Cairns Council in comms overhaul extravaganza

Cairns City Council has embarked on a telecoms overhaul that will see more than 1,000 users switch to VoIP and could even lead to the adoption of dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular phones and the deployment of public hotspots.

Cairns City Council has embarked on a telecoms overhaul that will see more than 1,000 users switch to VoIP and could even lead to the adoption of dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular phones and the deployment of public hotspots.

The council is one third of its way through a three-year plan that will see it adopt a range of unified communications systems across its user base, including technology from Microsoft, Cisco and Dimension Data.

Rob Dodin, team leader of information services infrastructure at Cairns City Council, told ZDNet Australia that the decision to upgrade the system came four years ago.

"We had a traditional PABX system that was getting on and costing quite a bit to maintain -- it was almost maxed out. To add any more features, we had to upgrade. We sort of thought, do we want to spend any more money on this?" he said.

The decision was taken to move to unified communications with Dimension Data as integrator, which has partnered with the Council since 2001.

With the pilot phase complete, there are now 30 users on the unified system -- which employs Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Identity Integration Server, Cisco CallManager and Dimension Data's IP telephony -- Active Directory Connector.

The next part of the scheme will see an additional 300 users moved over, in the Council's main admin building. "If we have any greenfield sites coming up, we will incorporate them into VoIP straight away," Dodin said.

The first two phases of the rollout will cost the Council AU$490,000 and it expects to save AU$120,000 per year in call costs alone. "We're not talking about intangible benefits here," he said.

According to Dodin, the Council is looking to deploy videoconferencing as a result of the new system. Meanwhile, users are already asking for new unified comms features, including presence, click-to-dial and instant messaging.

Cairns is already considering how to expand the system's functionality. One possible addition is the inclusion of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC).

FMC systems use dual-mode phones, which route calls over Wi-Fi networks when a user is within reach of the corporate wireless network and switch to routing calls over cellular networks once a user leaves the building.

Dodin told ZDNet Australia that the Council will need to improve its wireless infrastructure and undertake a trial of dual mode handsets before any decision can be made.

Cairns is also considering deploying public hotspots, although Dodin added that such a plan will need "investigating and approval from the Council" before it could go ahead.

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