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Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas)
LAWRENCE - Fans using their smartphones during events at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium could receive a nice boost in the upcoming year.
The University of Kansas recently reached an agreement with AT&T, which is installing new Distributed Antenna Systems in both locations.
"The benefit for KU is that it provides greater capacity for our students, faculty and staff and visitors to campus," said David Day, communications manager for KU information technology, "but there's also that benefit for people who live in surrounding areas."
The main issue is this: When fans try to use their smartphones at the same time in one location, it can often overtax cellphone towers in the area, which causes slow load times and also broken connections.
Putting Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in a location increases the capacity for cellphone users in that area. So instead of those fans using a nearby tower for service, they'll instead be able to use mini-antennas placed by AT&T in both Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium.
The result should be better coverage both for those people in the event locations and also Lawrence residents, whose primary phone towers should be less bombarded on game days.
An improvement was needed, especially at Allen Fieldhouse. In a Wall Street Journal study done in March, Allen Fieldhouse ranked 18th out of 23 college basketball venues in terms of mobile reception.
Day believes the DAS should remedy the problem, as the installation was officially completed for Allen Fieldhouse in mid-March.
For KU Athletics, there could be additional benefits as well. Todd Kober, KU's associate athletic director for creative services, says better reception has the potential to help the athletic department improve fans' game-day experience. Promotions, online game-day magazines and even contests designed to improve fan interaction are more feasible if smartphone users are guaranteed a more reliable signal.
According to studies, KU students' smartphone usage appears to be heavier than most. A Pew Internet & American Life Project study from last year found that 56 percent of all U.S. adults have smartphones.
Day said that a KU survey conducted last fall indicated that more than 90 percent of KU students owned smartphones.
The cost also was right for KU. As part of the contract, AT&T is installing the DAS at no charge to the university. Day said KU did put stipulations in the contract, however, to ensure that the system was "vendor neutral." In other words, AT&T will own the system, but it also must make that system accessible to other providers such as Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile if they elect to buy in.
Day said it was standard practice for many providers to "share" a system, as in many places it isn't feasible for each carrier to install their own equipment, especially when confined to a smaller location.
While some providers might not immediately join AT&T's network, Day said KU's hope was that most would buy into the system to give their users better access at KU events.
The installation isn't completely finished yet. Memorial Stadium's DAS installation is scheduled to conclude in mid-September, meaning it probably won't be available for KU's home-opener against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 6.
AT&T, which also is adding antennas to KU's residence halls, is expecting to have all DAS installation completed on KU's campus by the end of 2015.