The PBX (News - Alert) (Private Branch Exchange) technology that underlies traditional phone systems on many college campuses has reached its end-of-life stage, and higher education has begun to embrace Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a way to leverage IP technology for lower infrastructure costs, improved network efficiency, converged communications and improved end-user features.
In an ACUTA survey from 2007, 43 percent of responding institutions had begun to implement VoIP, with their VoIP networks extending over less than 25 percent of their campuses. A newer survey by ACUTA found that about 25 percent of responding colleges and universities had completed a campus-wide VoIP installation, while another 49 percent were planning a VoIP deployment within the next year.
Barry University has recently extended its campus phone system using AT&T (News - Alert) Dual-Model Mobile Voice (DMMV), a fixed-mobile convergence solution based on ShoreTel Mobility. ShoreTel is a provider of simple unified communications platforms, including business IP phone systems, applications and mobile unified communications solutions.
Provided by AT&T and ShoreTel, DMMV works with Barry University’s existing Avaya (News - Alert) IP PBX and the campus-wide Wi-Fi network. DMMV enables Wi-Fi calling by connecting these devices to the university’s Wi-Fi network, replacing per-minute cellular calling charges.
DMMV lets users treat an enabled dual-mode mobile device (Wi-Fi+cellular) as a station on their PBX. The PBX controls call routing for both originating and terminating calls, a vital component of an effective converged fixed-mobile solution. When the dual-mode device originates a call (through a cellular network or enterprise campus Wi-Fi network), the call is routed, or terminated, through your designated PBX over an eligible AT&T wireline transport service.
Now with the ability to access calls by smartphone, faculty and staff can take advantage of the university’s PBX features such as conference calling, directory lookup and extension dialing, no matter where they are located.
Prior the deployment of ShoreTel Mobility technology, Barry University’s Information Technology staff often felt the need to use their personal mobile devices for work-related issues when out of the office, which many times meant that users needed to know two numbers for the staff person – an office extension and cell phone. While Barry provides a stipend to cover a portion of these employees’ cellular bills, long support calls over their cell phone had the potential of exceeding monthly minute allocations, thereby increasing costs for both employees and the enterprise. With the ShoreTel solution now in place, IT staff can maintain a single contact number, their published office extension, while simultaneously avoiding cellular telephony overages.
“Now students can call the extension and the support person will receive the call, regardless of where they are,” explained Hernan Londono, associate chief information officer, Barry University, in a statement. “It’s more convenient for everyone; students get through and staff can respond without rearranging their schedules. With DMMV, smartphones connect to the same Voice over IP (VoIP) network as our phone system, so our staff can provide support without having to worry about whether or not they’re over their cellular minutes.”
A strong Wi-Fi network is essential to a college’s mobile learning initiative, and many colleges have beefed up their wireless networks in recent years. A recent study by OnlineColleges.net found that six out of ten students won’t consider a college unless the education institution provides access to “free” Wi-Fi services on campus. Seventy-five percent of students believe that Wi-Fi access on college campus helps them get better grades during the semester and 90 percent believe Wi-Fi is just as essential to an education as a computer or a classroom.
“Wi-Fi as a vehicle for campus connectivity in terms of providing a quality user experience is a function of the age of a university’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure,” said Peter Bernstein, senior editor at TMC (News - Alert). “In other words, if there is old infrastructure, spotty coverage geographically or based on where radios are placed for taking care of heavy traffic areas, Wi-Fi can be problematic. That said, if done correctly, enabling all stakeholders on campus to have mobile access to the full functionality of campus communications is not just a laudable goal, but for a host of security as well as collaboration reasons it can and should be a priority.”
“Educational institutions all share a need for advanced, reliable communications systems. Not only must students, staff, parents and teachers regularly communicate to share critical news and updates, but they must often do so from mobile devices, remote locations or extended campuses, as is the case with Barry University,” said Kevin Gavin, chief marketing officer, ShoreTel. “We’re happy to be part of Barry University’s mission to provide students with ‘highly personalized attention from dedicated professors.’”
“Most campus Wi-Fi is old and slow and has limited user capacity - not enough access points, limited bandwidth that degrades quickly as users get on and ultimately user frustration. Any call dollar savings or basic benefits of VoIP such as one phone number going to either mobile or desk etc. wouldn't balance out frustration on users' end.”
The success of deploying VoIP systems, whether in educational institutions or in an enterprise, depends on the Wi-Fi infrastructure, but whether it’s on an educational campus or in an enterprise, moving to VoIP will still bring benefits.