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Modernizing Telecommunication at Fermilab

From Fermilab Today, Oct. 18, 2016

Rob Roser

Rob Roser, CIO

As we well know from our experiments studying tiny particles, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal. Today’s column is focused on our unified communications strategy for the next year. This includes telecommunications, networking and conferencing systems, all of which are behind the scenes, but vital to lab operations.

The laboratory phone system, with its decade-old copper phone-switching gear in the Wilson Hall basement, must be replaced. AT&T has made it clear that they do not wish to support it after our present contract expires in a few years, and if they must, the price tag will be millions of dollars. Consequently, Computing is planning to modernize our phone system leveraging the state-of-the-art and now common “voice over internet protocol” (VOIP).

Using this technology, phone signals within the laboratory will travel over our networking infrastructure rather than the existing traditional copper cables. Replacing all the copper phone lines is a very expensive proposition. To control costs, we do not plan to immediately replace individual desktop handsets with VOIP-style phones. Instead, we will make a digital-to-analog conversion just as the main phone signals enter Wilson Hall, enabling us to use the existing copper phone wires and telephones. As floors in the building get modernized, so will the phone systems on those upgraded floors. New buildings, like the Integrated Engineering Research Center, would start out with full VOIP technology. Plans for other buildings are still to be determined but will be converted to full VoIP only where appropriate and if the costs make sense.

Read the full article in Fermilab Today.

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