Keep Your Campus Connected: Improving Cellular Signal at Colleges and Universities
These days, people use cell phones for just about everything. For most folks, it means keeping in contact with friends and family, making sure work gets done on the job, or simply having access to the things they need to go about their day. With personal and professional lives being routed through mobile devices, having poor cell signal — or worse, no signal at all — puts one in a difficult situation.
For people at college or university, this is especially true. Campuses are more than just a series of buildings; they are a community. Students, faculty, and staff use facilities across campus to live, learn, and work. They rely on mobile connectivity to stay connected to each other and their families. Dependable reception is necessary for safety and security. Unfortunately, many campuses often have inconsistent or weak cellular signal. Find out how to improve cell signal at colleges and universities.
Campus Connectivity Struggles
College and university campuses struggle with connection problems for a few different reasons, but the big ones are environment, infrastructure, and network capacity.
Cell carriers provide coverage based on mathematical calculations. These calculations are based on a few different variables, including:
- Cell tower strength and signal
- The number of cell towers in the area
- The projected usage of the network
But in many situations, carrier calculations don’t take real-world environments into consideration, such as where in buildings people are using cell signals or what the buildings themselves are made from. Many campus buildings have a wide variety of structural styles and locations. From dormitories with concrete walls and auditoriums with no windows to classrooms located in impenetrable basements, the various structures on campuses make reliable cell signals difficult to obtain. Add in the fact that campuses are often a blend of old buildings and newer construction with environmentally friendly materials. These aspects interfere with signals, creating an inhospitable area for cell phone connectivity.
It’s also exceedingly difficult for carriers to predict how much bandwidth is needed for areas that include college or university campuses. For example, their network infrastructure and capacity might be perfectly adequate during the summer months but then strain to keep up with the added demand once the fall semester starts. Add network strain to the varied environment of a college campus and you have a recipe for bad connectivity.
While there are things that individual cell carriers can do to help alleviate these signal problems, it’s not very feasible to contact each and every carrier to get them to improve their signal.
But there are options for improving cell signals for everyone, regardless of carrier.
Solutions for Poor Campus Connectivity
There are a few ways to address poor connectivity on campus. One way is through the use of a distributed antenna system or DAS. Depending on the type of DAS used, these systems either broadcast their own signal or re-broadcast existing signals to provide cellular connectivity. Of the types of DAS available, the two most often used are active DAS or passive DAS.
An active DAS is a robust connectivity solution designed for extremely large areas. It works by actually creating cellular signals and broadcasting them between a centralized source and remote nodes throughout the location. They’re specifically engineered for places where thousands of people are using cellular devices and need reliable connectivity. Good examples are airports and large sports stadiums.
Active DAS are extremely reliable, but they do have a few downsides. For one, they’re incredibly expensive. These systems require fiber optic installation and dedicated power sources to broadcast signals. Since they basically do the job of having your own personal cell signal tower, they take an adequate amount of infrastructure for them to work.
Due to this necessary infrastructure, active DAS is also extremely time-consuming to install. Depending on the building structure and required connectivity, some installations can take months to complete. Because of the investment in time and costs, most active DAS are installed alongside the construction of the structures they’re broadcasting in.
Another downside is that active solutions aren’t carrier agnostic. In other words, you’ll need an active solution for every carrier you want to include in the area, which drives up costs even more.
Many colleges and universities utilize an active DAS to solve their connectivity issues, but for most administrations with increasing budget constraints, the investment is too prohibitive. An expensive and time-consuming active system isn’t the best solution.
Instead, colleges, universities, and even secondary schools should consider passive DAS — also referred to as cellular signal repeaters — to solve their connectivity problems. Passive DAS works by capturing blocked or weak signals and rebroadcasting them to the area. It does so in a couple of different ways:
– The system grabs the signal transmitted from the cell towers and rebroadcasts it to the area.
– It also grabs cell phone signals and helps transmit the connection to the cell towers.
Rather than creating a dedicated cellular signal, passive systems essentially take what’s already there and boost it, creating a much more reliable cell phone signal. It helps in providing stronger connections and higher bandwidth throughput.
It works by using donor antennas mounted on roofs, which are then connected to signal repeaters located throughout the campus. The rooftop antenna captures cellular signals from nearby or far-away towers and sends them down to the repeaters. These repeaters enhance the signal up to 32 times and re-broadcast it to the areas where it’s needed most.
This offers more than a few benefits, especially for colleges with budget pressures. For one, they’re substantially more affordable than an active DAS. Because this system doesn’t create its own signals, there’s no need for added infrastructure aside from antennas and the repeaters themselves.
Given their simplicity, they’re also installed very quickly. As opposed to an active system’s time investment, a passive DAS can be installed and running in a matter of days. And most passive systems work with all cellular providers, giving everyone on campus a stronger signal — not just those with a specific carrier.
Immense financial savings, broad carrier support and substantially reduced installation times make passive DAS the optimal choice for most educational campuses.
A Case Study at the University of Minnesota
At the University of Minnesota, connectivity became a serious issue at a newly updated science building. Its modern construction provided an excellent learning environment, but it also prevented adequate cell signals from getting through. It left the staff and students disconnected and unable to take full advantage of the facilities within.
Budgeting a solution for a new building, however, was an issue. The University’s IT staff called Konecta USA about a fix for their problem. The specialists at Konecta USA quickly saw an opportunity to utilize a WilsonPro passive DAS to improve the science building’s connectivity. Placing a donor antenna on the roof of the building, they ran a cable to a repeater mounted inside. In a matter of days, the new system was up and running, providing the students and faculty with flawless connectivity. And it all came at a fraction of the cost of a competing active DAS.
Ensuring everyone on your college or university campus has the cell signal they need to stay connected is challenging. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. With a passive cell signal repeater solution from WilsonPro, you can ensure your entire campus stays connected without busting your budget.