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ISDN preserves precious cable pair at Redstone Arsenal.

Tim Bell nver set out to be a pioneer. The communications officer at the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., is a practical man who says ISDN has simply solved problems for him n the past two years.

"We didn't install ISN to try to invent ISDN, we installed it to meet specific needs," Bell says. "We identified certain applications where we thought we could improve customer service and show some cost savings."

Bell's customers are users on and connected with the 59-square-mile base where the Army researches and maintains its missile-based weapons systems. There are more than 600 major buildings on the Redstone network. The facility has 420 ISDN lines out of 19,000 centrex lines, served by an AT&T 5ESS central office switch.

Bell's Information Systems Command operates as its own on-base telephone company.

"When we began using ISDN (in a 1989 trial) our outside cable plant was near capacity. Some buildings had no cable pair available to them," Bell recalls.

"When we would move people in there, with the increase in data requirements, we could not service their total communication needs. We were able to put ISDN on their desk and meet their data and voice transfer needs."

One challenge facing Bell was to handle the data needs of a constantly shifting clientele.

For instance, special short-lived teams often move into mobile offices served by a small number of cable pairs.

"We might have 10 pair serving that building, and we put eight people in there. There is really no way with conventional technology to service them. With ISDN, they are able to use the multiple-channel technology and meet all their needs."

For most data users at Redstone Arsenal, ISDN's 64 kb/s is fast enough. Where it isn't, T1 or some other high-speed approach is used.

"When you take people used to 1200 or 2400 baud access and give them ISDN, they are usually ecstatic with the results," Bell says. "ISDN works for our applications. It has exceeded our expectations. For someone who is not bursting tremendous amounts of data down the line at one time, it is fine."

Main voice application at Redstone has been electromechanical 1A2 key system replacement.

"We had an Army mandate to move to single-line technology, but we had a customer base that required some of the functionality of key systems," Bell explains. "We were able to use the intelligence of the ISDN channeling and the switch to provide key system-like features."

Users have either AT&T 7506 or 7507 desktop sets, depending on the number of call transfers required.

Redstone has calling name display for all intra-switch calls. The incoming number triggers a database lookup to display the caller's name. That feature is so popular with users, Bell says, that "we couldn't pry that ISDN phone off their desk."

Calling name display has also been a money-saver. Redstone is the southeastern U.S. Army gateway for the Defense Department's AUTOVON (Automatic Voice Network) for overseas calling.

All callers below direct access priority level must call through the Redstone operators. normal traffic is about 1900 calls a day.

During the height of activity in the Persian Gulf earlier this year, that traffic climbed to 5000 calls a day. Bell says his operators handled that increase with an addition of only 16 man-hours per week, thanks to calling name display and single-button access to switch features from the ISDN phones.

"Our operators are required to make a toll ticket, a paper copy we use as audit trail to justify AUTOVON calls," says Bell. "Some of the information they need for the ticket, the caller's telephone number and name, is displayed on their terminal.

"They can go from there to fill out the other items requires and place the call. It probably cut the time they spend retrieving information from the caller by two-thirds."

Other uses of ISDN at Redstone include electronic directory service, electronic messaging, PC file transfer, modem pooling, terminal emulation, and host computer access. Low-band width videoconferencing is in the works.

Redstone will expand its use of ISDN, Bell explains, but there are no specific goals at this time.

"We have seen that ISDN does meet specific needs and can do it economically. When we find an application, voice or data, ISDN is one of the tools we use to meet those needs."

As the first customer trial of ISDN for South Central Bell and the first large-scale ISDN trial in the Army, Bell says, there were technical challenges, but the facility's partnership with the telco--Redstone even now shares an on-base applications development lab with South Central Bell--made it work.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum; integrated services digital networks
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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