If you’ve noticed an improved signal on your Bell or Telus mobile device on campus over the past week, that’s no accident—today, Western announced a new partnership with Bell to bring improved cellular service to the University Community Centre, Concrete Beach and the surrounding area. Bell has committed to $3 million over the next three years to improve cellular coverage on campus.
With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices, there has been an explosion in cellular network usage on campus over the past few years, resulting in widespread service problems.
Mona Brennan-Coles, telecommunications business manager for ITS, explained the new cellular system does more than just boost existing signal.
“The best part of all of this is that we’re not just plucking [the signal] out of the air —if you buy a home booster system, you’re plucking it out of the air and you’re still competing with everyone. This is actually trunked in on fiber. So all of a sudden, now, we have our own signal separate from the surrounding area,” she said.
The improvement in service is facilitated by a new system of fiber-optic cable, signal boosters and antennae. There are two in-building signal boosters in the UCC and Student Services Center, and a new set of antennae on the roof of D.B. Weldon Library.
The antennae on the Weldon roof are specifically to improve reception on Concrete Beach.
“Rather than being angled in a big umbrella to cover a wide area, it’s actually been focused down at Concrete Beach to give Concrete Beach improved signal. So there is a very real expectation that Stevenson-Lawson, Somerville, some of the buildings right around Concrete Beach will see improvements in cellular service that you would not expect if the configuration was different,” Brennan-Coles said.
Increasing Western’s signal capacity should also mean improved service for Bell and Telus customers who live near campus.
“People who live around the campus, students and non-students alike, will see an improved service simply because Western won’t be draining all the cell signal onto campus,” Brennan-Coles said.
So far, Rogers has declined to participate. However, their Western customers received a noticeable boost last year with the addition of two new towers in London.
The signal improvement is part of a recently cemented business partnership between Bell and Western that will see Western employees offered discounted rates for mobile contracts—a perk that Brennan-Coles said couldn’t be extended to students for legal reasons.
“The challenge with students is the following—the pricing that the university gets is based on Ontario government pricing, and all publicly funded institutions are eligible for that, but one of the restrictions is you have to work at one of those institutions and use the phone for business or work,” she said. “So what Bell will be looking to offer the students are attractive residential promotions.”