Over the next couple of years, Mills current phone system will be retired.
The current system, which runs over copper wires, will be gradually replaced with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system that runs in the Mills network.
“It’s just the new technology replacing an aging system,” telecommunications manager Sandi Daniels said. “No one is buying a new telephone system. These days, everyone is going to IP.”
All 500 of the faculty and staff telephones will be replaced in a phased program.
The current system is 13 years old.
“They’re great systems and they could go for a few more years, but we don’t want to take the chance,” Daniels said.
Some of the buildings on campus, like Mills Hall and Sage Hall, need to have their wiring redone. Daniels plans to try to do this over school breaks and during the summer.
“We have to work that around people’s schedules because it’s going to be a disruption,” Daniels said. “That’s why it’s going to take a few years. As buildings are being renovated, we can update the wiring.”
For the average user there will not be a big difference in the phones, although the phones themselves will be new.
A vendor will be chosen for the new system in the few weeks. The top choices are Avaya and Cisco.
“We need to be able to integrate. It has to be a known partner,” vice president for Information Resources Renee Jadushlever said. “We’ve had successful relationships with both Avaya and Cisco for more then 10 years, maybe 20. Cisco is very interested in making the campus a model for Voice over IP, in which case they are more likely to give us much larger discounts.”
Although phones in the residential halls will not be switched to the new system, both systems will work together and four-digit dialing will still be in use on campus.
“That makes sense, actually, but I don’t think it’s necessary for students,” said freshwomman Emilee Harrison.
Daniels doesn’t expect any problems with the new system that will plug into Category 5 data jacks, which are standard for computer wiring, instead of normal phone jacks.
“This technology has been around for about five years,” she said.
“They seem to have gotten all the big problems out. It’s a stable platform. Five years ago I wouldn’t have done this. It was too new; I don’t like to practice on people.”
An early problem with VoIP was 911 dialing. Mills will continue to use e-911, or expanded 911, that will alert the Oakland Police and Public Safety to the exact location of a 911 call.
“That’s a very serious consideration,” Jadushlever said. “That is a very crucial discussion.”
The new phone features are about the same. According to Daniels, because of the buttons on the phone, it will be easier to transfer calls and hold conference calls. The phones will also have caller ID. Additionally, phone numbers will be able to travel with phones to other offices. A long term feature is video conferencing.
While the on-campus equipment will change, the service providers will remain AT&T for local calling and QWEST for long distance calling.
A firm price has not been set yet, although Daniels and Jadushlever expect it to be at least $100,000. Most of the money will come from the Mills Telecom department’s operational budget. The cost will not be one lump sum, but will add up over time as more telephones and other equipment are purchased. The current phone system costs $1 million.
“When we buy it, we plan on keeping it for a long time,” Daniels said. “Telephone systems are very expensive. It’s a big investment, that’s why we expect it to last several years.”
The installation of this system will take a few years, as Daniels is the only member of the Mills Telecom department. She will receive some aid from the vendor and an electrical contractor.
“I’m excited, but it’s going to be a lot of work,” Daniels said. “I’m a department of one.”