The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has decided to deal with aging telephony equipment and increased server demands by creating a converged network that will include data and IP telephony.

Based on Cisco switches and routers and installed by Bell Canada, officials called the IP network

the largest of its kind at a Québec university. The project included changing 4,000 telephones, 5,000 cable drops, 482 switches and 13 routers over a 13-month period.

Andre Ostiguy, director for network services at the Université du Québec à Montréal said the catalyst for convergence came in part from teachers who were asking for a more robust network. There was also the problem of a 15-year-old Nortel PBX system that was keeping UQAM in an analogue world.

“”Nortel was saying to us, ‘It’s looking like an end-of-life thing. You guys are going to have to do a major upgrade,'”” he said. “”There was no value added to that, because it’s just a telephone, you know?””

The school conducted a pilot test with the Cisco equipment between 2001 and 2002, and selected Bell following an RFP process a year later.

“”They had many issues to solve,”” said Isabelle Courville, president of Bell Canada’s enterprise market division. “”It was old cabling, and they’re really spread out all over the city — it’s a little bit like the University of Toronto.””

Out with the old

Ostiguy said there were 30 people working almost 24 hours a day to get the network up and running in time for its deadline. The team replaced the cabling in each of the campus’s 17 pavilions and installed the switches without activating them. The new telephones went in last September, but users’ old telephones were left on their desks for a time as well. Over one weekend in November, the team started to shut down the old system and began activating the new one.

“”We did not disturb one class,”” Courville said. “”Our project manager spent so much time down there, he practically had a degree by the time he was done.””

The IP network should serve UQAM’s needs for at least the next five years, Ostiguy added, and he expects the price of the equipment to fall within the next several years.

Although some aspects of scaling up the network will be easier now that everything is on IP, he said there was a need for more management tools to monitor the voice, video and data services.

“”You need a lot of redundancy,”” he said. “”All the distribution in the core is redundant. We would install two switches instead of one, for example, so if something’s wrong, we can shut down one and fix it.””

Courville said Bell sees business opportunities in helping customers handle the complexity of a converged network.

“”There’s a higher proportion of managed services that customers like to take,”” she said. “”It’s more like an IT infrastructure than a telecom one.””

Cisco said the network will connect six faculties, 22 research centres, 33 departments, 44 chairs, six institutes, and all classrooms and administrative departments.

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