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Cell towers increase reception

Madeline Buckley | Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AT&T’s two new cell antennas atop the Morris Inn have reduced the number of complaints from students on South Quad about dropped calls, Chief Technology Officer Dewitt Latimer said.

The antennae, Latimer said, have been operational since the middle of January and have improved service.

“We have noticed a lack of complaints with AT&T customers,” Latimer said.

The towers, Latimer said, were specifically directed at South Quad residents.

“AT&T just bought their 17th antenna on campus particularly to address some coverage concerns over at the Alumni and Dillon area,” Latimer said. “The customers in that area were complaining about dropped calls. Students in the area of Alumni and Dillon Halls who use AT&T should notice a significant improvement in signal reach and strength.”

The initiative to improve cell phone coverage on campus began two years ago with the removal of landlines from the dorm rooms, Latimer said. The movement from landlines to cell phones, he said, presented a problem for the University.

“We know how much students rely on cell phones,” Latimer said. “We also know that over the years there has been a general disdain for having cell towers on or near campus.”

OIT installed antennas on various buildings on campus that were painted to blend in, Latimer said. Since then, he said, OIT has worked in conjunction with the service providers to offer the best coverage possible.

The service providers, and not the University, are largely responsible for the quality of coverage on campus, Latimer said. OIT has the job of negotiating contracts with the providers, he said, but it is ultimately up to them to service the campus.

“To date we have been successful in getting both Verizon and AT&T on campus,” he said. “Even though the system is capable of handling any operator, those two are the only operators that have developed the business case for investment.”

OIT has since made efforts to contract other providers on campus such as T-Mobile, Nextel and Sprint, Latimer said. Those efforts have not yet been successful.

Students with these service providers “complain very loudly,” Latimer said. He did, however, offer a solution.

“If your cellular provider is not on campus, tell them you would like them to hook up to Notre Dame’s distributed antenna system,” he said.

Verizon is the second largest provider on campus, but has only six antennae, compared to AT&T’s 17. OIT is pursuing a new contract with Verizon to install four more antennas. Latimer hopes that those will be installed before the fall semester.

“We are getting close,” he said. “Verizon wants it and we want it.”

Those antennae will significantly improve the service of Verizon customers on campus, Latimer said.