Sports institute VoIP network proves to be a winner

NSW Institute of Sport ditches old telephony for new VoIP network

The biggest obstacle Greg Baxter had to overcome when deploying a new VoIP network in the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) office was convincing his senior executives.

"There was some scepticism when I first went to our executive and said we were going to put in a phone system that ran over our data network," said Baxter, information communication and technology manger at the state's elite sporting centre.

"They were a bit concerned that if the network falls, what happens to the phones," he said. "Well in this day and age, with mobile technology, it is probably irrelevant because everyone has a mobile phone or Blackberry or some other form of communicating device."

The move in spring last year to NSWIS's purpose-built premises in Sydney's Olympic park gave Baxter a greenfield opportunity to deploy his new IP network, which now features a 10GB backbone and supplies gigabit to the desktops of its 95 full-time staff.

"When we decided to move to the new building, we decided to make it the best we could and we realized that communications is critical to us," he said

In deciding what VoIP solution to choose, Baxter said he looked at solutions from Avaya, Nortel, and Cisco, but ultimately selected a Mitel system because it ported nicely with newly purchased HP switches - a critical factor in Baxter's decision as the switches themselves came with a lifetime warranty.

Price, too, was a prime consideration. Baxter recalled how one of the losing bidders had initially offered a reasonable price for the VoIP network, but then wanted to charge an additional $45,000 per annum service fee - far too much for an organization which ultimately is dependant on government funding.

"One of the major factors was long term costs: it [Mitel] was the most cost effective over a five-year period," he said. In total, Baxter outlayed $400,000 for the new network.

On top of the Mitel system, Baxter selected Microsoft's Live Communication Server and Office Communicator 2005. Although it has taken some initial training for staff to understand how to use the system, it is now working quite well.

On the video side, staff use WebEx and Skype video to communicate. Although Skype video is better suited to one-to-one rather many-to-many, he said it still serves the institute's needs well.

With the Olympic Park set up running smoothly, Baxter is now focused on the next project. NSWIS is about to set up an office in Jindabyne for its winter sports program. The new office will be an extension of the Sydney network and the VoIP system will run over a secured gateway, he said.

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