Fixing the cell network

A Micronesian Games sign went up along Amata Kabua Blvd. in Majuro last week, reminding everyone that the games are coming up in less than four months. Communications improvements are in the works to fix glitches in the cell system to ensure that the anticipated 1,500 incoming athletes, coaches and officials will adequate phone service. Photo: Eve Burns.
A Micronesian Games sign went up along Amata Kabua Blvd. in Majuro last week, reminding everyone that the games are coming up in less than four months. Communications improvements are in the works to fix glitches in the cell system to ensure that the anticipated 1,500 incoming athletes, coaches and officials will adequate phone service. Photo: Eve Burns.

GIFF JOHNSON

Dropped calls and calls that don’t go through. That’s been a way of life for cell phone users in the Marshall Islands.

The upcoming Micronesian Games is not only improving and expanding sports facilities that people here will enjoy long after the games, but it is leading to what is hoped to be major improvements in the mobile phone network for Majuro and Ebeye.

“All of our radio and facilities network people are in town,” National Telecommunications Authority General Manager Tommy Kijiner said this week. The visiting team is here “to ensure we can accommodate the 1,500 incoming visitors (for the games in June).” But the fixes that are expected will benefit everyone with a cell phone, he said.

“We have a lot of overlapping in our towers, and too many antennas on the towers,” he said. “These are to be reconfigured.”

The visiting engineers are assessing the entire cell network system in Majuro this week, with hope of implementing improvements starting next week.

Kijiner explained one of the issues the visiting experts have already identified. The Rita tower has too much coverage and is being reduced from three to two sectors to get better service.

Kijiner explained it this way: A cell user riding in a vehicle in Rairok now will likely pick up the signal from Rita. This Rita signal should then give way to the tower at Lojkar, followed by the tower at Batkan to maintain the signal. But the system isn’t working this way. The phone maintains the Rita signal right through Rairok and Batkan and then when the user gets to the bridge, the signal drops, ending the call.

The aim is to reconfigure this so that the cell network picks up and passes the calls in the way it is supposed to function so eliminate the repeated dropped calls, he said.

Further, as a measure to deal with the high influx of visitors in June, NTA will “offload” LTE/4G users to wife during the Micronesian Games. Wifi set ups will be placed at the Micronesian Games village at MIHS and at the Jenrok sports field where large numbers of athletes, coaches and officials are expected to be using NTA services. This will reduce congestion on the 4G system, he said.

Following the evaluation of the cell network this week, Kijiner said he expects the visiting engineers will do a design for the changes that are needed, and then work with NTA staff for the hands-on implementation of these changes.

“The aim is to solve the dropped calls and blind spots,” Kijiner said.

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