The Université du Québec à Montréal got two network upgrades in one by installing an IP network that supports data, voice and video.

The university had a 15-year-old Nortel Networks phone system that would have taken about $1 million to upgrade, says André Ostiguy, director of networking services.

But it wasn’t the phone system that concerned most users — it was the data network.

Though the university started considering a phone system upgrade about in about 2000, Ostiguy says, the project was delayed in hopes that IP technology would evolve to where a single converged network made sense. In 2002 the university decided that time had come. “”We didn’t have enough money to go separately, so we decided to build only one network,”” Ostiguy explains.

In 2003, Bell Canada was chosen to build the network, using equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. The project took 13 months. All switches and distribution equipment on the campus network were replaced. The university has a four Gigabit-per-second backbone, with one- and two-Gbps uplinks from buildings. Switches and horizontal cabling run at 100 Megabits per second, Ostiguy says.

Of the university’s 22 buildings, 17 are connected to the converged network. The other five were too small to be worth including, Ostiguy says. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 network drops, and about 4,000 IP phones.

Quality of service was a major concern, Ostiguy admits, but “”it’s working very nicely.”” Voice takes relatively little network bandwidth on a 100-Mbps line. The university has had little experience with video so far, and “”I’m still wondering how it’s going to work.””

Feedback on the new system has been mostly positive, Ostiguy says. The one sore spot has been the new voice-mail system, which lacks some features of the old one.

The university took a phased approach to VoIP, putting in the network first, then gradually distributing new IP phones while leaving the old phones in place. As soon as they were installed the IP phones could be used for internal calls — giving employees a chance to try them out — but they didn’t work for outside calls until the university’s outside lines were cut over to the new system.

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