University installs fully converged IP telephony

The University of Guelph is the first Canadian post-secondary institution to begin installation of a single Internet Protocol (IP) network for both students and faculty across its entire campus.

In these times of reduced government funding for post-secondary education, universities are trying to find new cost-effective ways to do business, while at the same time trying to improve their facilities to attract more students. The university, located just west of Toronto, thinks it has found a tool to accomplish these goals in a fully converged, campus-wide IP voice, video and data network from Cisco Systems Canada Inc.

The infrastructure will allow the university to run voice, video and data over a single network, with the intention of increasing student enrolment and expanding technological capabilities.

The installation process, which will feature 7,000 IP phones and 12,000 data ports in both residence and administrative buildings across the campus, is to be completed over the next three years. A trial program is being undertaken in one residence, involving the use of 660 Cisco IP phones, to introduce the network to students.

The single network will reduce costs for the university and allow for productivity gains for students and faculty, according to Cisco. “This is a great example of … education as the early adapter, and I think it is for a couple reasons,” explained Brent Rebus, Toronto-based director of enterprise operations at Cisco Canada. “I think it’s a great example of a university staying at the forefront and leveraging technology to get the inherent benefits, and arm their product, which is their students, to have the knowledge that the workplace is looking for as they move out there.”

In the area of cost savings, the technology allows IP phones to be moved from one location to another on campus along with the user, and thereby avoid hefty disconnect and reconnect charges, while at the same time maintaining speed dial settings and directories created by the user.

“No longer do I need to have all the expense of having someone to move the telephony environment (and) administer the telephony environment … The network is smart enough to recognize me as a device,” Rebus said.

Mark Quigley, Ottawa-based research director at Yankee Group Canada in Ottawa, sees the network as a great selling tool for the university in its efforts to attract the brightest and best students to the institution.

“The fact that the school is fully equipped with IP telephony and high-speed Internet may be a determining factor for a student to choose what school they go to,” he said.

The technological capabilities and their applications in a university environment could be boundless, according to Quigley.

“There’s also the possibility of custom-tailoring the phones, maybe advertising the fact that the Guelph Gryphons football team is playing whoever, (so) dial this number for ticket info, or advertising for Joe’s Pizza Shop down the road,” he said.