AT&T customers on the College of William and Mary campus may have an upcoming political conference to thank for improved cell phone service in the near future.
Progress has been made on the distributed antenna systems project, which will improve wireless service from AT&T and other carriers on campus. Some estimates predict that the project will reach completion some time in the next three months.
Doug Marty, director of information technology for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Courtney Carpenter, chief information officer of Information Technology at the College, confirmed that the distributed antenna system is completed but that the various wireless carriers are still finalizing their equipment on the system.
It was the National Governors Association Conference, which will be held in Colonial Williamsburg July 13-15, 2012, that picked up the project’s pace, according to representatives from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The annual conference, which will take place at the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, is predicted to draw about 1,000 attendees.
“The National Governors Association Conference was an impetus for moving [the project] along,” Bob Taylor, vice president for administration and finance at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said.
The system includes antenna located at Zable Stadium, the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, the College’s Corner House, behind the Williamsburg Inn, behind the Williamsburg Visitor Center, and in the Capitol and Governor’s Palace.
“We want to solve this problem for everybody, and the National Governor’s Association Conference has been really helpful in speeding this up,” Marty said.
AT&T Spokeswoman Gayle Kansagor said there was currently no expected completion date for the distributed antenna system.
“Enhancing service in Williamsburg is a priority for AT&T and we are working as quickly as possible with our partners to improve service on your campus. At this point, it isn’t possible to give you an estimated time of completion,” Kansagor said in an email.
Although antennae delays persist, AT&T announced plans Thursday to activate new mobile broadband cell sites for the residents and businesses of Williamsburg situated along Ironbound Road and John Tyler Highway in James City County.
“Customers in the residential and commercial areas along Ironbound Road and John Tyler Highway in James City County will now be able to use their wireless devices to access their favorite apps like Facebook and Twitter, send photos to friends and surf the web, thanks to network improvements recently made by AT&T,” Kansagor said in an email.
The new sites will improve the performance of mobile devices and services for AT&T customers in Williamsburg.
The network will involve the traditional towers but will not incorporate the proposed distributed antenna system that will be built on campus and in Colonial Williamsburg.
Carpenter and Marty said that the wireless carriers have been testing their components of the system on the distributed antennae systems and that completion was planned for early 2012, potentially early December 2011.
“They’re literally testing every day. You should see something soon with them,” Marty said. “We’re hoping to have the system completed by Grand Illumination.”
Marty emphasized that the distributed antenna system requires careful and complex implementation and that it takes time to become fully functional.
“I don’t mean to sound trivial, but this really is like rocket science,” he said.
The new distributed attentae systems were first announced in late September 2010.
The first projected date of improved cell phone coverage for AT&T users was in late October 2010, The Flat Hat reported in late September 2010.
The new antennae were delayed by four months following the initial September announcement. Contractual agreements further delayed the installation into 2011.