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Campus connects to VoIP

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, November 18, 2004

SBC Communications announced plans Tuesday for a multi-million dollar, five-year deal with Notre Dame that will make the campus home to one of the largest, state-of-the-art Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) networks in the country.

The VoIP system will replace the current phone network with an Internet-based system that will link users to advanced features like a single inbox for voice and e-mail messages, “click-to-call” functionality from computers and “find me, follow me” call routing options, according to an SBC press release. Additionally, a “plug-and-play” service allows for the addition of new phones and service and location changes.

Accessible campus-wide and via the internet, the network makes users reachable outside the office – a problem with the current, Centrex-based system.

“We’re not just replacing phones, we’re outfitting the University with a completely new network which enables to bring together voice and data systems into single network,” SBC representative Sarah Silva said.

Though a press release from the Office of Information Technologies indicates otherwise, the service is only for the approximate 7,000 administrators, faculty and staff at the University and at offices across the country, said Silva.

“The student body is not part of the transition, though including them is in review and consideration,” Silva said. “As of now, students will not be affected by the change, only staff and faculty and administration.”

The OIT release puts the number at 16,000 users and includes students. Silva could not speak to the discrepancies between the two plans and said she did not know where OIT’s numbers came from. OIT officials were not available for comment.

Implementation of the system will begin in 2005 and continue over the next two to three years, according to Silva.

“This is not like an all-at-once, grand restructuring,” Silva said. “It’s a gradual phased migration.”

Silva also said that SBC expects the transition process to be relatively hassle-free.

“Because they’re both SBC systems, we can integrate the systems as you move from wireline into VoIP infrastructure to make the transition smooth,” Silva said.

The VoIP network – technically called SBC PremierSERV Hosted Internet Protocol Communications Service – was introduced by SBC in November 2003 and is in use in 69 metropolitan areas across the country.

Technologically-speaking, the VoIP system works by converting voice calls into data packets and treating them with the same protocol used to transmit data on computer networks.

“We are excited to work with the University of Notre Dame in implementing one of the largest migrations to hosted VoIP to date,” Cathy Coughlin, president of Business Communications Services, SBC Global Services, Inc. said in a press release. “We have provided reliable solutions to educational institutions of all sizes for more than a century, and we believe the University of Notre Dame’s forward-thinking approach will serve as a model for other customers with large, complex campus environments that are looking to migrate to a hosted IP solution.”