by Barbara Black
Concordia will become a pioneer in communications delivery
this spring, when the universitys cable-based telephone system is
changed to delivery via the Internet.
Other universities have tested it, and some school boards have adopted
it, but I think were the first university in Canada to completely
replace existing telephony architecture with voice-over-internet protocol
telephony, said Andrew McAusland, executive director of IITS (Information
and Instructional Technology Services).
However, this is proven technology, and many large institutions are actively
looking at the system. McAusland knows its importance to employees: The
one thing you dont fool around with is the telephone system!
What will this mean to the average employee is a change of phone number
and, where appropriate, stationery, and not much else. The phone number
will change because all calls will be routed through a single university
switchboard, but youll keep the last four digits of your current
number as an extension.
The various telecommunications installations around the campus will undergo
a few adjustments. Some areas of the university will need to be rewired,
and the employees affected have already been informed. McAusland expects
the system to kick in sometime in May 2003.
Its a timely concept, since the new three buildings will have the
system built in. There are two major benefits to installing it in the
rest of the university: savings and enhanced capability.
Maintenance costs will be much lower, McAusland said. Right now,
were spendng $1.3 million a year for our phone lines. We have about
3,800 centrex phone lines, each costing approximately $30 a month. Were
going to reduce that to between 250 and 300 servicing the same number
Installation by Bell Canada will cost between $4.8 and $5 million, but
with savings of about $900,000 a year, this capital expenditure should
be recovered in about five years. McAusland added that up to $3 million
of this outlay would have had to be invested anyway in upgrading the data
A converged voice, video and data network will improve the universitys
core capabilities. Demand has been exponentially increasing, with enhanced
classrooms and library facilities, and the introduction of the portals
project to provide customized Web access to individuals.
For example, the university now maintains about 46,000 alcor e-mail accounts
for students, faculty and staff, but extending the portals to some 200,000
alumni will require a major overhaul of the alcor server. In fact, McAusland
said, the entire data network of the university is being rebuilt for greater
efficiency and reliability.
The voice-over-Internet protocol has some interesting features. Phone
users will be able to use a desktop computer instead of a phone set for
some voice communication. Phones can be moved from one room to another
with little or no support staff intervention or cost.
Various applications can be delivered to your computer over the phone,
including a video component. In fact, your voice becomes an application
on your data network. Youll get a new phone, and you will be able
to plug it in wherever theres a computer network jack.
Before it is implemented, there will be demonstrations of the new technology,
and, where appropriate, training sessions, under the leadership of Frances