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Antennas to go up over summer

Peter Ninneman | Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Beginning next year, students will not have to worry about not being able to make a cellular call on the day of a home football game or searching their dorm room for a miraculous spot where they get sufficient cell phone reception.

Office of Information Technologies (OIT) chief tech officer Dewitt Latimer said that the “distributed antenna system” designed to enhance cell phone reception on Notre Dame’s campus should be finished by August 1.

“Unlike cell towers, where you have one or two cell towers, the distributed antenna system has more numerous, smaller antennas closer to the ground … [that are] stealth in appearance,” Latimer said. “They don’t stick out.”

OIT had hoped for antenna installation to begin this past April since snow would have melted off roofs, but the contract with Cingular took longer than expected. Latimer said the deadline would still be met.

“We are a little bit behind … [but] we will hopefully start within the next three to four weeks,” Latimer said.

So far Cingular is the only company to have committed to the investment, but Latimer said there are talks underway with another carrier popular with students, although he could not specify which one it is. Talks are also underway with smaller carriers, who are deciding whether or not they have enough customers on campus to make their investment in the project profitable. However, Latimer said the antennas are “carrier independent.”

“The previous way of doing it was proprietary to a specific carrier … We have typically not allowed cell towers on campus, which is why we haven’t had good reception,” Latimer said.

There will be 16 antennas discreetly placed around campus, concentrated near the Joyce Center and Notre Dame Stadium, since those are areas where more “capacity” is necessary because of situations like football home games, Latimer said.

Fewer antennas will be placed on the quads and near classroom buildings, Latimer said, but they will still improve reception quality as much as the more concentrated antennas since they are required to carry a lesser amount of calls.

Director of Residence Life and Housing Jeff Shoup said the improvements were necessary because the “ResNet system was becoming outdated.”

“We can’t take out the phones without working on cell phone reception,” Shoup said, referring to the removal of land line phones from dorm rooms starting next academic year unless students choose to pay extra.

“Students will be informed about what’s going with the phones again, if they want to opt in,” Shoup said. “They’ll also be informed about which companies have gotten into this service, so they should all have very good connections on campus.”

As for other dorm improvements, Shoup said that besides cable and wireless Internet, only minor upgrades will be made to dorms – with the exception of Farley Hall, which will require more renovation. Shoup also said eight more dorms require cable and wireless installation.