New Phone System FAQs

WITS will be upgrading the campus telephone system to VoIP (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) during the summer of 2011.  This page is intended to provide a single point of information for the campus community about the new telephone system, the process of the upgrade project, and the timeline. 

If you have any questions not answered below, please contact John Callahan at jcallaha@willamette.edu.

  1. Why is Willamette replacing the phone system?
  2. What is VoIP and how is it different from the current phone system?
  3. When will the migration happen? When will my phone be replaced?
  4. Will my extension / phone number change?
  5. Do I have to do anything?
  6. Will there be a cost to my department?
  7. How can I learn how to use the new phones?
  8. What about cordless phones, fax machines, modems, alarms, and credit card terminals?
  9. Can I continue to use the same headset?
  10. Do I dial numbers the same way as before?
  11. What happens to my old phone?

1. Why is Willamette replacing the phone system?

Several factors contribute to the motivation behind replacing the current system:

  • age - the old system was installed 16 years ago; desk phones and line-cards are beyond their life-span and are failing with increasing frequency.
  • support - the old system has not been updated since 2000, the platform has been discontinued and the manufacturer (Nortel) filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009; as such, replacement parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
  • staff - until recently Willamette had three staff (2.6 FTE) primarily dedicated to telephone service and support; now we have one staff (.6 FTE) and two other staff with additional telephone support roles; it is also becoming increasingly difficult to find individuals capable of working on legacy phone systems
  • location - the current system occupies roughly 1,000 square feet of the York basement, and every non-VoIP phone service on campus runs back to that central location and there is no back-up location. The new system is distributed between all the network rooms on campus and two servers in our secure data centers
  • features - pre-dial; call waiting; voice mail delivered to email; voice mail notifications; caller id; conference calls; music-on-hold are just some of the new features available in the new phone system
  • flexibility - the new system can work with different vendors of phones and systems, using non-proprietary communication protocols.  It is possible to use phones from different vendors without replacing the servers, or we can replace the servers without replacing the phones.

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2. What is VoIP and how is it different from the current phone system?

In our current traditional phone system, each phone is directly connected to our PBX (Private Branch Exchange) by means of a pair of copper cables.  The cable pair electrically connects the phone all the way back to the phone system, housed in the basement of York Hall.  WITS maintains a network of in-building and underground copper-wire cables for this purpose.  The phone's extensions and phone features are based on what pair of copper cables the telephone is connected to - moving a phone means physically re-arranging the copper cables to connect the same PBX port at a different location.

In our VoIP system, the phone is actually a small, low-power computer connected to our data network the same way a desktop computer or networked printer would be, using an "Ethernet" cable and jack.  A VoIP phone's extensions and features are tied to a unique identifier with each phone, so a phone can be unplugged from one jack and plugged into another and retain the same configuration.

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3. When will the migration happen? When will my phone be replaced?

We anticipate starting to replace phones in late-April in certain locations that don't require any back-end network upgrades.  We will be contacting individual departments shortly to start planning a migration time-line that is mutually agreeable.  Most of the work will happen after May 16th, and we anticipate to be complete by August.

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4. Will my extension / phone number change?

Not normally.  If you want to move from a 4xxx extension to an extension that can be dialed from off-campus, let us know with a Service Request.  We can coordinate the change as part of the migration at no charge.  Otherwise your new phone will be configured with the same phone number or numbers as your current phone.

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5. Do I have to do anything?

If you currently have voicemail, you will need to record a new greeting, and choose a PIN with the new voicemail system.  We cannot move voicemail messages from the old system to the new system and cannot copy your old voice mail PIN.  Instructions for setting up voicemail on the new system will be provided via email once your mailbox is created.


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6. Will there be a cost to my department?

No.  The project covers the costs of replacing your phone with a similarly featured phone, and covers the cabling necessary to provide your new phone with service at the same location as your old phone.  If you would like to upgrade your phone or add additional phones during the migration, then there may be additional costs.

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7. How can I learn how to use the new phones?

  • Printable web pages are available, covering the basics of Cisco Phone and Cisco Voice Mail
  • In person training sessions are available by request
  • A Help Key (?) is available on your phone, linked to context sensitive help viewable on your phone

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8. What about cordless phones, fax machines, modems, alarms, and credit card terminals?

These devices use single-line analog phone lines; no change will be made where these devices plug-in to the wall jack and there should be no need to change equipment; however they will be migrated from the old system to the new system as part of the upgrade.

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9. Can I continue to use the same headset?

So far all the headsets we have encountered have worked with the new phones.  However, we do not have an inventory of what headsets are used on campus, so there may be some headset incompatibility yet to be discovered.

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10. Do I dial numbers the same way as before?

Numbers can be dialed the same as before, however your new phone will provide some new ways: dialing off-campus without a 9; pre-dialing - entering in the digits then pressing dial; dialing from call logs; and dialing from directories.

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11. What happens to my old phone?

The old phones will be collected and delivered to Cisco as part of a trade-in.  They will either be refurbished or recycled depending on the model of the phone and its condition.

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