By Alex Best
Towson University has new and improved campus-wide cell coverage thanks to a new antenna system installed over the summer and completed Aug.1.
The project, which was spearheaded by the University’s Office of Technology Services, improved cellular data coverage when using Verizon’s cellular service, both in buildings on campus and outside in common areas.
“Verizon was the university standard for faculty and staff issued phones so we began there,” said Office of Technology Services Associate Director for Infrastructure and Planning Eric Cannizzo. “Verizon was the only [carrier] willing to come in and replace the existing equipment.”
Buildings with improvement include Carroll and Marshall Halls, Barton and Douglass Houses, West Village Garage and Commons, the Office of Public Safety, Cook Library, the College of Liberal Arts, SECU Arena, and the Field House.
According to Cannizzo, who oversaw the project, the university is actively negotiating with other carriers such as AT&T and Sprint for improved coverage, but the timeline is largely contingent on the carriers willingness to come onboard if a contractual agreement can be met.
The initial physical work on the project began early in the spring and was completed in approximately five months. The physical aspect of the project involved the installation of distributed antenna system to replace the singular, solar powered antennae that was in use previously.
According to Cannizzo, the distributed antenna system distributes cellular signals between a signal source and antennas around campus, in locations that need it the most, thus providing better coverage in areas on campus with poor or no coverage.
Some students have noticed subtle differences, now opting to use their data on campus more often when Wi-Fi connection is unreliable or slow.
“I haven’t noticed any big differences from last year,” said mass communication major Jada Bruce, a Verizon user. “Most of the time I disconnect from the Wi-Fi though because my network moves faster. But then sometimes when I am on data it is still a little slow compared to when I am off campus.”
However, students like Bruce were happy to hear that the University is actively working on improving cellular coverage, even if the results didn’t appear overnight.
Project Management Office Director Jim Monroe was pleased with how seamlessly the installation went.
“Everything went pretty smoothly, there weren’t too many hiccups,” said Monroe. “The SECU Arena portion of the installation was a little challenging because we only had two weeks to complete it during the busy summer, but everyone worked together well to get it done, from the contractor, to Events & Conference Services staff.”
According to Monroe, the antenna installation was just one of several projects that they have been working to complete this academic year. Other projects include facilitating the new University brand changes for all university systems and assisting the Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity implement their Chosen/Preferred Name form.
“We’re also working on the implementation of an online schedule builder to give students a tool that can quickly prevent several scheduling options in real time, saving students the need to check and recheck course availability, pre-requisites, and time conflicts,” said Monroe.