Library of Congress sets wireless course

The Library of Congress has begun a project to overcome the technology challenges of providing wireless services in its old buildings.

With little or no wireless connectivity in the three main LOC buildings, the library IT team has awarded a $2.9 million contract to EMS Technologies Inc. of Atlanta for a system to support wireless voice and data access via cell phones, personal digital assistants and notebook PCs.

'The sole purpose of this contract is to distribute wireless signal reliably to all parts of the library in a carrier-neutral system,' said Mike Handy, leader of the User Support Group in the IT Services Office. 'There were some unique challenges to this project. EMS had to work with the Architect of the Capitol's Office to deploy the antennas so they cannot be seen. The buildings on Capitol Hill are very dense, and it is hard to get any cell phone reception unless something like this is designed.'

EMS designed the EkoCell in-building system, which will use broadband antennas shaped like fins. Handy said carriers' signals will come into the buildings through T-1 landlines and connect to a neutral host. The host'using hubs and remote repeaters'will transmit the cell signals throughout the wireless system.

Handy said the initial goal is to get wireless access to 90 percent of the 4 million square feet in the three buildings and the tunnels connecting them by the end of the year. Once the system is in place, EMS and the library will tweak it to reach that last 10 percent, he said.

The library is negotiating with all the large telecommunications carriers, including AT&T Corp., Sprint Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. of New York, to set up deals for sending their signals into the buildings, Handy said.

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