The independent news organization of Duke University

OIT, cellular networks work to provide better service around campus

Have you had trouble getting cell service on your phone around some parts of campus? You're not alone.

Seventy-one percent of respondents in a recent Chronicle website poll reported that they either frequently or sometimes had issues connecting to a cellular network. Maps from OpenSignal, a website that crowdsources reported cell network strengths, indicated that connectivity issues are particularly prominent near Duke Hospital, Central Campus and in the Ninth Street area. 

Duke’s Office of Information Technology is working to improve coverage on campus, wrote Bob Johnson, senior director for communications infrastructure and global strategies for OIT, in an email. 

“Duke has entered into an ongoing agreement with cell phone carriers, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, to provide a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) in over 140 buildings on the Durham campus,” he wrote. “This project is nearly complete.”

The DAS system works by spreading smaller transmitting antennas out over a large area instead of having a single large structure, thus helping to enhance connectivity in particular areas where boosted service is required. Johnson added that the project was funded by the cell carriers and that it will provide ongoing cell signal improvement for campus. He noted that T-Mobile recently committed to join the project and that the University hopes to have their service up in early 2018.

OIT is also working with carriers to improve the quality of cell service around Duke, including exploring potential new cell towers near or on campus that could help with coverage near Swift Avenue, Central Campus and Ninth Street. However, those improvements may not be felt until further in the future. 

“These are long term projects that require [Federal Communications Commission] and Duke approval plus significant permitting,” he wrote. “We are hopeful for improvements by Summer 2018 and will announce more as plans become more concrete.”

Representatives from T-Mobile and Verizon did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. 

Natalie Turner, a public relations manager for AT&T, wrote in an email that the network had “recently added capacity” to a cell site that provides coverage for the Campus Drive and Broad Street region. 

“We continuously monitor network performance and make upgrades to keep up with demand,” she wrote, adding that AT&T has five cell sites that cover Duke’s campus. “We recently optimized cell sites serving Wallace [Wade] Stadium in Durham to keep up with gameday crowds.”

Roni Singleton, a spokesperson for Sprint, said the carrier has been improving its network coverage and has plans to continue to do so near campus, though it has no timetable available yet. 


Share and discuss “OIT, cellular networks work to provide better service around campus” on social media.