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Wandering lonely as a clown...


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by , 19th October 2008 at 02:40 PM (3069 Views)
I've been thinking lately about school phone usage and wondering why we aren't moving to VOIP in schools.

For example, at the moment, if we wish to call our LEA or a local school, we have to dial out via a PSTN line and pay a call charge. Whilst at the same time we have a perfectly usable high quality fibre-optic internet connection. Surely introducing a VOIP phone system across schools would be fairly simple - I could outfit all our local schools with suitable Asterisk based systems for less than £10k each - and all issues/changes can be dealt with remotely.

What do other people think?


  1. dezt's Avatar
    I think it is a good idea, the majority of schools over here are connected to the same network, so it would make sense to move to VOIP.
  2. stratisphere's Avatar
    It's something we're looking into at our school. Although saying that we're keeping it local. I think the biggest fear (from a schools point of view prehaps?) is that telephone systems have almost always been outsourced. I know the biggest fear with our school about Asterisk is that it'll be mostly in-house support (while they dont have a problem with that, it's the fact that if I or the other technician leave... they would be stuffed).
  3. mavhc's Avatar
    In Nottinghamshire the LA is suggesting new schools install a Cisco Callmanager Express around £10k for 12 phones+server, and then one day the LA will buy Callmanager, and link them all together.

    They pay someone from BTInet to set all the command line bits up, then give you training on using the web GUI where you can add phones, extensions, directory entries, hunt groups, voicemail boxes.

    In theory it supports SIP, never got it working.
  4. localzuk's Avatar
    Cisco is a bit strange - very proprietory in it's implementation.

    We have 40 or so extensions in our school, so £10k wouldn't have cut it for us - using asterisk (with 2 hotswap spares of every component in stock) it cost us just over £6k for that.

    I just can't see the advantage of a closed, proprietory phone systems such as cisco - it is just so restrictive. With asterisk, I can code my own fun and funky programs to do whatever I want. With cisco, i'd have to pay a fortune to do it.
  5. plexer's Avatar
    Norfolk LEA have moved over to voip for their internal systems I think and I keep meaning to have a chat with them about being able to call them via the county wide wan or to do inter school just like we can with vc maybe I will do that after half term.

    Is there a right up of your asterisk system anywhere?
  6. srochford's Avatar
    it would be interesting to know just how much is spent on calls within an LEA or to other schools. If there aren't many calls made then there may not be much in the way of savings potential. By definition, the numbers called are going to be local so there may not be huge costs.

    Janet has a project going to look at how VoIP can be used over the academic network to link universities etc - some of what comes out of this may be appropriate for schools and LEAs

    I suspect a big problem will be getting it all configured. Most companies that set up a VoIP system won't be terribly interested in adding this sort of functionality - essentially, you're going to have to have some sort of routing which works out that numbers in a particular range (or in a table) don't go out through the normal ISDN line but go out to the WAN. There then has to be something which makes a connection (SIP??) to the appropriate switch for each of the parties you're going to call.

    None of this is impossible; I think you probably have enough skill to set it up for yourself but that doesn't make it easy for us mere mortals :-)

    What may be cheaper to do is to negotiate with the phone company for preferential rates for school to school calls. Depending on the size of the LEA and the bargaining skills of the purchasing people it should be possible to get pretty good rates (eg we have a mobile deal which I think gives us free calls between mobiles on the contract)
  7. FN-GM's Avatar
    My school including others in our area use VOIP, but we are all on an independent system. We are not dictated to by our LEA we are left to it
  8. TYO's Avatar
    We use VOIP internally. all cisco. hardphones for everyone in the offices. all teachers have softphones built in to their laptops (not used very often.) SLT, IT and FM have PDA's joined to the VOIP system using wireless. and everyone loves their voicemail being mailed to them.

    difficult to support though. we are an independant academy.
  9. mavhc's Avatar
    How much does the voicemail/imap stuff cost with cisco? Does anyone use the computer dialing via TAPI, how much is that?

    Also anyone got SIP clients to work with cisco? In the interface there's a SIP IP, but it never connects for me.


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