Boosting Cell Service: On Game Day and Every Day

Cell phone service problems across The Ohio State University campus, caused by the ever-increasing demand for cellular communications, are quickly fading into the past! Recognizing that the troublesome reception experienced during football games—when fans pack into Ohio Stadium and overload the network—could become an everyday occurrence, the Office of the Chief Information Officer began searching for a solution last year. Our network has been improving incrementally over the last several months, and was put to the ultimate test when football season began.

“So far this year the cell phone service for me as a Verizon customer has been leaps and bounds better than in previous seasons. With the improved cell phone service in the stadium, I've been able to send messages on the first try,” said senior Mechanical Engineering major Josh Foltz. “In the past this was never the case. Previously if a message wouldn't send, (my phone) would keep attempting to send the message repeated times. This has vastly improved my battery life, and has even let me use apps on my phone to track other game scores.”

Game days have been great field tests to see how our network will perform, but we will actually need this additional capacity because use of our cell network increases every year and will increase in the future. Ohio Stadium was the final implementation in Phase I of the project, and football fans are already noticing the difference.

Mike Basford, Manager of Donor Reporting at The Ohio State University Foundation, has definitely noticed. “Without a doubt, I have experienced better and more reliable service. In years past, you didn’t even try to makes calls, send pictures, texts, etc. during games, but this year is completely different.”

As bring your own device, or BYOD, increases every year, this boost in our cellular network will bring lasting benefits to our students. The initial phase of our project focused on safety—equipping areas such as Wexner Medical Center Main Campus and Hospital East, Blankenship Hall, the Police Command Center in Ohio Stadium and OSU Police Headquarters. Also in Phase I were heavy traffic areas on campus such as Thompson Library and the Ohio Union, among others. Phase II is kicking off now, and will cover residence halls, 95% of outdoor campus areas and the Schottenstein Center. It is expected to be complete in June of 2014.

The project began in 2012, when we initiated an open bid process asking all cellular providers if they would like to play the lead role in building a Neutral Host Wireless Distribution System (WDS). Having a neutral host is ideal because it allows multiple carriers to share a single infrastructure, saving both time and land space.

Verizon was awarded the project, at no cost to the university, and is responsible for the design, installation, ongoing operational support, and technology refresh of the WDS. While Verizon has constructed similar networks, the project at Ohio State is currently the largest university implementation. The project site, located on Carmack Road, will allow up to four carriers to install the equipment needed to make use of the WDS. Verizon was the first carrier onboard and AT&T recently joined our network. Ohio State is actively working with other cellular carriers to join the WDS.

Verizon was on-site during each of the first three home football games to pilot the system and make any necessary adjustments. Improvements will continue to be made throughout the remainder of the season.

The improved cell coverage will continue to benefit students far beyond football season. It will enhance mobility for teaching and learning initiatives, campus safety and business needs. Additionally, the OCIO is continuing to work with Verizon at Police Headquarters and Wexner Medical Center to build out the coverage for Public Safety radio frequencies and paging frequencies.

If you have any questions about the WDS project, contact Bill Phillips, Associate Director, Business Relationship Management, at or 614-247-4455.

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