IS&T deploying cell antennas

Signal amplifiers to be installed in three phrases

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A schematic diagram of the equipment in the cell phone upgrade project.
Source: MIT Information services and technology
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DC power to the antennas and amplifiers is supplied by these power converters.
Courtesy of MIT IS&T
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Support equipment for AT&T’s “4G LTE” is currently being installed.
Source: MIT Information services and technology
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The Distributed Antenna System in place.
Source: MIT Information services and technology
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A “white cone” antenna, top center, will support enhanced cell phone reception inside MIT buildings.
Melissa Renée Schumaker—The Tech

Information Services and Technology is deploying antennas and amplifiers in buildings across campus to improve cellular reception.

IS&T is targeting deployment in over 100 buildings on campus in three phases, according to Christine C. Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for IS&T, over the course of several email messages.

IS&T refused to provide a list of buildings where deployment was complete to The Tech. According to Fitzgerald, the first phase of 50 buildings was “just about done” in late March, and the second phase of 50 buildings would be next. The project is targeted to finish by December 2013, with the third phase covering the “remainder of buildings” after the first 100.

The Tech has observed these antennas, which look like white cones, in buildings 56, 38, 54, as well as Albany Garage, building N4. Deployment was first noticed in October.

IS&T said the project is being done in partnership with AT&T, though the system installed is “carrier independent.”

The deployed equipment appears to be active on 700 MHz (AT&T and Verizon) and 2100 MHz (AT&T and T-Mobile), according to labeling on some of the equipment. (A third set of unlabeled equipment suggests a third frequency band is supported as well.)

IS&T declined to discuss the cost structure of the project, and would not say whether MIT was paying AT&T, or vice versa.

Fitzgerald said that MIT’s agreement with AT&T “primarily” precluded disclosure of “details of cost and who is paying for what,” but would not explain why MIT had negotiated a non-disclosure with AT&T in this case. She also declined to define the payment flow in broad strokes, such as explaining who was paying for equipment and who was paying for installation services.

IS&T did say that “each carrier has to work and come to an agreement with us and AT&T,” referring primarily to Sprint and Verizon. Those carriers “will need to decide if they need to improve their coverage for the MIT buildings and they will have to fund the work and install, setup, test, and tune the system as well.”

IS&T said that the antennas were placed based on AT&T’s engineering models of coverage. IS&T declined to provide any data on the planned coverage patterns, or to discuss whether there had been a density study or other assessment of current operating conditions throughout campus.

IS&T said last week that MIT had weeks ago issued a statement to the Boston Globe: “Information Services & Technology at MIT is always interested in ways to improve connectivity, and IS&T has been working with AT&T as part of an ongoing project to enhance ‘in building’ cell communications around campus.”