Boeing challenges GE, IBM, Philips over wireless spectrum for patient monitoring

The high hopes that some medical device makers have for wireless patient monitoring technologies may get grounded--if aerospace giant Boeing gets its way.

As General Electric, IBM, Royal Philips Electronics and others push the Federal Communications Commission to allow wireless medical devices to access a portion of radio spectrum currently restricted to flight-test data, Boeing is fighting to block new uses of the frequencies. The airplane maker says that allowing medical data to share the airwaves would cause delays in flight testing that could cost Boeing $50,000 per hour and perhaps jeopardize aviation safety, Bloomberg reports.

But an auction of the frequencies--2360 megahertz to 2400 megahertz--could net the federal government as much as $6 billion. "It might look like a fight about spectrum, but at the end of the day, it's all about money," Brookings Institution economist and Internet policy expert Robert Litan tells Bloomberg.

Litan says that remote monitoring technologies could cut healthcare expenditures by as much as $197 billion over the next 25 years. Some device manufacturers believe they could deliver even greater savings by working on the frequency range now blocked off for aircraft testing. Other airspace offered by the FCC has been problematic for companies like GE. "Chips operating at those frequencies consume too much power," and thus unsuitable for mass implementation, GE Healthcare wireless architect Neal Seidl says.

To learn more about this issue:
- take a look at this Bloomberg story

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