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VoIP Feature Article


April 26, 2006

Colleges Moving Cautiously With VoIP Adoption

Cindy Waxer, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Today’s colleges and universities are leaving the ‘rushing’ to fraternities. When it comes to VoIP adoption, they’re opting for a somewhat gradual approach.

An ACUTA survey shows that while fewer than half of the colleges and universities in North America have migrated to VoIP networks, many more are getting ready to make the move in the next six months to two years.

ACUTA, the Association for Communications Professionals in Higher Education, surveyed attendees at its VoIP educational seminar in Providence, Rhode Island, earlier this month. The survey respondents represented both public and private institutions, from small colleges to major universities.

Of the surveyed institutions, 43 percent reported that they are using VoIP. However, almost all of the users noted that the VoIP network currently covers less than 25 percent of their campus. Among those who assigned their VoIP network a grade, the responses averaged out to a solid B – a 3.13 grade point average. However, 25 percent gave the network an “incomplete.”

The most frequently mentioned benefits of the VoIP network were improved end-user features (cited by 46 percent of the users), cost savings (cited by 31 percent), and overall network efficiency (cited by 23 percent).

These VoIP users do have concerns and ongoing challenges when it comes to their use of the technology. Security was named by 77 percent of the users as a concern, with Quality of Service and emergency 911 issues cited by 69 percent. Sixty-two percent pointed to management as an issue.

Other challenges cited were cost, user training, complexity, and help desk issues.

“There is obviously tremendous interest in Voice over IP networking on North American campuses,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “Our survey suggests that our member institutions are being very methodical about how they are migrating to this advanced and beneficial technology.”

Semer noted the survey’s finding that 77 percent of the responding colleges and universities using VoIP are planning to expand its share of their networks in the next six months to two years, and the only ones not planning expansion are those who just finished recent upgrades.

One college making the move to VoIP is Wayne State College in Nebraska, which recently announced its selection of Mitel to implement an IP-based communications system on its campus.

Among the colleges and universities that are not using VoIP, 70 percent say a migration is in their plans, anywhere within the next six months to three or more years.

The most frequently cited reason among the non-users for considering migration is to improve overall network efficiency and to deliver improved end-user features.

Network issues are nothing new to today’s academic institutions. Administrators at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas have decided to block student access to MySpace.com due to the strain it’s putting on the school’s local network.
Cindy Waxer is a Toronto-based freelance journalist specializing in business and technology. She has written for publications including TIME, Fortune Small Business, Business 2.0, Computerworld, Canadian Business, and Workforce Management. To see more of her articles, please visit Cindy Waxer’s columnist page.


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