Edmonton Airports installs multi-site IP telephony

Edmonton Airports is saving an estimated $200,000 annually in monthly phone bills after switching from a centrex-based system from a major telco provider to a multi-site IP telephony-based system six weeks ago.

The not-for-profit

organization manages several airports in the region, including Edmonton International Airport, where it has installed a private branch exchange (PBX) switch in the airport’s main terminal building. Avaya Inc.’s IP telephony solution has allowed Edmonton Airports to consolidate 600 users on a single network, which is password protected. It also enables the airport to link its air operations maintenance centre (AOMC) and the Edmonton Airport fire station to the communications infrastructure, located approximately 2 km away in the main terminal.

The cost of the project was just under $300,000, with the bulk of the amount from engineering and implementation costs associated with the PBX switch.

Aside from the monetary benefits, the ability to do adds, moves and changes was one of the main reasons Edmonton Airports decided to embark on this project back in October, said Mike Gauthier, superintendent of electrical services at Edmonton Airports. “(IP telephony) offers us plenty of flexibility when it comes to additions, deletions and relocations of our communications structure,” said Gauthier. “The turnaround time to get that service done is a matter of hours versus weeks.”

The airport’s emergency medical services (EMS) team, which handles many calls a day, will also benefit from improved flexibility as calls can now be routed to mobile devices like cell phones and pagers. “(IP telephony) offers EMS flexibility so that they’re never going to miss a call and we’ll always going to get a hold of somebody,” said Gauthier.

Other benefits include improved voice mail programmability, call accountability, records keeping and traffic management, he added.

A typical challenge with airports is that they often have a lot of legacy systems in place, said Dean Lariviere, head of western sales at Avaya Canada. “Often a wholesale rip and replacement scenario is not very palatable for them,” said Lariviere. Avaya has done past IP telephony implementations at San Francisco and Denver International airports, where Gauthier looked before awarding the contract to Avaya Canada in November.

Because the airport had recently undergone $300 million worth of construction, which included backbone and distribution system upgrades, the transition was a little easier. But there was still some work required to get the airport’s communication infrastructure stable, said Lariviere. “In moving to (IP telephony) they needed to assure the quality that their users would expect,” said Lariviere. “Quality is an imperative at airports. They’re very sensitive to that.”

Another challenge specific to this case was how to connect the two remote locations back into the airport hub to look like one seamless network. “We leveraged IP telephony to provide that glue so they dropped in gateways off of the main server at the hub site which tie back over the wide area network into that server to glue it all together.”

Gauthier said Edmonton Airports will be rolling out the service to other remote locations within the year but doesn’t have any other future plans in the works yet.

“Right now we’re going to digest the system that we have,” said Gauthier. “The system is so programmable and flexible that we’re not even sure we’ve scraped the surface.”

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