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District Covers Four Hundred Schools with VoIP


Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD) is implementing one of the world’s largest IP-PBX networks, which is designed to serve more than 27,000 faculty and administrators. This sixth largest and one of the fastest growing school systems in the United States serves nearly 268,000 students in 289 schools in the fast growing Las Vegas metropolitan area.

The Challenge
CCSD had several objectives, including providing a telephone in every classroom to enhance parent-teacher communication and school safety. They also wanted to leverage the existing Gigabit Ethernet wide area network (WAN) to reduce operational costs. Moreover, they wanted to increase the reliability of the network and ease administration by standardizing on an Internet Protocol (IP)-based phone system that supported digital telephony.

The Solution
Verizon, an Alcatel Business Partner, assisted in the initial Alcatel OmniPCX Enterprise IP phone system installations for CCSD that will connect every classroom and administrator. The first phase of the installation included installation in 56 schools, with an additional two to three schools being added to the phone network each week — making it one of the largest deployments of a private IP voice network in the world.

The OmniPCX Enterprise offers CCSD the flexibility it was seeking by supporting both digital and IP telephones and by providing a full feature set across networked environments. Verizon has overseen the project management and delivery of the equipment and provided the school with onsite technical expertise.

The Result
Clark County, like many other large school districts, chose to adopt VoIP because it reduces telecom costs and network management by combining voice and data networks. By leveraging the Gigabit Ethernet WAN, the district can save approximately $1–2 million per year over expanding the phone system with Centrex.

“In fact, after the initial installation, with 56 schools up and running, the district dropped over 600 Centrex lines, saving approximately $10,000 per month,” said Dr.Philip Brody, chief technology officer, Clark County School District, noting that, “Even though we’re tripling the number of phones, we’re significantly reducing the number of lines.”

Not only does it save them money, a few features quickly endeared the new system to users and administrators. “The teachers really like the phones in the classrooms,” according to Dr. Brody. “From a management point of view, we can do so much more remotely; we don’t always have to go out in the truck to fix things. We are also able to block calls coming into the classroom during school hours, which is a really nice feature that we can do centrally.”

Reliability and management have also been improved by networking all schools and district facilities via IP trunking on a meshed topology with redundant paths, creating a virtual telephone system with no single point of failure. This highly reliable voice network incorporates multiple backups so there is no disruption in voice services.

Using the Alcatel OmniVista 4760 network management solution, CCSD’s technical team manages the VoIP network in real time from a central location. This allows them to control limited IT resources and reduce travel time. Technicians now perform routine tasks such as moves, adds, and changes autonomously, instead of relying on external service providers.

Why Alcatel?
Alcatel was chosen because an Alcatel OmniPCX Enterprise hybrid solution offered CCSD operational savings, which was determined by a comparative ROI study by St. Louis-based Dietrich Lockard Group. They examined five possible solutions:

• To keep growing its existing telephone system, which is a combination of PBX switches and key systems

• A Centrex-based system

• Conventional PBXs

• A pure IP system

• A hybrid system that does both conventional and IP

The last three solutions offered increased functionalities and reduced costs as a result of operating as a distributed network over the WAN. Alcatel was chosen because of its capability to support digital and IP phones, its ability to provide a full feature set over the WAN, and scalability to 400 sites.

“After reviewing these proposals, it became apparent that the Alcatel OmniPCX Enterprise was the best suited to provide the district with consistent management across all 300 locations without expensive wiring upgrades,” said Dr. Brody. “Alcatel’s dual IP/TDM architecture gives us the flexibility to deploy digital handsets in schools that already possess the cabling infrastructure to support digital phones, and deploy IP handsets where it makes most sense.”

Future Plans
The Alcatel OmniPCX Enterprise’s highly scalable architecture — the plan was to incorporate an additional; 1,500 faculty members quickly, and then expand the system to another 97 schools within a decade. According to Dr. Brody, the district will eventually have approximately 25,000 phones. He adds that his staff plans to implement a lot of safety features that weren’t available before, including the panic button and enhanced 911, “which lets police know where in the building you’re calling from.” IT

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