Today’s students are more connected to their devices than ever before, whether they’re using their tablets or cellular devices to take notes in class, conduct research, or write a report. As such, strong cellular connectivity has become a must for schools and universities. Faculty and students rely upon secure wireless data and mobile coverage in order to teach, learn, and grow together. Having good cellular service also enhances safety on school grounds, keeping staff connected in emergency scenarios in which an instructor or staff member is not near a landline telephone and must instead place a cellular call for immediate assistance.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of cellular signals, schools can’t always provide consistently strong cellular signal for students, faculty, and staff. Accessing a strong indoor signal can be difficult depending on campus size and location, the distance to the nearest cell tower, or natural obstructions such as mountains and district budgets.

Construction materials can also cause issues with cellular signal. Modern schools and universities are usually a combination of older buildings and newer, environmentally friendly construction. Both styles can interfere with radio frequency waves coming from the nearest cell tower. What’s more, the many hundreds of students and teachers in the buildings can easily overload a weak network.

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Top-notch cellular reception is crucial in enabling schools to offer the most up-to-date curricula, attract high-achieving applicants, maintain smooth school operations, initiate safety procedures, and ensure the best possible educational outcomes. Thankfully, there are solutions to schools’ cellular signal woes.

Options to improve your cellular signal
If you’re a school administrator or IT manager with a cellular-connectivity problem, there are some options to consider to improve cell signal:

● Active distributed antenna systems (DAS): If your school boasts a large budget and can take the time to wait up to 18 months for installation, an active DAS can offer a strong solution to connectivity woes. However, it must be installed through a specific carrier and is only a single-carrier solution, so multiple carriers would need to build out active DAS systems in order to enhance coverage for more than one carrier. In addition, active DAS is very expensive to install and can take as long as 12 to 18 months to complete the integration.

● Passive DAS: If an expensive and time-consuming active solution isn’t the best option, commercial cell signal boosters (also known as passive DAS) can help, offering an affordable, quick-to-install solution for improving cellular reception. Passive DAS captures existing outdoor cell signal and brings it inside the building, amplifying it by as much as 32 times throughout the school. The technology is carrier-agnostic, which means that all students and faculty can access the boosted signal regardless of their cellular carrier.

To see the transformative impact improved cellular connectivity can have on your school, consider the experiences of the following two schools.

Canadian Valley Technology Center boosts its cell signal

The Canadian Valley Technology Center, located near Oklahoma City, is a high-tech educational school for students looking to go to college, enter the workforce, change careers, or expand their skills. Hit by a tornado three years ago, the school has been rebuilding and just started classes again in January. As a technical school, Canadian Valley knew it needed strong cell service in order for its students to effectively do their coursework, as well as for general safety. However, the school’s building size, as well as poor cell signal strength in the area, resulted in little to no cellular service for most students and faculty.

Canadian Valley teamed up with WilsonPro to install a state-of-the-art passive DAS commercial cell phone booster to guarantee strong, uninterrupted coverage for all wireless carriers throughout the school. The install came with an added bonus for several of the school’s Computer Information Systems program students, who gained hands-on experience assisting the local area network administrator with the installation of the cell-boosting equipment.

The school has gone from a failing grade to a passing grade in terms of signal strength inside its campus classrooms, which has resulted in better communication between teachers and students, as well as enhanced safety for the school.

Weak cell service? How schools can solve this still-pervasive problem

University of Minnesota implements improved connectivity

Another example of upgrading previously poor cellular signal took place at the University of Minnesota, where connectivity became a major problem at a newly updated science building. Despite modern construction and facilities, the building’s connectivity left students and faculty feeling like they were stuck in the past.

To solve this issue, the university’s IT staff conducted research and found that their building was a perfect candidate for a passive DAS solution. They began installation by placing a donor antenna on the roof of the building and running cable to a booster inside the building. Because there are no approval requirements for passive DAS, the installation was quick and the building’s new connectivity system was up and running in days. As a result, the science building’s students now benefit from nearly flawless connectivity, giving them uninterrupted access to their lessons and faculty.

By taking the time to research their options, school administrators and IT managers can determine if passive DAS or active DAS is a better fit for their campus needs. By implementing one of these solutions, historic school campuses can retain their identities without changing their building infrastructure, and make school security more reliable. Better reception at schools and universities ultimately creates more efficient communication, faster data transfers, easier access to lessons, and better interaction between students and teachers, enhancing the overall educational experience.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Gudewicz is the Chief Product Officer for Wilson Electronics. Jeff has served as the Vice President of Product Development at Wilson Electronics, LLC since January 2015 and served as Director of Business Development and Product Line Management at Wilson Electronics, LLC since October 2013. Prior work experiences included business development, marketing, sales, business unit and engineering management roles at RFMD, Sirenza Microdevices, Vari-L, and JFW Industries.