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L.A. Office of Education grows voice/data network.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) serves as the intermediary between the California State Department of Education and the 92 kindergarten through 12th-grade public school and 13 community college districts in Los Angeles County. It is located in Downey, Calif., about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

LACOE provides a wide variety of programs for students. These include the Educational Telecommunication Network operated specifically for school districts; the L.A. County High School for the Arts; special education services; migrant education; juvenile court and community schools; and regional occupational programs.

According to Thomas J. Taylor, administrative services officer, LACOE had been using an old PBX purchased in 1982. Maintenace and traffic analyses were poor and, as LACOE expanded operations, the PBX couldn't keep pace with growth.

"The old system was cumbersome at best," Taylor says. "It was expensive and we constantly had problems.

"Individual numbers disappeared and software was erased. Simple functions like transferring a call or putting people on hold became a chore. We eventually referred to the PBX as 'flash and crash."

In March 1987, LACOE sent out 28 requests for proposals. One mandate of the proposal stated the new system had to be able to send voice and data over the same line.

"We selected the Ericson MD110 Intelligent Network because it provided the most economic solution to our telecommunications problems," Taylor says.

Taylor adds the Ericsson MD110 Intelligent Network also fit in well with LACOE's mission statement and strategic telecommunicationsgoals over the next few years. By September, for example, LACOE plans to create and make accessible a comprehensive communications system (to include electronic mail, teleconferencing, wide area network) to all Los Angeles County districts and LACOE program units.

By June 30, 1992, LACOE will be using a voice, image, and data network system to deliver distance-specialized learning programs to classrooms in districts and LACOE sites.

Moving ahead

The MD110 Intelligent Network installed at LACOE in May 1989, is a modular, digital communications system that transmits voice and data simultaneously over a single pair of wires. It supports from 20 to 20,000 lines over a geographical area as wide as 1200 miles and over a variety of link types, including twisted pair, fiber, T1, microwave, or coaxial.

Taylor says the PBX handled about 66,000 outgoing monthly calls. Currently, LACOE employees and consultants make about 87,000 calls each month. The majority of the calls are to Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The busiest month of the year is September (when the school year begins), which average more than 95,000 calls.

LACOE uses 72 TAUs (terminal adapter units) to enchance data communications capability without affecting the integrity or operation of the MD110 Intelligent Network. For example, bus schedulers access into a microcomputer network for routing and scheduling information. They dial into the TAU to route 3.50 school buses carrying 5000 special education students.

LACOE Planning Analyst George E. Gumbrecht says LACOE, with assistance from Ericsson, has established the ICAN (Interactive Classroom Administrative Network), which provides interactive voice, data, and image to the classrooms and the administrative offices of the districts. ICAN is comprised of three MD110/90s (situated at LACOE's two Downey headquarter buildings) and nine LIMs (line interface modules).

Five LIMs are located at the two LACOE buildings in Downey. Other LIMs are located at administrative offices and schools in San GAbriel, Van Nuys, Lennox, and Orange. Each LIM has approximately 10 trucks. There are 1500 voice and data lines for the entire system.

"Seven school districts have already signed to become ICAN members and another eight will soon join, pending school board approval," Gumbrecht says.

"All of them will tie into our remote LIMs with lines from their old PBX or centrex systems. We're still installing OPXs (off-premise lines) and eventually we'll have them at all the LIMs. We'll have OPX connections to all schools sites within a few miles of our headquarters buildings."

School district benefits

Gumbrecht adds that ICAN, based in the MD110 Network, has provided a number of benefits to school districts. For example, regional access points have been estabished allowing surrounding districts to be connected to the wide area ICAN extending throughout the county.

In addition, four-digit station-to-station dialing will eliminate longdistance charges for most internal calls. L.A. County toll calls will now become Zone 1 local calls.

Interactive video soon will be possible using MD110 with the enahanced services, ETN, and ICAN facilities. Gumbrecht says the MD110 Intelligent Network will make it possible to have video, voice, and data on T1 lines, saving LACOE thousands of dollars each year.

"We'll be able to place mobile video units from one site to another that will be a node in ICAN," Gumbrecht says. "Then we use whatever sites are available; e.g., a conference room, meeting room, etc. We can also use a satellite broadcast system--ETN and Ericsson will carry the interactive voice portion of that for conferences and training sessions while the TV signal is being bounced off satellites."

Gumbrecht envisions two video capabilities: 1) via satellite, e.g., one-way video audio interaction; and 2) utilizing ICAN for supplying compressed video for regional meetings and documentation to various sites for ETN broadcasts for curriculum studies. ICAN can transmit that documentation to the sites.

William C. McIntire, LACOE assistant administrator for internal business operations, says the MD110 Intelligent Network reduced central office telecommunications costs by more than $30,000 in 1989.

"Not only does the MD110 save us money, but because each LIM can operate independently, we don't worry about a system failure like we did with the previous PBX," he says. "And we also like the digital phones. They are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use."

These include the DBC 501, a basic digital telephone with two access lines; the DBC 531, with three access lines and a monitoring speaker for hands-free listening; and the DBC 561, similar to the DBC 531 but including two 20-character alphanumerid display rows indicating voice and data call status.

"More than 800 people at LACOE received comprehensive training from Ericsson," McIntire says. "Individual training was provided for front-office people. Ericsson representatives stayed on-site for a week until everyone felt comfortable with the phones."

McIntire adds the MD110 Intelligent Network has become indispensable to LACOE.

"It would be like stepping back to the Stone Age without it," McIntire says. "The system has become a vital link between LACOE and the more than 600,000 students to whom it provides leadership, services, and programs."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Education
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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