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October 24, 2002 IITS readies Concordia's internal network for ‘VolP experience‘



Mike Babin, IITS Assistant Director (Development/Support) and Claude Drapeau, IITS Telecommunications Consultant, are ready for the Voice-over Internet Protocol revolution.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Anne-Marie Curatolo, Communications, IITS

Technicians are currently visiting offices throughout the university in preparation for an innovative new telecommunications system. Network cables are being tested before Voice-over IP (VoIP) phones are installed in a few months. The Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data) network will gradually replace the current Centrex III environment.

Internet protocol (IP) telephony is rapidly revolutionizing the world of enterprise communications. It combines voice and data networks to deliver information far more efficiently than the traditional approach.

“This change will give us the ability to manage our phone system,” said Mike Babin, assistant director, development and support, Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS). “It will enable us to have access to more features and more applications. Most importantly, the upgrade to our computer network will allow for more reliability and improved performance.”

The new system will help control costs as the number of lines rented through Bell Canada will be greatly reduced. By sharing a common infrastructure, voice and data cabling and relocation charges will also be lowered. Currently, adding features such as call waiting or call forwarding requires contacting a Bell Canada representative and paying for the feature to be added. With the new system, these types of functions are done internally and the costs will be minimized.

Employees will also be able to configure various features (i.e., speed dial) directly on the phone. Claude Drapeau, telecommunications consultant, IITS, said, “The new system brings a lot of autonomy and flexibility. Our current system is very static and now it will be much more dynamic.”

Once the system has proven stable, new services, such as video calls, will be available. Unified messaging, which makes it possible to access voice, fax and e-mail from one device, will also be a reality.

Babin, who is also project manager, said the new system will provide a much more enhanced service for call centres (i.e., at the registrar’s office). The phones will notify the caller how long the wait is likely to be, and will inform call centre employees how many callers are waiting on hold. Calls will only be transferred to extensions that are free.

The convergence of the voice and data networks will require a major upgrade to the existing data network infrastructure, which will be done over a period of 24 months. The first phase of the voice migration is scheduled for early summer and will include 95 per cent of the university community.

Drapeau is working closely with Bell Canada to ensure the project is completed as smoothly and timely as possible. The installation and testing of the new VoIP phones is expected to take place in mid-May, and training will take place at about the same time. IITS will be developing different forms of training, such as video, Web-ready tutorial, brochure, and instructor-led sessions. This will allow each employee to choose the method best suiting his/her needs.

Frances Weller, Telesis manager, is the key liaison between co-ordinating activities with the departments and IITS. She is working with Bell Canada and the IITS Training and Development Group to ensure different forms of training are provided to the Concordia community.

The existing dialing plan is expected to be replaced with an automated attendant servicing a single main number (848-2424) in mid-June.

Every attempt is being made to ensure that all faculty and staff will retain the last four digits of their current number as an extension. To ensure a smooth transition, Bell Canada has agreed to have all disconnected Centrex numbers intercepted and referred to the main number for a period of one year. Placing an internal call will remain the same: by dialing the last four digits of the person’s extension.

The cut-over to the network is expected to take place at the end of June. Employees will have two phones for about three weeks to one month before their old Centrex phones are taken away. Drapeau encourages everyone to begin using their new phones upon installation (when placing calls within the university) to start sampling the VoIP experience!