T-Mobile’s 700 MHz network stumbles over interference from bitcoin miner in Brooklyn

A bitcoin-mining machine interfered with T-Mobile's network. (tunaolger/Pixabay)

The FCC said it took action against a Brooklyn resident who was using a machine to mine bitcoin because the machine was interfering with T-Mobile’s 700 MHz LTE network in the city.

“On November 30, 2017, in response to the complaint agents from the Enforcement Bureau’s New York Office confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio emissions in the 700 MHz band were emanating from your residence in Brooklyn, New York,” the FCC wrote in a complaint posted to its site. “When the interfering device was turned off the interference ceased. You identified the device as an Antminer S5 Bitcoin Miner. The device was generating spurious emissions on frequencies assigned to T-Mobile’s broadband network and causing harmful interference.”

The FCC is the agency charged with managing the nation’s airwaves and handles both licensed and unlicensed frequencies. The agency also reviews electronic devices to ensure their radio and power outputs don’t create interference. T-Mobile holds the license for the 700 MHz band in Brooklyn and thus would be concerned if anything was affecting its operations there.

According to several websites selling equipment for bitcoin mining, the AntMiner S5 bitcoin miner was released by Bitmain in late 2014. Such computers can be used to create bitcoins, a digital cryptocurrency. Each bitcoin is worth around $10,000 right now.

T-Mobile didn’t have an immediate comment for Reuters on the topic. Nonetheless, the issue helps underscore the increasingly complex world that wireless network operators are participating in. Of course, wireless carriers have always worked to protect their networks from interference; for example, AT&T said in 2016 that its wireless network is suffering from interference generated by a range of electronics operations, including large-scale video displays, industrial lighting systems, LED lights and FM radio stations.

But the interference situation could well become more complex as more devices are connected to wireless networks, and wireless networks span more and more frequency bands.