Basement reception

Students may soon be able to use cell phones in the basement levels of most Portland State buildings.

Students may soon be able to use cell phones in the basement levels of most Portland State buildings.

Near the end of April, Portland State University’s Networking and Telecom Services began installing new wiring in many campus buildings to improve cell phone coverage and public safety radio frequency coverage at ground level and below.

Timothy Johnston, director of Networking and Telecom Services in the Office of Information Technologies said, “The system that’s currently being installed is referred to as a wireless Distributed Antenna System.”

A Distributed Antenna System “is a network of spatially separated antenna nodes connected to a common source via a transport medium that provides wireless service within a geographic area or structure,” according to the

Essentially, the DAS uses the distributed antennae to boost cellular phone coverage in a manner similar to that in which a Linksys home wireless router would allow one to access the Internet wirelessly at home. In this case, the antennae rebroadcasts radio waves, like cellular phone signals, underground.

Because “the DAS solution selected is not cellular carrier specific,” Johnston said, “It will extend coverage for essentially all service providers in the Portland metro area.”

At the least, Johnston said, this project should improve the subterranean cell phone coverage of those using AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint/Nextel, Cricket and Clearwire.

In addition to Networking and Telecom Services, a subdivision of OIT, the cell phone coverage expansion project involves both the Campus Public Safety Office and Facilities and Planning, Johnston said.

Accordingly the DAS will also extend public safety radio frequency coverage in the basements and ground level floors to improve campus safety.

 “We had to focus initially on those locations where CPSO, OIT and FAP need expanded coverage,” Johnston said.

The involved departments have established a three-year contract with Wireless Applications Consulting, Inc. via a Request for Proposal process.

According to its website, Wireless Applications Consulting, Inc., a veteran owned company based in Oregon City, has completed similar projects everywhere from Portland to Houston, Texas, for organizations like local high schools and Microsoft.

Johnston said, “The cost for Phase 1 is about $360,000.  That’s a one-time cost for the equipment, installation labor, testing and commissioning of the DAS system.” 

Additionally, Portland State will pay a yearly fee of approximately $18,000 to Wireless Applications Consulting, Inc. for maintenance.

In short, the cost of the new DAS for the first three years will total almost $400,000.

According to Johnston, funding for the DAS comes from all three of the departments involved; OIT, CPSO and FAP set the money aside for the specific purpose of expanding cellular phone and public safety radio coverage.

Johnston said all three departments “have put in a request for additional funding for next fiscal year to expand this DAS system to other building locations around the campus.” 

The Cellular Signal Enhancement, the website said, “provide[s] consistent and reliable wireless coverage for your cellular/PCS phones, two-way radios or pagers inside your buildings.”

“The initial phase is scheduled to be completed by the first week of June,” Johnston said.

Johnston said, among others, that Smith Memorial Student Union, Cramer Hall, Neuberger Hall, the Urban Center, the Broadway Building, the Engineering Building and Millar Library will have the wiring for the new DAS installed.

“Should additional funding become available next fiscal year, we’ll look at further expansion of the DAS system into other PSU building locations as needed,” Johnston said.

In other wireless communication news, Johnston said that over the summer OIT and University Housing “plan to install wireless on all floors of the residence halls.”

The new wireless service should be available at the start of fall term, Johnston said.