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Cellular phone equipment being installed at Stanford foothills
STANFORD -- Joggers and hikers in the Stanford foothills may notice some construction activity this summer near the "Dish," the large radiotelescope familiar also to motorists on Interstate 280.
When the work is finished, in late July, local cellular telephone users may notice somewhat improved reception.
The Stanford Management Company, which manages Stanford's lands and other assets, recently reached agreement with SRI International, the Menlo Park research firm that owns the Dish, and two major cellular telephone companies -- Cellular One and GTE Mobilnet -- to allow the companies to install switchers, antennas and other equipment to carry the cellular signals in the foothills.
The idea first was raised about six years ago, but the university balked, primarily because researchers in the department of Electrical Engineering and at SRI International were concerned that signals generated by the cellular equipment might interfere with the Dish and other sensitive equipment used in their experiments.
Also, cellular telephones were not nearly so popular as they are today, said Leonie Batkin, lands manager for the Stanford Management Company, and allowing construction in the protected foothills to improve signals along the I-280 corridor was not a priority for the university.
These days, however, physicians and other professionals affiliated with Stanford Health Services rely greatly on cellular telephones, Batkin said, "and Stanford's Communication Services found that cellulars helped keep the lines of communication open in the critical hours right after the  earthquake."
"We decided that it would be in everyone's best interests to do what we could to help get this facility up and running," Batkin said. A number of steps are being taken to ensure that the research work done in the foothills will not be affected, she said, and faculty members and SRI researchers participated in developing the project..
Work on the project, which has been approved by the county Planning Commission and the Stanford Board of Trustees, began the week of June 12. The construction area is visible from Interstate 280 but not from the main campus. The area is fenced for safety and a water truck is on the site at all times for fire protection.
One existing trailer-like building will be demolished and replaced by another, which will be about 84 feet long and 18 feet wide. The lowrise structure will have four compartments -- one each for the equipment operated by the two cellular phone companies, one for SRI International's equipment, and another housing an emergency generator to keep the equipment going in case of power outages.
Also, two monopoles with antennas at the top will be installed. Each will be about 20 feet high.
The new fixtures will be compatible with others already in the foothills area, Batkin said. Charles Carter of the Stanford Planning Office reviewed all the blueprints to make sure the new building and antennas blend in with the environment.
A special filter will be attached to the Dish to minimize interference with its own operations, Batkin said.
The project is being paid for by the companies involved, and no Stanford funds are involved, Batkin said.
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