Students experience dropped calls and limited service on campus

Service provider T-Mobile has claimed to have the “best plan ever” with “America’s largest 4G network”. However, some students are becoming frustrated with recurrent reception problems on TCU’s campus. Senior broadcast journalism major Caitlin Cockerline said she switched from T-Mobile to AT&T after her contract ended because of the problems she was having with T-Mobile’s service.

“I literally couldn’t get service anywhere, and if I did get service it would drop the call or it was scratchy,” Cockerline said. 

Junior engineering major Monica Hennen said she tried to switch services this past summer, but other providers were too expensive. Both students said problems included dropped calls and no reception in buildings or dorms unless on the top floors. 

Cockerline said she called T-Mobile because she, her mother and her roommate (who was also a T-Mobile service holder) were frustrated with being unable to talk to one another and felt the lack of service was a safety issue. T-Mobile representatives told her there were not cell towers close enough to TCU’s campus, and because of certain regulations they were unable to build cell towers where people on campus could get reception, Cockerline said.

When asked about the regulations, T-Mobile representatives declined to give exact reasons for their lack of service.

Reception problems may be caused by TCU’s buildings blocking service, rather than tower location, representatives said.

According to the website of Harris Communications, a company that provides cellular and wireless services, there are many factors that influence cell reception, including the placement of cell towers.

AntennaSearch, an online search resource for cell towers, reception and hidden antennas, showed only five T-Mobile towers and 12 AT&T/Cingular Towers within or just outside a 4 mile radius of TCU’s campus.

In a survey of 25 student AT&T service users on campus, just over half of said they experienced good service everywhere on campus. Less than half of students surveyed said they experienced service issues in the basement and stairwells of most buildings. This did not always mean they had no service, just slow or intermittent service.

Harris Communications also said other factors besides the location of cell towers influence good and bad reception. A building with thick walls, mirrored windows or metal blinds may affect reception and most underground areas lack reception as well.

Hennen said she was unaware of T-Mobile’s issues with tower placement and thought TCU could be a factor in the reception problem because she had only experienced problems in TCU’s buildings.

“It’s weird that only [TCU’s] buildings are blocking the towers, as opposed to other buildings I am in,” she said.

T-Mobile said they have received complaints from student users like Hennen and Cockerline. Cockerline said T-Mobile even offered to cancel her contract free of charge because of the numerous complaints T-the service provider had received from other TCU students.

“Everyone that I talked to that had T-Mobile had issues with it,” Cockerline said. “We didn’t get reception in all the same areas, we would barely get it even just walking to class.”   Although no definite reason for the problems has been identified, the AT&T and T-Mobile representatives both said they agreed their service would have improved if the merger between the two had worked out.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Justice Department blocked the merger because they felt that keeping the two big service providers separate would save the jobs of American workers and preserve competition in the wireless industry. The Justice Department also said the merger would have raised prices for consumers and given them fewer innovative products.

One of the reasons AT&T and T-Mobile wanted to merge was to gain the benefit of sharing cell towers and lines, which would have improved reception for both providers, the AT&T representative said. T-Mobile representatives refused to provide any information regarding the merger.

AT&T opposed the Justice Department’s decision and said they felt the combined company would help put them in a better position to compete with the other two major national services, Sprint and Verizon, according to the New York Times. 

Cockerline said she was surprised AT&T and T-Mobile did not merge because it would have been beneficial for T-Mobile.