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Cell companies respond to complaints

John Paul Witt | Friday, August 29, 2008

In response to numerous complaints from cell phone users on campus, telecommunication giants Verizon and AT&T have been placing numerous antennas on various buildings in order to help boost reception on campus.

Notre Dame has been the beneficiary of AT&T’s installation of “a distributed antenna system on campus that will allow for better in-building wireless coverage and increased capacity for voice and high-speed data services,” Chris Bauer of AT&T Indiana said. This consisted of an initial 16 antennas across campus, with an additional 17th antenna installed later to increase reception in the area from McGlinn Hall to Alumni Hall.

According to Bauer, AT&T has invested $65 million in the state of Indiana, and plans to launch a new high speed data network known as “3G” in South Bend in the coming months.

Verizon Wireless has also installed six antennas to increase reception for their customers and the company, Chief Technology Office Dewitt Latimer said. The antennas won’t be noticed around campus, as they are hidden or camouflaged by existing art on the exterior of buildings, Latimer said.

Another beneficiary of the increased cell phone coverage has been the ND Alert notification system, which was designed to notify the Notre Dame community of severe weather or other danger that may affect campus.

“Because of these infrastructure improvements, we can send the 16,000 emergency text messages generated by the Alert system in about three minutes,” Latimer said.

Aside from AT&T and Verizon, carriers such as Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular have been approached by the University, but have deferred upgrading their coverage due to the large initial investment required, Latimer said.

“Since Notre Dame draws students from around the nation, it makes sense that most of our students use AT&T and Verizon, as they comprise over 85 percent of the market nationally,” Latimer said.

Despite these upgrades, certain areas of the university remain with poor reception. Latimer said he is aware of the reception problems in newly created Duncan Hall, noting that the West Quad area has historically had poor reception. “Both Verizon and AT&T are working on upgrading coverage on West Quad and inside Duncan Hall in particular, but it’s going to take some time,” he said.

Because of the improvements in coverage, students often change their plans to AT&T or Verizon because they “go with what’s best”, Latimer said.

“We’re seeing that students often come in under a family plan and then by junior year start to sign up for their own plans, and they of course are attracted to carriers that have better service on campus,” Latimer said.