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Cell phone service cut short

John Tierney | Friday, November 17, 2006

If the cellular phone is a college student’s lifeline, a lot of the Notre Dame community was left drowning in the rain Thursday.

Many students complained of poor cell phone service throughout the day. Calls that were dialed never connected, and many connected calls were dropped after just 10 to 15 seconds, some students said. Text messaging functions, however, did not seem to be impaired.

The day of choppy service for many major carriers left students frustrated and some blamed the poor service on the day’s steady rain. But Dewitt Latimer, chief technology officer in the Office of Information Technologies, said cell phone service is usually not affected by the weather.

“There is no reason to believe that the rain or the clouds would have interfered with the antennas,” he said.

By Thursday evening, freshman Mike Kelly, a Verizon customer, said he was frustrated almost to the point of destroying his phone.

“I haven’t been able to make a call all day,” Kelly said. “I was about to throw my phone into a puddle ’cause I thought it was just my phone that wasn’t working.”

After unsuccessful attempts, Kelly finally connected his call.

“Yes! 53 seconds – that’s my record!” he said. “I had to talk fast so I wouldn’t get cut off, but I made it.”

Some students, like freshman Ruben Saldana, were a little more fortunate with their service.

“I have Sprint and my service was fine today,” Saldana said. “I was on the phone for 15 minutes this afternoon and I didn’t have any problems at all.”

Latimer, who was away from his office all day Thursday, did not receive notification from carriers that coverage was inconsistent. He has a standard call with a representative from major carriers every Friday and will inquire about reported problems then. Until he makes that call, Latimer said that he “will not speculate on the nature of the problem and will not jump to hasty conclusions.”

“All students can do when the service is bad is notify their carrier,” Latimer said. “We won’t know about it unless the carrier knows about it. If no one knows about the problem, nothing can be done.”

Although some students are nervous that poor service will continue this weekend with a football game and predictions of more rain, Latimer does not think cell phones should be affected.

“There is no reason why service should at all be affected by the weather,” he said.

Service providers Verizon and Cingular currently have stealth antennas located on campus. Although Verizon customers reported difficulties with their service today, Cingular customers did not.

Notre Dame is currently in negotiations with other major cellular carriers to install antennas on campus.

“We are in negotiation with all vendors,” Latimer said. “We haven’t signed any contracts yet, but there are serious conversations underway with some carriers.”

Latimer declined comment on the identity of the carriers currently in discussions with the University, citing ongoing negotiations.