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NT government forges ahead on VoIP

The Northern Territory (NT) government is targeting user support and governance as critical to the success of a looming territory-wide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) rollout.The government is this month scheduled to complete the last step of a pilot project, a deployment at the Department of Corporate and Information Services in Palm Court in Darwin.
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Written by Steven Deare on
The Northern Territory (NT) government is targeting user support and governance as critical to the success of a looming territory-wide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) rollout.

The government is this month scheduled to complete the last step of a pilot project, a deployment at the Department of Corporate and Information Services in Palm Court in Darwin. The pilot has since its inception in October reached a limited number of sites, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Community Services.

The project will eventually see most government sites -- encompassing around 12,000 public servants -- use a VoIP solution from Telstra. Only some remote sites will continue to be serviced by traditional public switched telephony network (PSTN) offerings.

Garry Haigh, director of IT service management, NT government, said the pilot was designed to make sure change management aspects of the project were covered off, with the technical side already well in hand.

The greenfield rollout to the Department of Justice in October was done to "satisfy our technologists", said Haigh, but deployments since had focussed on securing support from users.

"We're confident the technology works. But we have to be satisfied from a governance perspective on changeover," he said.

"There's a fair bit of infrastructure replacement involved when you're deploying VoIP," Haigh said. "You're changing telecommunications [infrastructure] and your desktop infrastructure, as it becomes one."

Change tools included a new toolbar introduced to users' desktop interfaces to deliver access to VoIP features.

The government and Telstra had run a "fairly intensive" campaign to win user support, said Haigh.

Plenty of time has been spent on a communication plan with users. This included user training and selling the benefits of VoIP to users, according to Haigh.

"People aren't always familiar with a new technology's benefit to start with."

"You've got to make sure all your number diversions are done," said Haigh. "Calls have to be diverted for faxes and modems otherwise people will be saying they aren't getting their calls."

Getting down to details
Haigh said the Telstra service would be delivered over the government's wide area network (WAN). "For example, the site I'm at will have a 10MB connection to the network and will run voice and data services," he said.

"My call will terminate at the Telstra switch, and then go over the carrier network to the [other] phone."

Like the majority of large organisations using VoIP, the NT government will not route calls over the public Internet.

"We've had a fully outsourced service for some time," said Haigh, "[so] we didn't get into traffic management. Because the decision about where the calls are routed is not our call, it's not our responsibility. It may be that [Telstra] do that in the future."

The government is migrating from 70-80 PABX systems for its voice network, in addition to its data network.

NT budget estimates have projected cost savings from the project of AU$7 million per annum. "A lot of our savings will be to agencies in moves and changes," Haigh said.

"Because the [Internet protocol] address is held in the device, I can move around and take my number with me."

Under the VoIP project, the government's data network will be upgraded for Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) by June. The network will then be upgraded for VoIP by the end of the next financial year, according to Haigh.

The government will use handsets from Polycom, to be deployed to most VoIP users. "Polycom was decided to be the offering, although we could've easily used others [offered by Telstra]," said Haigh.

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