New Verizon antenna set to be built on Funger by late summer

Students using Verizon cell phones next year should have drastically better reception on campus. The University and the cell phone carrier agreed to a contract after seven months of negotiations that will place an antenna atop Funger Hall.

The contract was signed last week, and the University expects the new Verizon antenna system to be up and running by late summer, said David Swartz, vice president and chief information officer for University Information Systems & Services.

While the antenna project was initially announced in September, the delay in finalizing the contract was caused by the University and Verizon agreeing to have the antenna installed on a campus building.

“The delay in getting the contract signed came from working with the University through legal, insurance, and indemnification issues,” said John Johnson, director of corporate communications for Verizon Wireless in Washington, Baltimore and Virginia.

Johnson mentioned that talks about the new antenna started as early as February 2004. Next week Verizon will be meeting with the University to determine a construction schedule.

The antenna, which Johnson said will be barely visible from the street, will take approximately six weeks to construct and will be made of a dozen small antennae around a rooftop machine room of the 2201 G St. academic building. It will improve service for Verizon wireless users in Funger Hall, New Hall, Duqu?s Hall, the GW Hospital and other surrounding areas. A 2004 study by the University on cell phone service quality described Verizon service as “fair” in Ross Hall, New Hall, Ivory Tower, the Academic Center, Rice Hall and the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The Verizon antenna will only improve service for Verizon wireless customers, but Swartz said the University’s goal is to improve service for all cell phone carriers.

“Rather than select one vendor over another, as some universities have done, we have elected to facilitate as many vendors as possible to insure competition and enable choice,” Swartz said.

“We are now shifting our focus to building a system of antennas in partnership with NextG that can be used by all cell phone providers if they wish,” Swartz said. “NextG will co-locate throughout GW buildings additional antennas that will be available to other cell phone companies such as Nextel and AT&T.”

NextG is a wireless technology company that installs visually unobtrusive fiber-fed antennas that support cellular and PCS wireless coverage. Cell phone providers would pay a fee to connect to the network that serves multiple cell phone carriers, but Swartz said it would ultimately be less expensive and more effective than if the providers were to build their own systems.

Swartz expects companies to take advantage of the network since it would allow improved cell phone reception across the campus. Swartz said the University has no plans for when a NextG system would be installed.

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