One of Canada largest insurance companies is reaping a return on its investment in Internet Protocol telephony.

Canada Life Financial Corp. says it has gained significant productivity benefits from its integrated voice and data infrastructure based on IP technology from Cisco Systems.


insurance firm now has more than 700 Cisco IP phones deployed in its Toronto, London, Ont., Burlington, Ont., Montréal and Puerto Rico offices. The remainder of its Toronto campus, which includes an additional 2,500 phones, is expected to be changed over by the fall. Eventually, the entire organization will convert to a unified environment.

“”We had to do a couple of pilots to prove it to the bean counters,”” says Scott Martin, director of global network services at Canada Life. The first step was to get the network infrastructure in place. “”We had a lot of positioning work to do upfront. Once that happened we had a pilot of 25 phones in Toronto with favourable results. That was about two years ago.””

From there, the business case was written to roll out IP telephony everywhere. “”The extension of mobility is a huge benefit,”” says Martin. “”The moves, adds and changes and the amount of money we were spending on a monthly and annual basis among all of our offices was phenomenal.””

Normally, relocating employees and their phones is a significant cost. Martin says in a busy month, prior to moving to IP telephony, Canada Life could spend as much as $50,000 on moves, adds and changes. Now it doesn’t have to deal with a telecommunications service provider.

Another benefit will be that new locations will not have to install a voice infrastructure, he adds. “”We’re looking at cost avoidance. The business case wrote itself.””

The most common concern most enterprises face when rolling out Voice over IP (VoIP) is quality of service, but it has not been an issue for Canada Life, says Martin.

“”We certainly had concerns about quality of service,”” he says. “”It’s a matter of matching compression and prioritizing the voice traffic over everything else. We had zero quality problems with the VoIP between offices.””

There were some issues with using it over the public Internet to communicate with remote workers, says Martin, but those workers got used to the functionality and have accepted the quality, partly because with cellphones, they’re used to not having the quality of a land line all of the time. “”All in all, we’re not doing a lot of it over the Internet. We’re controlling it all over our own infrastructure.””

Canada Life will ultimately have one unified network infrastructure to maintain, something Brantz Myers, national manager for enterprise marketing with Cisco Systems Canada, says is one of the most compelling reasons for IP telephony.

“”With IP networks being so capable today, you’re able to think of pretty much any communications mode as being an application of IP.””

Myers says more applications have moved to IP over the last few years, but one of the last things organizations have held out on is the idea of including telephone calls as just another application.

“”The point we’re trying to get clearly established in the minds of our customers is that this one network built on IP can solve all sorts of cost and productivity problems,”” says Myers, “”and by implementing telephony, you take the last piece and bring it to the network.””

Warren Chaisatien, senior telecommunications analyst with research firm IDC Canada in Toronto, says Canada Life is a relatively early adopter of IP telephony.

Chaisatien says particular vertical markets are more apt to adopt IP telephony, such as academic institutions and health-care organizations, because they have multiple locations, sometimes spread over a large geographic area.

While Canada Life does not fall into either of these verticals, it does have multiple offices in different cities, he says.

“”They can quickly realize the return. It cuts your telephone bills right away. That is the immediate benefit customers experience.””

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