FCC Spectrum Changes To Benefit Sprint, Hospitals
May 28, 2012

FCC Spectrum Changes To Benefit Sprint, Hospitals

Spectrum changes approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late last week open the door for Sprint to launch an LTE service and provide hospitals with a way to wirelessly monitor their patients.

On Sunday, Jamie Walling of MotoringCrunch reported that the FCC amended the rules of the ESMR 800MHz spectrum which allows for both 3G and 4G to be used on that band. That move, Walling reports, removes restrictions forcing those owning that particular license to use only narrowband technology (typically less than 25kHz of the spectral bandwidth).

As a result, Sprint 4G phones may soon have better coverage while indoors -- well, most of them, as Walling points out that the company's iPhone 4S does not include support for ESMR 800MHz spectrum.

"I am pleased to vote to approve this order, which modernizes a legacy rule thereby paving the way for increased spectral efficiency, as well as technical flexibility to invest in, develop and deploy wideband services in portions of the 800 MHz band," FCC Chairman Robert M. McDowell said in a May 24 statement.

"Our new rule strikes a balance between maximizing efficiency -- and therefore allowing consumers to benefit from faster mobile speeds and a greater array of services on the one hand -- while protecting 800 MHz public safety licensees from harmful interference on the other hand," he added. "While we are just beginning to sort through the complex issues associated with freeing up more spectrum for the longer term, I am pleased that we have taken another small step today to allow wireless providers to take better advantage of the spectrum already available in the market."

On the heels of the FCC announcement, ExtremeTech's Neal Gompa reports that Sprint customers will be able to "experience massive improvements in coverage, soon" thanks its Network Vision upgrade. Network Vision mandates shut down of older iDEN network one cell at a time as new cells are installed and activated as part of the upgrade, he explained.

"When an iDEN cell goes offline, Sprint can go back to a Network Vision cell site and turn on CDMA2000 1X Advanced and LTE services on the frequency band previously occupied by the iDEN cell. This refarming process is similar to what T-Mobile is doing to deploy LTE," Gompa said. "By deploying CDMA2000 and LTE on ESMR 800 spectrum, Sprint will gain an advantage that has principally been held by AT&T and Verizon Wireless: low-band broadband wireless service."

"Low-band wireless services can cover larger ranges with fewer towers and provide far better indoor coverage than high-band wireless services (like the current PCS CDMA2000 service Sprint offers now)," he added. "Sprint customers will truly appreciate this upgrade once new CDMA2000/LTE handsets that support the low band frequency is rolled out. The spectrum has already been approved for use with LTE as band class 26, so it is just a matter of Sprint revising its requirements to ODMs and getting the devices out there."

In related news, the FCC also improved a second set of spectrum-use regulations, according to ArsTechnica reporter Megan Geuss. Those rules establish the Medical Body Area Network (MBAN), a wireless network to be used by hospitals to hook up patients to wireless EEGs, heart monitors, neo-natal sensors or other, similar devices. The MBAN will utilize the 2360-2400 MHz band, she added.

"Reducing the number of wires attached to patients will also lowers the risk of accidents and infections, and make patients more comfortable overall," Geuss wrote, adding that while MBAN is not the first medical-use wireless network established by the FCC, that "having this spectrum set aside for hospitals will further the advance of wireless technologies in medicine. The band is only approved for short-distance transmissions at the moment, but long-distance in-home monitoring could be on the horizon as well."