Pilot cell phone program off the ground

By on March 8, 2006

Monday, March 6, marked one week since the kickoff of a program that will eventually allow Quinnipiac students to own university-issued cell phones. Fifty pre-chosen students, including members of the Student Government Association, Resident Assistants, and some freshmen, are now in the midst of a trial period with the new devices that will last until the end of the semester.

Fred Tarca, Director of Administration and Project Management and head or the cell phone pilot program, is satisfied with the results thus far.

“There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm among the student who received the devices so far,” he said. “We’re not sure whether it’s substance or the novelty of having a new device in their hands, but we are really pleased with the execution of the pilot.”

Despite an initially positive response, the phones, which include features like Direct TV, satellite radio, internet access, and downloadable music, have a long way to go. In fact, they are not even close to what the university hopes to offer students when the program is fully implemented next fall.

“This phase of the pilot can’t even be called a ‘Beta’ because that would mean that this is what the product looks like,” Tarca said. “We’re almost in a ‘pre-Beta’ phase right now.”

He hopes that students will be able to give feedback to improve the product.

“It’s not like we have a crystal ball to predict what features students will like,” he said. “We’ll just have to see. We want students to stretch our imaginations.”

As of right now, none of what Tarca calls the Rave “killer” features have been installed.

One feature that Steve Geller, senior and president of SGA, would like to see added are the GPS tracking and Blackboard options.

“I want to see the shuttle GPS tracking, being able to notify groups and definitely some of the blackboard features like seeing a syllabus or grades,” Geller said.

He thinks the phones will benefit students.

“They’re great phones, top of the line,” Geller said. “[The phone] is interesting. Some of the features have a lot of usage. It’s a good networking tool.”

Dee Mastronardi, a junior intramural supervisor, thinks the phones are fun but worries that the $350 price tag will be too steep for many college students.

“Overall, I think it would be a great investment,” she said. “The only problem I see with it is [that] the phones themselves are very expensive. The ring tones are $2.50 each and the special features, such as the live TV and radio, cost money each month as well. If we are going to look at this logically, college students typically don’t have a lot of money and most likely would not buy these additions.”

Despite the cost, Mastronardi admits that the phone has allowed her increased communication with other students.

“I definitely talk to some students more often, such as the ones that have the two-ways like I do,” she said. “I was given the phone because I’m a supervisor for intramurals and they are great for us because we have games going on in the Rec center and the gym throughout the night. It’s easy to get in touch with the other supervisors in the opposite gyms to see what is going on, and if they need anything.”

The trial phones come in two different styles: one is a slim, razor-like device and the other is a thicker phone with a walkie-talkie feature. The thicker phone comes in one of three colors, red, blue, or silver, while the thinner ones come in only black.

The students have a $50 per month cap to spend on special features like ring tones and mp3 files, but the service and device itself are free of charge. Once the full program is launched, Tarca expects the price of the complete plans to run between $39-$59 in an effort to compete with students’ current cell phone plans.

“It seems to be that certain areas on campus have greater signal strength than others,” Tarca said. “But this can be easily fixed. Also, the Rave “killer” features are not installed yet along with some other features. It’s very basic right now which is good because it will allow students to get comfortable with the device.”

Tarca hopes that the other features will be installed by the end of March.

Overall, Tarca and his team are please with the results, but they are still feeling out the kinks.

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