Feature: Greater Cellular Coverage Now at Norris

Posted Date: 14 Oct 2010

Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) has been busy making major improvements in the technology services by improving mobile and support services on campus―including stronger cellular signals and new locations for hands-on technology support.

Setting the Bar Higher at Norris

In partnership with the Associated Student Government (ASG) IT Student Advisory Committee, NUIT implemented a new Distributed Antenna System (DAS), commonly known as a cell tower,  in Norris as part of Northwestern’s commitment to providing the technology necessary to improve support for its mobile campuses.  Now, visitors entering Northwestern’s Norris University Center no longer have to check their cell phone signal strength at the door.

 “The ASG and Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee advocated for improved cell phone reception in Norris in response to student concerns of feeling like they go “off the grid” when entering the building,” said Claire Lew, president ASG. “The improved cell phone reception completely shifts the dynamic of Norris to be more accessible for students. We are really proud to be a part of this project.”

NUIT determined the need for this enhanced technology after conducting extensive testing to assess the signal strength of major cellular carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Nextel.  Over the summer, work was done to coordinate each carrier’s signal connection to the new cell tower to eliminate cellular “dead zones” in the building.

“I was so excited to get cell phone reception in Norris,” said Rachel Birnbaum (SOC ’13). “Now I don’t have to wander around the building looking for my friends ― we can either call or text each other to meet up.  It has made my life so much easier!”

Working closely with Facilities Management, NUIT Telecommunications and Network Services coordinated the time frame of the DAS installation to minimize disruption of scheduled meetings in Norris and to be ready in time for Wildcat Welcome and the start of classes.

“NUIT spent a considerable time and effort over the summer to install the towers to allow for much better cellular reception in the student center,” said Steve Guinta, assistant director of Facilities Management.  “The ability to actually answer a cell phone in all parts of Norris is very exciting.”

“We are pleased to have partnered with ASG to bring this technology to Norris in support of our students,” said Wendy Woodward, director of NUIT Technology Support Services. “NUIT continually strives to work with the University community to provide technology that supports the academics and business of the University. Providing access to support these services is a key goal.”

New Home for Laptop ER

In partnership with Student Affairs, NUIT is also piloting a new hands-on technology support location called the NUIT Service Point that serves as the new home for the popular Laptop ER service. Located on the ground floor of Norris across from the Norris Center Bookstore, faculty, staff, and students have been stopping in regularly since the NUIT Service Point opened in September for help with wireless and mobile device set up, virus remediation, and more.

Open seven days a week during the academic quarter, the accessibility of the new location is a huge draw for students looking for support. “Last year I had to go to the main NUIT Support Center [at 1800 Sherman Avenue] for help with my computer. Although they addressed my problem, the location was out of my way,” said Ellen Abrams (SOC ’13).  “Having a technology support office at Norris is so much more convenient and accessible."

Trina McGee (SOC ’11) agrees, and says the new space also makes it easy to tell when service is available.  “When Laptop ER was located near Norbucks [the Starbucks location on the first floor of Norris], I never knew if I needed to make an appointment to get help. Now I can just glance over at the service window to see if [a consultant is available].”

NetID Support on Chicago Campus

The process of resetting a forgotten NetID password is now substantially faster for faculty, staff, and students on the Chicago campus.  In July, NUIT expanded support in Chicago by opening the new NUIT NetID Support Kiosk, located in the Chicago Parking and WildCARD Office.

Members of the Northwestern community no longer have to trek up north to Evanston with their WildCARD if they need assistance resetting a NetID password. They can conveniently visit the remote-service kiosk and show a WildCARD or other photo identification to receive an activation code to update a forgotten or expired NetID password.

Learn more about the newly installed Distributed Antenna System, the opening of the NUIT Service Point, and the launch of the NUIT NetID Support Kiosk on the NUIT Web site.