Verizon Wireless has expanded its network to cover the entire River Campus with the installation of a new telephone tower on Plymouth Avenue. The move is part of a $5 billion investment by the telecommunications giant that aims to enhance and manage the company’s growing market nationwide.

“The service is evidently better,” sophomore Mike Kovalsky said, who has used the service for over two years. “Before they installed the tower, I had a hard time sending and receiving calls, and the ones that went through often cut off after several seconds.”

The eight foot tall tower was installed at the top of the Garden Apartment Building near the footbridge. A similar tower was placed at the top of Valentine Building in 2002, but the coverage area was mostly concentrated around Strong Hospital, with limited service to users on the River Campus.

“College students tend to be heavy users because they’ve grown up with wireless service and rely on it more than most older segments,” Public Relations Manager John O’Malley said. “The new cell site will allow us to provide enhanced coverage and capacity on and around the UR campus, as well as improved access to our wireless voice and data services.”

These services include text messaging, picture messaging and mobile entertainment services. For computer users, Broadband Access, the company’s wireless internet service, was launched last year to provide unlimited internet access to users anywhere in the service area for a monthly fee of between $50 and $60, according to O’Malley.

The company relies on a comprehensive system that tests its coverage areas by placing calls from different locations using Verizon phones and those of its leading competitors. Popularized by the commercials that feature a Verizon employee walking around the country asking, “Can you hear me now,” the baseline technicians do not actually place the calls themselves. Instead, they use an elaborate $320,000 system of computers and telephones in a vehicle that

tests the number of dropped calls and ineffective attempted calls as they drive around their coverage areas.

“The technology is moving so fast that in less than two years they will probably start offering video conferencing on your phone,” Associate Engineer Jack Brandes said. “With that technology you would be able to see the person you are talking to in real-time.”

With a market that increases by 30,000 people each day, Verizon Wireless and its competitors spend billions of dollars per year not only in maintaining its current systems, but also in developing technologies that enhance the wireless customer’s capabilities. Global Positioning Systems and streamline video are the latest features available for this generation of cellular telephones.

“I’m really surprised at how well my phone works on campus now,” freshman Christina Webhe said. “With the new coverage I get service in areas where I never would have had service. I can make calls from Common Ground Caf, the Pit, and even the basement of Sue B.”Fernandez can be reached at mfernandez@campustimes.org



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