AT&T delays planned tower four months

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November 5, 2010

12:06 AM

Can you hear me now? For AT&T users, the answer will remain no for at least four more months.

The construction of new Distributed Antenna Systems on campus, intended to improve coverage for AT&T and other cell phone providers, has been delayed due to legal contractual issues. Initial goals estimated completion by the end of October.

Construction began in mid-October, but the College of William and Mary’s Department of Information Technology and Crown Castle International, the company building the DASs, now predict that construction will not be completed until mid-February 2011.

“We’ve installed the conduits [electrical piping systems used for protection and routing of electrical wiring] for the Distributed Antenna Systems,” Courtney Carpenter, chief information officer of Information Technology at the College, said. “We expect that Crown Castle will start building the DASs over winter break, and will finish by mid-February.”

Crown Castle International, which provides infrastructure for broadcasting and cell phone coverage, has been slow in constructing the two DASs on campus — one on a light pole at Zable Stadium and the other at the William and Mary Law School — and seven scattered throughout Colonial Williamsburg. While the College and Colonial Williamsburg have separate contracts with Crown Castle, the nine new antennae would improve cell phone coverage in the community as a whole.

According to Carpenter, the construction of the new DASs, which was approved by the Williamsburg Planning Commission in September 2009, has been a very lengthy and drawn-out process.

“We ran into some contractual issues with Crown Castle that slowed us down,” Carpenter said. “These issues included evaluating the cost of the fibers and determining who would install them, deciding who would be liable for any potential damages to the system, as well as getting approval of the design of the DASs from Facilities Management. All of these processes took much longer than expected.”

Crown Castle has approached several cell phone carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, to purchase space on the system, but finalizing contracts has taken longer than expected.

“The College fully expects AT&T to go onto the system,” Carpenter said.

Once the project is completed, another DAS may be installed at the School of Education, which also has had substandard cell phone coverage from every major carrier, not just with AT&T. The College is considering brokering another contract with Crown Castle to improve service on the school of education campus.

“As soon as we finish the DASs at Zable Stadium and the Law School, we may look into building at the School of Education,” Carpenter said.

Williamsburg has prohibited cell phone carriers and third-party companies from building large cell phone towers in order to maintain the historic look of the community.

A notice will be sent out to the College community once the DASs are completed.

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