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cell phone reception in Palo Alto/Stanford

Original post made by Alan, Greenmeadow, on Apr 25, 2007

We just recently switched from Cingular to Verizon. My wife works at Stanford and we found that the reception at Stanford is not good.

The Verizon rep was honest with us about this, and said the Stanford currently has an exclusive contract with Verizon that is up for renewal in October.

We would prefer to stay with Verizon despite the bad reception on the Stanford campus, but I would like to know for sure that the situation will be better after October. Does anyone know about the cell phone reception situation on the campus, and in Palo Alto in general.


Comments (18)

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Posted by DJ
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2007 at 11:12 am

We have Verizon - works just fine in and around Palo Alto. TMobile, AT&T have problems getting reception inside the house - we have not experienced this with Verizon.

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Posted by Bella G.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2007 at 4:12 pm

You can track cell reception by City & Zip code at:

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Posted by JB
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 26, 2007 at 5:18 pm

I have Verizon and I have no problem with reception in and around Stanford buildings while at work. I use a Motorola Razr V3C phone.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2007 at 5:54 pm

We need to modify permitting laws so luddites cannot prevent the installation of cell towers. For a start, prohibit cellular or wired phone service to anyone and their immediate family who objects to cellular towers. This is a public safety issue.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 26, 2007 at 10:45 pm


I don't think Stanford is a bunch of Luddites. The issue here is Stanford has created a monopoly for Cingular on their campus, nobody else did this. I'm trying to understand if what the Verizon rep said - that the contracts ends in October - is true, and the result will be an even playing field for all the carriers on campus.

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Posted by Millie
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2007 at 12:12 am

Alan --
You meant to say that Stanford's exclusive contract is with Cingular, right? It's certainly not with Verizon!!

We live in Palo Alto and my husband works on campus, right on the Quad. One of the main reasons we finally broke down and got cell phones was for me to be able to reach him when he was not in his office.

We chose Verizon just like you, and reception is lousy on campus even outside; inside there's no signal at all.

And we also got the same story about the contract being up for renewal in October and an end to the Cingular monopoly -- but the date was given as October 2006, not 2007.

We actually like Verizon's coverage away from home, but this situation is ridiculous in the middle of Silicon Valley.

Try going back to the Verizon salesperson who gave you this line, or that person's manager, and see what they tell you when you report what you have experienced plus what you just read on
I'd be very interested to hear what they tell you!!

But here's a new thought: Have your spouse try to find out the story from someone at Stanford who is responsible for staff relations or student services. Ask the department administrator who to call. Call the Stanford Daily and get them to do an investigative story on why Cingular got the inside track, and why this ridiculous situation is allowed to exist in Silicon Valley. What do all the thousands of new undergrads and grad students do with their useless non-Cingular phones each year?

I will bug my spouse to do the same. We had fallen into lethargy and figuring out alternative coping strategies. We waited to complain until October, and our salesperson was no longer at the store, and the manager claimed that they never had any such information, and striking deals was done by "corporate" and they were not kept in the loop, etc.

Then let's share what we learn. Maybe others won't end up with two year contracts and a lot of frustration.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2007 at 5:02 am

Come on, Al. Don't you remember hassles about making antennas look like trees and such? Kinda like making fire hydrants look like garden gnomes. If Stanford allowed a monopoly of coverage, shame on Stanford.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 27, 2007 at 11:40 pm

>>You meant to say that Stanford's exclusive contract is with
>>Cingular, right? It's certainly not with Verizon!!


Yes that is what I intended to say.

I'm not going to be too harsh on our Verizon rep, since the moment I found out my wife worked at Stanford he did inform us of the situation with Stanford exclusive contract with Cingular. We are still within the 30 day period we can cancel, and like Verizon enough that if we could be sure the situation were going to change after October we would stick with them.

I don't blame Verizon in this as much as Stanford.

With a Google search I did find an article in the Stanford Daily about it back when the contract was first started. (2003?) It would be good for them to follow up, and if I knew who to contact at Stanford I would.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 27, 2007 at 11:48 pm

>> If Stanford allowed a monopoly of coverage, shame on Stanford.

