L.A. suburb dials up VOIP, reaches cost savings

The team that brought VOIP to Rancho Palos Verdes' city government includes, from left, Ted Vegvari, Teri Takaoka, Vince Doan and Dennis McLean. In the foreground is system user Nancy Vitez.

The city of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., had been using an analog voice system for 20 years, but the Los Angeles suburb had a powerful reason to upgrade. Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., was phasing out technical support.

The Avaya system 'switched the calls, separate from our computer network,' said Dennis McLean, the city's director of finance and IT. Whenever an employee was moved or a new phone installed, the vendor had to be called in and paid to make the change.

Two years ago, McLean and his IT technician met with technology adviser Ted Vegvari, who suggested a move to voice over IP.

The city chose the phone architecture for voice, video and integrated data, or AVVID, from Cisco Systems Inc. Working with Expanets Inc. of Englewood, Colo., McLean and his team installed 95 phones.

The Expanets team, which installed the Cisco system and continues to support it, was invaluable to the project, McLean said. 'From the time the city council approved the purchase in August 2002 to the launch, Expanets walked us through and worked with us through the design, implementation and training. The beauty of this is that each phone is attached to the city's network.'

Adding a new user is as easy as plugging a handset into a wall jack. The phone is then configured like a client PC over Category 6 cabling. City staff can make such routine changes, saving $5,000 to $10,000 a year.

McLean said the next steps will be to add teleconferencing and set up an emergency wireless network.

'We're not large,' he said of the suburb of 42,000. 'But I think we broke through the misperception that a VOIP system would be too expensive for us. It wasn't.'

VOIP has cost Rancho Palos Verdes about $85,000, with annual support charges of about $18,000, he said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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