University of South Florida builds advanced telecomm network.
The four largest campuses are linked by T1 lines and each has its own PBX system. Until 1992, the main campus was served by a centrex system, which handled its voice communications needs. Data circuits were also provided by the local operating company.
As the USF community gained experience with emerging voice and data technologies, they were increasingly dissatisfied with the limited number of services available. For example, departments had to request expensive data links from the local carrier to send large data files between computers in different buildings.
As transmission requirements grew, the limited bandwidth could not support applications.
In addition, the transient nature of the university environment created a dependency on the local carrier to handle requests for changes, such as reassigning phone stations and data circuits when faculty or staff changed offices. Residence hall students had to request phone service individually each semester and pay a deposit and installation fee to the local carrier.
A committee of administrators, faculty and staff was formed to study USF's current and future telecomm needs. Experts were consulted and a plan was developed to overhaul the entire communications infrastructure.
The plan called for the construction of a state-of-the-art telecomm infrastructure, which included a functional switch and associated management systems to handle the 8,000 phone stations on campus. The system had to be flexible enough to deliver future bandwidth requirements for voice, data and video services.
The telecomm plan was approved and construction began in 1991. More than 100,000 feet of trenches were dug to contain the conduit that connected 80 campus buildings, which were completely rewired.
We installed AT&T's Systemax Premises Distribution System, which included fiber-optic cables and twisted pair copper wiring. Conduit space was sized to accommodate additional cable should it be needed in the future. The infrastructure was constructed in just six months with no significant disruption to campus life.
The hub of the network is Definity G3R, which handles up to 20,000 stations. It is configured to handle additional G3R modules distributed around the campus in four wire centers. By placing the modules closer to phones, we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in the cost of copper cable.
Trouble Tracker fault network software is used to monitor and record any problems with the campus network. By combining Trouble Tracker with the Definity's advanced self-diagnostic capabilities, problems are identified and corrected often before users are aware anything is wrong.
A standard feature of the system enables it to dial automatically into AT&T's Remote Maintenance Administration and Testing center in Denver, Colo., if it detects an internal problem that it can not correct itself.
At the Lakeland campus 40 miles away, a G3i is used. It has been integrated with Tampa through Distributed Communications System (DCS) Software, which provides feature transparency between campuses. In addition, it enables users in Lakeland to have voice mail service from the system at the main campus in Tampa.
This networking arrangement saved USF the expense of buying multiple voice mail systems.
To acquaint faculty and staff with the new telecommunications system, two-day "counselor" training sessions were scheduled to introduce the new communications system. A representative or "counselor" from each department attended the sessions and was informed about the many telecomm capabilities in the "telephone tool box" feature package.
Counselors then returned to their departments to work with their colleagues in selecting features to create a customized communications package tailored to each department's needs. Departments selected features from a wide array of options including voice mail, call coverage, automatic call back, abbreviated dialing, authorization codes, conference calling, three-way transfer, etc.
The ACD (automatic call distributor) on the system helped the admissions office increase call-handling capacity from 10 to 36 simultaneous calls by automatically routing calls to the next available adviser. This customized solution lets the office significantly reduce the number of busy signals. Abandoned calls have been virtually eliminated.