Workers finished installing a new cell base station on Sunday night that will improve cell phone reception for some students on campus.
The new site, owned by AT&T, will service three sectors covering all of the campus, the soccer fields by El Colegio Road and up to the ocean. AT&T rented the site, which is located at the base of Storke Tower, indefinitely from the University.
The new system uses digital technology and can service 350 to 370 phone calls at a time while still operating the Cellular Digital Packet, the system responsible for Pocketnet and wireless modems, said Radio Base System engineer Ryan Graham. The new site replaced the analog technology system, which could only service 16 to 20 phone calls at a time.
“It’s kind of like a CD and a tape, the CD holds more,” Graham said. “You’ll notice a huge increase in cell service. There’s actually going to be an amazing capacity.”
An existing cell site is installed on top of Francisco Torres and Verizon also has an antenna installed on Storke Tower, but plans are underway to construct new ones on top of South Hall and next to Isla Vista Market, said Santa Barbara County Planner Adam Baughman. The county has been inundated with applications for new cell sites over the last year, said Baughman, so much so that it had to contract outside help to handle the workload.
“Alpine, AT&T and Sprint have all been approved as of the end of July for cell sites on top of Francisco Torres,” he said. “Both Sprint and Verizon are locating at the Gold’s Gym in Goleta. AT&T has been trying to get something in the more industrial areas of Goleta down by Kellog.”
Two companies currently not offering service in the area, Sprint and Alpine, are preparing for their entrance into the market by building new networks in this area from the ground up.
Baughman said that Sprint is also looking to put a new site at Isla Vista Market. Sprint is going to attempt to integrate it into the sign. Cingular already has a site on top of Francisco Torres and another at Glen Annie Road.
Students using Cingular have a hard time getting coverage on campus due to an overloaded system and because Cingular has less sites than AT&T and Verizon in the county, each having installed about 25 sites. Baughman said Cingular owns about 18 sites.
“I get cut out in the middle of conversations when I have a full signal and I get poor reception on campus,” senior art history major and Cingular customer Amie Larson said. “When I called customer service they seemed disinterested in helping me with the problems. I will say, though, that I got a good deal on the phone and a good monthly plan.”
“I’ve never had any problems, compared to Cingular the coverage is much better,” junior business economics major and AT&T customer Eric Upchurch said. “My roommates have Cingular and they have to call 20 times before they get through sometimes.”
A local Cingular agent would not comment on service for the campus.
Cingular has erected a temporary site by the Old Gym area and is planning on replacing it with a permanent one on top of South Hall. The problem of a busy system is far from being solved, but considerable relief should be achieved within the next two to four months, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseux said.
“The temporary tower will be there two to fourth months during which they will be constructing a permanent tower on South Hall,” he said. “The temporary sites are not as powerful as the permanent one will be.”
Revenue generated from cell sites installed on campus go to the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance fund, Desruisseux said. The revenue from the Verizon and AT&T antennas on Storke Tower will go to Associated Students, which owns the tower, Desruisseux said.