TR Daily TerreStar Gets Limited Waiver to Offer WMTS
Thursday, April 30, 2020

TerreStar Gets Limited Waiver to Offer WMTS

The Mobility Division of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau today granted TerreStar Corp. a limited, conditional waiver to allow it to offer wireless medical telemetry services (WMTS) in the 1.4 gigahertz band.

“With the COVID-19 outbreak causing increased reliance on medical telemetry monitoring in hospitals and on telehealth in general, this action will help ensure that traditional health care facilities have more spectrum capacity to meet a surge of additional monitoring demands that may occur in emergencies. It also will enable the development and use of monitoring services in non-traditional settings outside hospitals,” the FCC said in a news release.

“It’s important that we do what we can to support telehealth and the tools used by health care professionals during this health crisis,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This limited waiver will provide an opportunity to expand spectrum available for critically needed services while avoiding costly interference at a time when we cannot afford it. This should put us in a better position to face future medical challenges.”

The news release noted that “[i]n 2017, the Bureau found that TerreStar had not met its license requirements for use of the spectrum it had been licensed. For purposes of the instant grant of a conditional waiver, the Bureau reviewed new information raised in petitions for reconsideration by TerreStar, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering of the American Hospital Association, GE Healthcare, and Philips Healthcare regarding the interference potential to the wireless medical telemetry service and the need for additional WMTS spectrum for the benefit of public health and safety.

“It also took into consideration TerreStar’s commitment to ‘provide spectrum capacity and frequency planning and coordination services, free of charge, outside of registered WMTS healthcare facilities in support of any future national public health emergency declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.’ The waiver approved today includes strict conditions requiring TerreStar to use its licensed spectrum for wireless medical telemetry services,” the news release added.

In an order on reconsideration released today in WT docket 16-290, the division noted that in 2017, it denied a waiver request filed by TerreStar seeking a 36-month extension to make a substantial service build-out showing for its 64 licenses in the 1.4 GHz band (TR Daily, Oct. 10, 2017). As a result, the division said the company’s licenses terminated automatically.

But in today’s order, the division cited a 2018 ex parte filing “attaching a summary of what TerreStar states was a technical study conducted in 2014 to assess the compatibility of its smart grid service with WMTS in the adjacent band. TerreStar asserts that, based on the study, it ‘confirmed the existence and severity of the WMTS interference problem and concluded that it was caused by insufficient receiver selectivity, not regulatory non-compliance.’”

The order added, “The ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 outbreak have further demonstrated the need for new WMTS spectrum options. The outbreak has resulted in a substantial rise in the number of patients who need medical telemetry monitoring in hospitals, and has also made apparent the urgent need for new options to support remote health care and medical telemetry monitoring in non-traditional settings where WMTS cannot currently be deployed, such as in makeshift emergency hospitals, nursing homes, home monitoring environments, and other places where quarantined critical care patients must reside outside of major medical facilities.”

The waiver granted today includes a number of conditions, including initial, interim, and final deployment milestones.

For initial deployment, “TerreStar must file a progress report in ULS [by April 30, 2022] demonstrating operational deployments, using WMTS equipment, to at least 50 large health care facilities that have extensive patient monitoring.”

“By January 30, 2023, TerreStar must file a progress report in ULS demonstrating operational deployments in at least 50 percent of health care facilities with WMTS systems that have been registered with the designated frequency coordinator as of the release date of this Order on Reconsideration,” the order added. “By July 30, 2023, TerreStar must demonstrate operational deployments in at least 2,000 health care facilities nationwide and must also demonstrate that the operational deployments include the use of a significant portion of applicable frequencies for WMTS deployment. The deployment must include at least ten health care facilities in each Major Economic Area (MEA) for MEA-based Licenses, as well as in each area equivalent to an MEA for Economic Area Grouping (EAG)-based Licenses. If an MEA or area equivalent to an MEA contains fewer than 50 health care facilities, TerreStar must demonstrate operational deployments to at least 20 percent of the facilities in that MEA or MEA-equivalent area.”

The order also said, “We understand TerreStar expects that new technology may allow it to deploy additional services in this spectrum. As such, we provide that once TerreStar has satisfactorily met its Final Deployment Obligation, TerreStar may file a letter certifying as such as well as a full technical demonstration of how such additional uses will not cause harmful interference to in-band or adjacent-band WMTS, or otherwise undermine or prevent the continued provision of WMTS (including in vehicles and locations outside of health care facilities) on its 1.4 GHz spectrum. The Bureau will release a Public Notice seeking comment on any such letter and TerreStar may commence deployment of such additional services 90 days after release of that Public Notice absent an affirmative finding by the Bureau that such additional services will cause harmful interference to WMTS. Should TerreStar file such a letter at the same time as it completes its Final Deployment Obligation, the Bureau would seek comment on both issues in a single Public Notice.”

John Kneuer, president of TerreStar Medical, a subsidiary of TerreStar Corp., said, “Under Chairman Pai’s thoughtful leadership the Commission has struck the appropriate balance between protecting critical incumbents and enabling innovative new services. TerreStar Medical intends to follow this lead by bringing robust, secure, and advanced new services to the wireless medical community, while we develop compatible 5G solutions for the future.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation Covid19

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