Like many office buildings around the world, the Ernest & Young Plaza in Los Angeles, California uses fluorescent lighting. However, the lights in this building were producing electromagnetic interference strong enough to affect mobile phone reception.
Issues were first raised in April of 2013, when Verizon Wireless alleged that the GE fluorescent lighting was causing interference to Verizon’s 700 MHZ LTE cell site (high-speed data transmitting site for mobile phones).
Proving the Problem
In November of 2013, portable direction-finding equipment was used by the Enforcement Bureau’s Los Angeles Office to prove that the interfering emissions were emanating from the ceiling fluorescent lights in the building. Specifically, the emissions were caused by the ballast, which is an electrical device that acts to limit the amount of current that passes into the tube.
Impacts on Mobile Phone Users
The findings of the Enforcement Bureau were corroborated by local mobile phone users, who reported poor reception, missed calls and unsent text messages in the vicinity of the office.
Ultimately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a citation in February of 2014 to Brookfield Office Properties for operating industrial, scientific and medical equipment and causing harmful interference in violation of the Commission’s rules. This means that if Brookfield were to violate the rules again, they could receive a fine of up to $16,000 (over £9,500) for each violation or each day of a continuing violation. The fine can be up to $112,000 (almost £67,000) for a single failure to act.
In general, commercial electronic devices are designed to operate without causing interference to other devices in their vicinity. This is often regulated by means of Electro-Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing of devices. Furthermore, operators of mobile phone networks pay for licences that allow them to operate at frequencies that are not usually subject to large amounts of interference. Cases such as this are uncommon but not unique, and the potential for interference due to the installation of large scale electronic devices remains an important factor for a multitude of industries.
Lighting Ballasts Causing Harmful Interference – https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-14-148A1.pdf