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Raising the Bars with the Distributed Antenna System

By Marissa Malone

Published February 27, 2014

UB is the size of a small city and with so many cell phones in use around campus, the struggle for reliable signals is constant. But don't worry. A team of engineers from Network and Classroom Services (NCS) are working tirelessly to make improvements. If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer, you may already be noticing better service thanks to the Distributed Antenna System (DAS).

“Each building at UB has a unique set of material factors that make us hustle a little more, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Jim Giardina, Network Analyst
Network and Classroom Services (NCS)

Marissa Malone (UB Student, Class of 2015) has a dream of traveling to all seven continents, and she’s already visited four. When not globetrotting, Marissa studies Communication, Spanish, and Management at UB while working for both UBIT and Career Services.

First launched in September 2012, the DAS is designed to extend major cell network services into UB buildings, so cell phone customers can enjoy a fast, reliable connection to carriers who choose to participate (currently, only Verizon Wireless is). This takes much of the burden off of large cellular towers found along the highways and buildings, which are known as macro cells. The DAS is made up of signal amplifiers, multiple antenna systems, fiber optic cabling, and insulated coax cabling.

Distributed Antenna System shelter built by Verizon Wireless on North Campus

Letting the Signal In

The DAS is able to penetrate walls and materials like reinforced concrete to give customers a better signal connection with the use of a 700 mHz frequency. While the DAS only offers improved service to Verizon Wireless customers at present, other providers have the opportunity to tap into the DAS in the future. On average, Verizon Wireless customers experience consistent signals of four to five bars in locations with the DAS.

To date, the DAS covers the Ellicott and Governors Complex, Student Union and Knox Hall. “Ellicott and Governors were at the top of our priority list due to signal issues there,” said Jim Giardina, Network Analyst with NCS.

Distributed Antenna System tower on North Campus

It Takes A Village

While the UB community may hope for better service everywhere without delay, the DAS installation has been a long, coordinated effort. “We are trying to complete as many implementations each year as we can, but we run into challenges,” Jim added. “We don’t want to interfere with the UB community’s daily activities, so we're making every effort to work closely with building occupants, Campus Living, and Facilities to make sure we're all on the same page. That way, hopefully no one is disrupted.”

So much of the DAS’ development takes place behind the scenes, and besides offering the campus better celll service, the team is happy to keep it that way. “There’s always more than meets the eye,” Jim said. “A lot of engineering, planning and effort happens between IT staff, UB departments and staff, business affiliates and Verizon Wireless. Each building at UB also has a unique set of material factors that make us hustle a little more, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

DAS antenna in Ellicott Complex

More Still to Come

The next round of the DAS implementations include Alumni Arena, Clemens, Baldy, and Capen Halls, the Natural Sciences Complex (NSC), Lockwood and Norton Halls, the Jacobs Management Center and O’Brian and Bell Halls. If you're a Verizon Wireless customer, be sure to keep checking your signal bars for improvement. If you have questions related to the DAS, please contact Jim Giardina.