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Vol 38  No 1
August 11, 2005


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On the line

New VoIP system ready to be installed

By Jeff Green

Memorial University will begin installing its new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system in early September in a handful of offices around its St. John’s campus. It’s all part of phase one of a new plan to upgrade the university’s phone system. Earlier this year the university inked a five-year strategic relationship with IBM Canada Ltd., to update and streamline the university’s technology and install new VoIP to allow the university to operate more efficiently and effectively.

VoIP allows people to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of regular analog phone lines. No new extra telephone wires are required. Basically software converts voice signals from a telephone into a digital signal that travels over the Internet and then converts it back at the other end so people can speak to anyone with a regular phone number. VoIP also allows people to make calls directly from their computers using a conventional telephone or a microphone.

Memorial is implementing the changes to save money and avoid tolls charged by phone companies.

“There are all kinds of advantages the biggest of which is, once the capital expenditure is paid off, there are significant savings,” said Brian Power, associate director of technology with Computing and Communications, the department overseeing the new installations. “Over a 10-year period a couple of million dollars will be saved. That’s significant.”

During the first phase, 300 new sleek-looking black phones will be installed in number of IT specialists and computer technician offices before being hooked up in administrative offices and other departments. The second phase is scheduled to begin in January 2006.

One of the main advantages of the new system is the fact all university employees and faculty will have access to voice mail. Right now, only about 500 of the roughly 3,000 staff members have that service. “This will fill an important void,” said Mr. Power. “Voice mail costs too much. Most of the faculty do not have voice mail. Most of the times they have to pay for it out of research grants.”

There are other advantages to the VoIP system which Memorial may implement. “For example if you have a student doing a Web course, there will be a little button on the screen and it will say ‘call me,’” said Mr. Power. “If the student is stuck they just click on the button and if the person who is responsible for that section is available they will answer.”

Mr. Power said the university is also developing a system that will allow phones to work if power is disconnected. “If the lights go out we are building the system so that phones will still work,” he said. “There will be an emergency back up.”

“Overall, this new system will be great for the university,” he added. “It’s an investment for our future.”

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