Patrons of Atlantic City International Airport who get cell phone coverage through Verizon Wireless have probably noticed that talking on a mobile device in and around the airport is difficult if not impossible.

That frustration has taken on an increased sense of importance for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport and also has service for all SJTA employees requiring cell phones through a state contract with Verizon. Those employees are often unable to communicate clearly, which presents problems particularly in emergency situations.

The problems are expected to soon be resolved as Verizon has agreed to add devices that will boost service in and around the airport at no cost. The change will benefit SJTA employees as well as anyone with Verizon, SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann said.

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"In the storm, we had a situation where the left hand couldn't talk to the right hand," said Rehmann, adding that most reception problems are seen in the terminal. "We've got State Police and airport operations and all sorts of people who need to be communicating."

SJTA's board is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow Verizon to install an antennae system in the terminal and parking garage that will increase coverage at no cost. An antenna will be installed on the parking garage rooftop and will be able to communicate with all existing cellular towers. Thirty ceiling-mounted antennas will be installed throughout the terminal and garage.

Rehmann said the upgrade will provide a much-needed improvement for employees. AvPORTS, the contracted company that runs the daily operations at the airport, had already switched providers due to frustration with the cellular service.

"It's mostly for us, but the public will certainly benefit," Rehmann said.

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