Hi Walter,

Yes, this is exactly the situation with Stanford. They only allow Cingular cell towers on campus. So if you have any other carrier you need to use a cell tower "off campus". As a result, if you are in the middle part of the campus, or inside a building - non-Cingular - reception if very bad.

I cannot call my wife when she is inside the building.

Why Stanford is allowed to get away with this is beyond me. It is an exclusive monopoly and should not be allowed. You would think - given Stanford's role in fostering all the innovation in the valley - that they would not do this kind of thing. This has nothing to do with towers looking like tree.

Yes, Shame on Stanford.

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Posted by Elliot
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2007 at 9:52 am

I've had pretty good experience with Sprint in Palo Alto. (Some dropped calls from inside my house, but that's infrequent and seems limited to certain numbers I call if that's technically possible.) T-mobile has a better plan for me, but I'm concerned from their own reception map that they only have 2 bars (their measurement term) out of four in Barron Park and many other parts of Palo Alto. I saw one posting in this topic saying that T-mobile has intermittent quality in Palo Alto. Could others share their experience?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2007 at 11:15 am

This is beginning to sound ridiculous. I am a non-Stanford person and I am shocked about what I am hearing. If it is true that Stanford can choose who will monopolise its airwaves, then who else can do the same. Could the city of Palo Alto? Could Santa Clara County? Could the state of California?

Cell phones are now a feature of everyday life for most people, from elementary latch key kids to seniors keeping in touch with their families far away. They cover communication in business life, social life, and personal security. The idea that a segment of the community is not able to use their phone on a given campus, or a given city, county or state, is getting close to being a backward step rather than moving ahead.

It is time that this was stopped. In certain areas, people are getting rid of their land lines because they have no use for them. We need to stay ahead of the curve, not behind, and to do that we must not hinder progress the way Stanford is supposingly doing in this particular instance.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm

OK found the links to the Standord Daily site. (Hope Palo Alto Online doesn't mind.)

Stanford Daily editorial from Jan. 2007

Web Link

Contact info to the Stanford Daily.
Web Link

If anyone can find out who at Stanford is responsible for this contract, why they did it, and what the plan if for the future I would appreciate it. I for one think Stanford should be doing this. Then need to encourage competition on there campus, not act as gate keepers that can tell everyone on the Stanford campus "who" they should buy cell phone service from.

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Posted by bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2007 at 1:24 pm

How about getting a verizon (or other) cell tower put on the Tower Building at Paly. It is close, high enough that it can hide the tower, and PAUSD can benefit with rent!!!

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Posted by John
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 18, 2007 at 7:28 am

I am a Stanford alum returning this week with my daughter who is starting in the Stanford class of 2011. I had heard that Verizon coverage NEAR the Stanford Campus was fine but that coverage ON the campus was terrible.

The Verizon rep at their store said that Cingular and Stanford had entered into an exclusive deal 10 years ago making Cingular the only carrier allowed with cell towers on campus. In fact, she said there was speculation that Cingular actually blocked other carriers' signals on campus.

At any rate, this is a LOUSY deal. It is a matter of public safety. Stanford may have gotten some huge payoff to make the campus a Cingular-only place but that is of no benefit to anyone who sends their kid to college with a Verizon or other non-Cingular phone. I don't want to think my daughter can't call 911 or place/receive some important call because Stanford with more money than god needs to squeeze out some extra millions by choosing just one carrier to "support" on campus. Who do they think they are? This is ridiculous.

I had heard this anticompetitive deal with Cingular is up soon -- maybe it's a 10 year deal ending in October. I sure hope Stanford opens up the campus to all cell carriers. This is dangerous, inconvenient and bad spirited.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2007 at 1:35 pm

I was told the reason it was done is that cingular agreed to bring in mobile cell sites during football games to handle the extra load. Verizon would not. I really doubt cingular jams verizon, but if you can prove it, you could get them in big trouble, jamming cell cwll signals is illegal.

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Posted by anne
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Are there cell towers on the campus? Dorms? Studnet facilities?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

That article is 3 years old. The reverse is now true. Verizon has great service in this area, but AT&T (formerly Cingular) really sucks.

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Posted by eskay
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

How is the t-mobile coverage on Stanford campus? I was told by a sales rep that t-mobile recently installed tower inside campus and the signal has improved dramatically. Is that true?

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