Duke to convert phone service to voice over IP

Duke to convert phone service to voice over IP
Duke University will convert all phone service on the main Duke campus, including the health system, to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), over a two-year period. The move will vastly simplify the way phone service is provided across campus, and will reduce phone service costs by more than $2 million a year when completed.

VoIP is a technology that converts the voice at one end of a telephone conversation into small packets of data, transmits those packets across existing data networks, and reassembles them into intelligible speech at the other end of the call. Since VoIP eliminates the need for dedicated telephone lines and switching equipment, the system can help to reduce infrastructure and communication costs.

“OIT has been testing and piloting Voice over IP service for some time now, and we put our first 500 production phone sets into service three years ago,” said Duke University Chief Information Officer Tracy Futhey. “Today, 10 percent of our phones are using VoIP, and our technology infrastructure is ready to support VoIP for all users on campus.” Many large corporations have been using VoIP for years and, increasingly, universities are following suit.

The adoption of VoIP, Futhey explained, “will allow us to retire Duke’s legacy phone switches, which are costly to maintain and, in some cases, difficult to upgrade. With everyone using VoIP for phone service, we will be able to reduce phone rates for all departments starting in July of next year and, because we will standardize the models we offer for most applications, we will also be able to save on equipment purchases and establish a common replacement schedule. All of this helps ensure that we are using Duke’s financial resources as efficiently as possible.”

The aggressive conversion schedule—replacing more than 30,000 lines over the course of two years—will allow the enterprise to benefit from the projected annual savings as quickly as possible, and to avoid the cost of upgrading legacy equipment. In addition, this process will give each department the opportunity to review phone needs, with an eye toward reducing the number of lines used and thereby saving even more on phone service.

OIT project staff have already started meeting with key staff in the offices of the provost, the executive vice president and the health system to share the draft project plan. Once a schedule for conversion of each department is set, project timelines, metrics and status reports will be made available via the Web. As the staff in each department gets close to conversion, they will receive detailed information about the process and instructions for use of the new phones.

While VoIP phones use different technology to transmit calls, they work essentially the same way other phones do: you pick up a handset, punch out the number you want on the keypad, and use other buttons for redial, hold, and so on. With VoIP service, however, you’ll be able to do other things, like move your phone (and your dedicated phone number) to another location without paying for a service call, or duplicate the settings from your office phone on the phone in your lab.