L.A. suburb dials up VOIP

L.A. suburb dials up VOIP

The analog phone system that the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., had been using for the past 20 years worked just fine. Why fix it if it wasn't broken?

Although the standard voice messaging system from Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., was operational, the Los Angeles suburb had a powerful motivation to upgrade: Avaya was phasing out technical support for the system's analog technology.

The system had 'its own brain that did the switching of calls, separate from our computer network,' said Dennis McLean, the city's director of finance and information technology. Whenever the city moved an employee or installed a new phone, someone had to call in the phone vendor to make needed changes for a fee.

Two years ago, McLean and his IT technician met with the city's technology adviser Ted Vegvari to decide how to save the city money and maintain phone service. The trio decided, at Vegvari's suggestion, to adopt a voice over IP system.

The city has installed the VOIP architecture for voice, video and integrated data (AVVID) from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. Working with Expanets Inc. of Englewood, Colo., McLean and his team deployed the AVVID system for 95 phones about a year ago.

The Expanets team, which installed the Cisco system and continues to support it, was invaluable to the VOIP project, McLean said. "From the time the city council approved the purchase in August 2002 to the launch last Thanksgiving, Expanets walked us through the project, and worked with us through the design, implementation and training," he said.

'The beauty of this system is that the phone is attached to the city's network,' McLean said. To add a new user to the system, McLean and his team plug a handset into a wall jack. The phone is then configured like a PC linked to the city's network, which runs over Category 6 cabling. The use of city staff to make routine changes to the system is saving the city between $5,000 and $10,000 a year, he said.

McLean said that the city next plans to add teleconferencing features to the system and create an emergency wireless network.

'We're not a large city,' McLean said of the suburb of 42,000 residents. 'Yet I think we broke through what could be an easy misperception, that a Cisco VOIP system would be too expensive for us. It wasn't.'

The VOIP system cost about $85,000, with annual support costs amounting to about $18,000, he said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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