WestLink Communications is partnering yet again with Fort Hays State University in an effort to provide the Tiger community with cutting-edge wireless services and devices.
Two opportunities are available to students. The first is a pilot study of cutting-edge communication technology. The second, available faculty and staff as well as to students, is the Tiger One plan, a wireless service package that can be customized to each user's needs.
"WestLink is a highly valued partner with the university," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said during a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon at Gella's Diner and Lb. Brewing Co. in downtown Hays. "We cooperated with WestLink in 2001, allowing them to construct a communication tower, designed as a giant flagpole, at the northwest end of Lewis Field Stadium. The flagpole and the huge American flag that flies from it have quickly become a campus landmark. As part of the deal, FHSU has the use of one of the antennas in the flagpole and use of storage space for Athletic Department equipment in the tower's support building. In another instance, WestLink sponsored our basketball tournament last season, called the WestLink Classic."
Richard Veach, general manager of Pioneer Communications and CEO of WestLink Communications, LLC, said WestLink was pleased and honored to be selected to work with FHSU on the Tiger One program. "Fort Hays State University and Dr. Hammond have always been in the forefront of using technology to more efficiently and effectively facilitate the delivery of educational services," Veach said. "While institutions of higher education throughout the nation have been grappling with integrating new telecommunications technology into the academic and social lives of their students and faculty, FHSU is one of the few that is actually in the implementation stage. We are proud to join FHSU in this effort."
President Hammond said he was not surprised that Pioneer and its subsidiary, WestLink, stepped up to take on this new challenge. "Dick Veach is a visionary in the telecommunications industry," the president said. "He and Pioneer worked with FHSU to develop the first two-way interactive education network in the early '90s."
Bill Hayden, director of wireless operations for WestLink, talked about the advantages of the new program. "The partnership with the university gives FHSU and WestLink the ability to demonstrate the 'on line all the time' concept for students, faculty and staff," he said. "Utilizing the university's WiFi network along with the third generation wireless network provided by WestLink, university personnel can stay connected throughout the entire campus, community and beyond. As we move to a converged communication environment, lessons learned from the pilot and full implementation of the Tiger One program will be invaluable for both the university and WestLink."
Students who live in FHSU's residence halls are eligible to participate in a smartphone pilot program during the 2006-2007 academic year. Letters were mailed to all eligible students. The first 100 to reply will each receive a smartphone, which is a communication device with the dual functions of a Personal Digital Assistant and a wireless phone. For those 100 students, the smartphones will replace the in-room telephones in their residence hall rooms.
Smartphones can access the World Wide Web and other network services provided by FHSU. The system uses the university's WiFi network and the WestLink Communications GSM voice and 3G data network to access these services.
Pilot program participants will be able to maintain contact through e-mail, keep a to-do list, organize a calendar and synchronize these functions with Microsoft Outlook on their PC or Mac. The smartphone is able to use programs such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Windows Media and Internet Explorer. It has a built-in camera, including video, and can transfer picture files over the third generation GSM network or to a laptop.
Participating students will attend training sessions and complete a few surveys regarding their experiences with the smartphone.
Each student who receives a smartphone also will receive free local service during the one-year pilot study.
The primary calling area is the Hays community. The following free services will be available in the community calling area:
* 2,000 mobile-to-mobile minutes in WestLink's network (for calling other WestLink subscribers);
* Unlimited incoming calls in the community calling area;
* Unlimited outgoing calls to the local phone company, including to the university
* 6-way calling;
* A calling number ID;
* Call forwarding;
* Call waiting;
* Unlimited WAP (mobile Internet) browsing in the WestLink network;
* Unlimited incoming/outgoing Short Message Service (SMS), more familiarly known as text messaging;
* Unlimited FHSU LAN data access in the WestLink network; and
* Basic Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), also known as picture messaging.
Students wanting additional services can contract with WestLink Communications.
Any member of the FHSU student body, faculty and staff not participating in the pilot program can take advantage of WestLink's Tiger One plan, which includes the same services as the pilot program, listed above, and can be customized with optional upgrades.
Subscribers will be able to make the following call types without any restrictions or additional charges while they are in the Community Calling Area:
* WestLink Campus mobile to WestLink Campus mobile;
* WestLink Campus mobile to Campus PBX;
* Campus PBX to WestLink Campus mobile;
* WestLink Campus mobile to local telephone companies; and
* Any incoming call to WestLink Campus mobile.
For calls made from areas outside of the campus umbrella, additional airtime and long distance options can be added to the Tiger One plan by purchasing long distance packages or minute packages.
Optional additional features available include night and weekend calling, picture messaging, Internet access and a phone protection program.
WestLink Communications also is offering its services to FHSU alumni at discounted rates. In most cases, students, faculty, staff and alumni will be able to keep their existing wire line or wireless phone number when switching to the Tiger One program.