Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 27, 2011

U-M to improve in-building cell phone reception

Verizon cell phone users at this year’s U-M home football games have been able to call, text, post or tweet thanks to a new antenna system deployed at Michigan Stadium. The system is capable of expanding to handle additional cellular carriers such as AT&T, which currently is being tested.

Click here for more information about the Enhanced Cellular Coverage project page.

Additionally, an early component of the antenna system for the hospital complex will be ready for the opening of the new C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital in December. This will meet the medical staff’s need to use push-to-talk, a walkie-talkie like feature commonly used in hospital environments. The deployment of Verizon’s complete cellular service across all U-M hospitals will follow.

All of this work is part of a universitywide project to enhance cellular coverage in university-owned buildings. This includes the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses, as well as U-M Health System buildings. The new technology will be installed in and around more than 200 campus buildings and parking structures over the next two years, improving cellular coverage in more than 25 million square feet of space.

"Our overall IT strategy includes reducing traditional telecommunications infrastructure costs and enhancing cellular coverage for students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus," says Laura Patterson, chief information officer and associate vice president, Information and Technology Services (ITS).

ITS is working with ExteNet Systems, a third-party company, to design, install and operate the Distributed Antenna System (DAS) technology. The DAS will allow multiple cellular carriers to use the same infrastructure, thus minimizing physical equipment and resources.

Colleges, universities and large hospitals all over the country experience similar issues with cellular coverage, and U-M is one of the first to implement a distributed antenna system of this scope and size.

“We want to meet the demand for mobility and enable our community to access their cellular service when they need it,” says Andy Palms, director of Communications Systems and Data Centers for ITS. “Cellular devices have become primary tools for communication, teaching, learning and research. Inconsistent, unpredictable cellular service compromises efficiency and effectiveness, and can also be detrimental in an emergency situation.”

This project supports NextGen Michigan, a U-M-wide effort to become more efficient at providing current technology services and to invest in new technologies that support U-M’s future needs.