of a coalition of interested parties believe it will be helpful for the FCC to hear from interested hospitals, we will not hesitate to assist hospitals in contacting the FCC with an appropriate message of support for the coalition’s efforts. Please let ASHE know if you would like to know more about supporting or joining the coalition of interested parties.

For more information, contact ASHE Engineering & Compliance Director John Collins at jcollins@aha.org or 312-422-3805.

Copyright 2012 by the American Hospital Association. All rights reserved.