College finally moves to improve cell-phone service
By Kelly Bracha
Eric Adler always has to step outside to make a phone call.
So what else is new?
“I never get any signal when I’m in the GM building or the Student Center,” said the 26-year-old liberal arts major from Ypsilanti. “I can’t even send a text unless I’m in really specific spots.”
Like Adler, most cell-phone users are simply unable to call or text when inside many of Washtenaw Community College’s buildings.
But Amin Ladha, chief information officer, is well aware of the problem and says the college is finally working on a solution.
Ladha proposed during this month’s board of trustees meeting that the school begin to install strategic cell-phone signal boosters inside various campus buildings where cell reception is non-existent.
“We want to add the small dome signal boosters into four areas of the Student Center, covering even the staircase,” said Ladha. “I see a lot of students on the first floor. This building is like a fortress. The signal is very bad.”
An estimated cost of installing these signal boosters within the each floor of the Student Center is about $50,000 and would be completed in time for the Winter semester, he said.
Outfitting the entire campus could range from $300,000 to $500,000.
“The cell phone amplifiers will work across all networks, like AT&T and Verizon,” Ladha said.
The issue is as much about campus safety and security as it is about convenience to the users. Not being able to receive emergency phone calls from family members or make phone calls in case of an emergency on campus was the central concern for the board – and the deciding factor on conditional approval of the project.
The Student Center will act as a proof of concept and help decide if the devices are worth installing in other buildings.
The equipment will take the signal received from the top of the building and transmit it over coaxial cable to the domes placed around the building. The signal is then amplified, repeated and rebroadcasted. The method boosts reception both ways and gives 98 percent coverage within the building.
“I think it’d be amazing… especially in the winter. I don’t want to have to go outside every time I need to make a phone call,” said Sandra Jackson, 34, an English major from South Lyon. “I never know if I’m not getting a text or successfully sending one because I don’t have signal.”