HomeCampusPotential solutions for poor cell service on CHS campus remain elusive

Potential solutions for poor cell service on CHS campus remain elusive


Have you ever driven by Carpenter Street and had the call that you were on fail?

It’s a common occurrence.

Poor cell reception on the hill between Carmel and Monterey has been an ongoing problem for Carmel High School students and residents of surrounding areas for a long time now. The weak reception isn’t a coincidence: It’s because the hill’s location in relation to the nearest cell towers causes a black hole for cell service.

Cell service is weak, sometimes one or zero bars, for AT&T, Verizon, and most other providers. Colin Matheson, CUSD education technician, attributes the poor reception to the hill itself.

“There is a tower in downtown Carmel, but as you go up the hill people don’t get signal,” Matheson says. “There is another tower at CHOMP, but as you go up the hill from there, people lose signal also. So imagine the cell phone towers are like big lamps and the hill around Carmel High means we don’t get light—the signal—from those lamps.”

The hill poses a problem to cell reception as it obscures the radio waves emitted from cell phones when calls are made. If an obstacle such as the hill intercedes those radio waves, then the connection with the nearest tower will be weak or nonexistent. While radio waves can bend slightly to flow over obstacles, there’s another side to this equation. An employee of the AT&T store at Del Monte Shopping Center says that distance is also a problem.

The nearest cell tower to CHS is located closer to the ocean than the school. This tower provides a 4 LTE, or 4 gigabyte network for cellular devices, which is the second fastest network speed AT&T offers. While it provides for a high speed network, it is not designed for distance, and the farther a device is from a tower, the worse the reception.

Not only this, but the speed is affected by the number of people using the tower. As tourism in Carmel increases, more people draw from the tower, causing congestion in the network and consequently lower data speeds.

Chief technology director for the district Paul Behan says, “I spoke with our representative from AT&T earlier this year about the cellular coverage problem and they have not been able to propose a solution.”

Although a definitive solution is not yet in place for the high school, according to Matheson and Verizon employees, another tower installed closer to the school, or a microcell could fix the problem.

Microcells are virtually mini cell towers which connect to the internet to receive signals from your phone. Then, via the internet gateway, they allow you to make the call through this private cell tower as opposed to using a cell tower. The microcells are private, and generally cover only 3 rooms, but larger extenders for enterprise use exist. Microcells are provider specific, so individual microcells would be required for the multiple providers employed by students and teachers on campus.

Weak and sometimes nonexistent cell service is an emergency hazard, Matheson reports. Not only this, but with digitized classwork, phones are being used in the classroom to upload photos and documents into online forums, a practice that’s unavailable with poor cell service.

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