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Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) Eliminates Cellular Dead Zones

Learn how CCAC deployed a distributed antenna solution to provide consistent cellular service.
May 20, 2024
The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is the second largest community college in Pennsylvania, offering 130 programs and serving approximately 30,000 students across multiple campuses. CCAC is committed to providing its students with modern and innovative learning environments, which includes ensuring access to reliable cellular connectivity for students, faculty and staff.

As is the case with many older buildings in the city of Pittsburgh, the construction materials and design of these structures, including foot-thick concrete stairwells, interfered with cellular signals and created dead zones.

In today’s lifestyle, particularly on a college campus, having consistent and continuous cellular coverage is a necessity. Students depend on their phones not just for academic purposes, but for an overall enjoyable campus experience. As students walk to class, or chill on campus, they want to stay connected — and waiting for playlists or movies to buffer is downright annoying! Factor in the public safety quotient, where first responders need reliable radio communication, CCAC had a challenge that they needed to solve.

 

Nextivity: A Hybrid Distributed Antenna Solution

 

To address these challenges, DES partnered with Nextivity, an FCC-approved, hybrid distributed antenna solution (DAS). It’s referred to as a hybrid solution because you can increase the cellular signal and also include AT&T FirstNet and a private LTE on the same system. Additionally, it’s designed as a distributed antenna solution which differs from a cellular regeneration solution: Whereas the latter bundles together the cellular traffic onto a wideband antenna, a DAS is laser-focused on each cellular carrier separately and splits out each carrier on a narrowband antenna. The output is a cellular signal that is cleaner and has less interference of noise.

In terms of solution implementation, first, DES engineers conducted a comprehensive site survey to identify the areas of the campus buildings that required improved connectivity. Then, donor antennas were installed on the roof of the buildings and precisely oriented to maximize signals from national carriers Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. The signal gets channelized through standardized data cabling and reaches booster antennas which distribute enhanced signal strength to all those poorly-serviced zones. Finally, remote testing ensured that signal strength was optimized throughout the corridors and stairwells.

 

Full Signal in Concrete Stairwells

Following the implementation of Nextivity's solution, students and faculty experienced a significant improvement in cellular connectivity. Dead zones were eliminated—there was zero attenuation or loss of signal strength—and signal strength was consistently strong throughout the campus. This enhanced connectivity allowed students to access online resources and get connected with greater ease.
 The improved cellular connectivity also augmented public safety. First responders are now able to maintain reliable radio communication throughout the buildings. This improvement in communication capabilities is crucial for coordinating response efforts and ensuring the safety of students and staff.
 
 “DAS’s versatile solution provides CCAC with reliable cellular connectivity in any environment.  The final outcomes have enhanced the safety and productivity of our students, faculty and staff by ensuring uninterrupted connectivity” commented Megan Rice, Director of ITS Client Services at CCAC. By addressing both the academic and safety needs of its students, CCAC has demonstrated its commitment to providing an accessible and supportive learning environment.

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