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Division of Information Technology
PO Box 1510
Pembroke, NC 28372

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News and Information
Wednesday, April 9, 2003



Division of Information Technology
910.521.6260 |

News on the replacement telephone system

DoIT has entered into a contract with 4Front Systems of the Triangle area to install the first phase of our effort to replace our aging telephone system. The replacement phone system is known as Avvid and uses a new technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short. The phone calls will travel over our computer network instead of the traditional copper telephone wires. As far as the phone service is concerned, the instrument on your desk looks like a phone, works like a phone, and is a phone. We expect to deploy the first VoIP telephones at the Swing Site, Jacobs Hall, Dogwood Building and DoIT. Other areas of the University will be handled on a department-by-department basis within the limits of our contract with 4Front. Here is some background on the project, some detail on how we will implement the new phone system, compromises we will face during the migration, and a little on the return on our investment.

When I arrived on campus late last summer, I found that the phone system was woefully out of date. To bring the system to currency would be very expensive. There were no funds identified to accomplish the task. Additionally, our capacity, both in terms of the telephone switch and copper cable infrastructure, was at its limit without adding expensive new pieces. Our network cable infrastructure is in excellent shape and has more than enough current capacity to handle the new telephone traffic.

During the course of this past year, we found that Voice over IP telephony qualified for a special IT bond fund for upgrading our campus data network. We requested from the Office of the President that our spending plan be modified to permit a VoIP replacement of our phone system. VoIP allows us to "upgrade" our phone system, converging our data, video and voice networks over a single network cable infrastructure.

At UNCP, we currently have approximately 700 phones. The new VoIP systems will have an initial capacity of 3,500 phones. We will not need to add new copper cable as the VoIP system uses the same network that our computers use. As a part of the project, we will be able to upgrade our voice trunk services to the outside world. These new PRI trunks will be cheaper in the long run and will enter the campus at two locations instead of one -- thus reducing our exposure to a potential disaster.

Planned Phase One deployment:

Phase one deployment will affect the Swing Site, Jacobs Hall, Dogwood Building and DoIT (Oxendine). As a part of the demolition of Oxendine Building, a remote telephone unit of the current phone system must be removed. The new VoIP system will replace the phones in the three locations. To accomplish this, the entire new VoIP infrastructure will be put in place. Call Manager switches will be connected to the network in the DoIT primary computer room in Oxendine Annex and the DoIT secondary computer room in Lumbee Hall. The new VoIP system will be interfaced to the legacy phone system and the voice mail system. New phones will be deployed in the Swing Site, Jacobs Hall and Oxendine Annex (DoIT). When the Oxendine residents return from the Swing Site next fall, they will bring their phones and same extension numbers with them just as they will their computers.

Later Phases:

As buildings are renovated, new phones will be deployed to the new residents of the Swing Site. In turn, they will take their phones back to their renovated facilities upon their return.

After we have completed Phase One (this summer), we will schedule the deployment of the new technology to the remaining buildings that are not scheduled for renovation or replacement. We plan to deploy the phones on a work group basis.

Short-term compromises:

There will be some short-term compromises as we migrate from the old legacy telephone system to the new VoIP system. The initial compromise will have to do with caller ID. Only 10% of the phones on campus use this feature, so most people will not be affected. While we have some parts of the campus using the new VoIP phones and some parts of the campus using the old system, caller ID will not be passed between them. If you are still on the old system and are receiving a call from someone else on the old system, your caller ID will still work. If, however, you are still on the old system and you receive a call from someone with a VoIP phone, the caller ID will not register. We could have averted this compromise for an additional approximate cost of $28,000, but concluded that the funds could be better invested in other parts of the system. The problem goes away when we complete the migration and all are serviced from the VoIP system.

Currently, there are no cordless IP phones available for the VoIP system. We have the ability to continue using the existing cordless phones and other standard analog devices (such as fax machines) but it reduces the benefits and efficiency of the system.

Return on Investment:

  1. We are replacing an aging, legacy telephone environment that is at its capacity.
  2. The new VoIP system is more fault-tolerant, with cheaper PRI trunk service to the campus.
  3. The new system provides a converged voice, video and data services on one network cable infrastructure. Over time, this will result in lower cable infrastructure costs.
  4. We will have vastly improved 911 service to the campus community. The current 911 service only identifies the call as coming from the campus. The new service will, when implemented, identify the location down to the phone location.
  5. The new VoIP phone system reduces the skill sets required to maintain the separate phone and network systems.
  6. There are additional features to the new system that give us future flexibility with regard to remote phone services.
  7. Current copper infrastructure between buildings is leased from BellSouth. The new VOIP system will use the Fiber infrastructure owned by the University.

As we progress through the project, I will send out updates. Hopefully the updates will be shorter, but I did want to give you a fairly close look at this exciting new service. Please give me a call if you have any questions.


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