Cell phone reception will not increase for AT&T users on campus anytime soon despite a Senate and Association of Residence Hall proposal, a university official said.
Chuck Ruch, the Associate Provost for Information Resources and Technology, said he hoped AT&T would solve the problem but he doesn’t know of any activity that’s going on.
He said if there was anything going on, the problem wouldn’t be fixed until the end of the year. He said he hopes it may be fixed by next year.
Although several solutions to fix the problem have been proposed, none of them are practical for the university and AT&T, Ruch said.
The university initially looked into installing repeaters on its own.
Repeaters are radio-activated devices that amplify cell phone signals through antennas installed on top of buildings.
Ruch said these may cost up to $20,000 per floor per building and they would be too expensive for the university.
“It’s actually AT&T’s responsibility to cover this,” he said. “AT&T would like to come in here and build a 180-foot tower, but it’s not something they can do.”
Building a tower isn’t possible because it won’t be aesthetically pleasing and may violate zoning issues, Ruch said.
“We already have one tower by Jobst [Hall],” he said. “Unfortunately there’s not enough capacity to add another cell phone vendor [to the tower].”
Ruch said he offered AT&T alternatives to building the 180-foot tower, including building a tower at Shea Stadium or a shorter tower on top of Geisert Hall.
“The solutions we’ve suggested don’t solve the rest of their problems,” Ruch said. “This is not just a Bradley problem.”
He said AT&T users don’t get service south of campus on University Street, and he said he thinks AT&T is trying to solve this problem and the Bradley problem together.
Shea Stadium is too far away to reach south of campus and a Geisert tower would be too short to reach this area, he said.
AT&T has been in negotiations with landowners near campus who may allow the company to build a tower on their property, Ruch said.
While AT&T has denied the options Bradley suggested, university engineers are still investigating possible solutions, he said.
There is one repeater installed in Harper Hall, and engineers will soon be testing it to make sure it is covering the amount of space they have estimated.
Ruch said he thinks it’s a problem that AT&T students may not receive emergency text messages from ForeWarn, but he hopes these students can receive emergency messages in other ways.
He said he thinks public address systems, which are similar to the alarm involved with a fire drill but include a specific audio message, are a good alternative.
“At that point, you don’t have to rely on a text message going out and you’re not limited to 160 characters,” Ruch said. “In terms of communications with people on campus, my belief is that it’s much better than text messaging.”
Regardless of future use of public address systems, text messages will continue to be sent because they are quick, inexpensive and allow the university to communicate with individuals off-campus, he said.
Ruch said he has warned many incoming freshmen at summer orientations they may want to switch cell phone providers before coming to Bradley.
“It’s enough of a problem [that] they will allow you to get out of your contract at no penalty,” he said. “[Switching] is a problem for two reasons – family plans and the iPhone, and in those situations it’s probably not something that’s likely for people to do.”