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Switch compatibility gets in the way of a good application.

An innovative use of automatic number identification (ANI) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been stymied by PBX software problems, but it still holds the promise of precise call accounting.

The EPA uses ANI at its Lexington, Mass., office to provide the information that a single bill from AT&T can't. As Gary Plott of Unisys-whose company manages the federal FTS-2000 network for the EPA--explains, the carrier bill lists only the monthly charge for a single PBX number.

There are 200 lines out of an NEC America NEAX 2400 IMS PBX, and the EPA was looking for a way to verify the bill and account for calls made by the stations behind the PBX.

"Our EPA rep has to sign off on this bill," says Plott, who is senior systems requirements analyst. "She can't legally do that if it has not been verified. We felt that getting ANI, or station identification, would be the best method."

What the EPA and Unisys came up with was what Plott calls "reverse ANI." As a call is placed from the Lexington facility, the station's number is carried over to AT&T point of presence in Cambridge, Mass., then over a T3 circuit to a 5ESS switch in New York City.

When the ANI gets to the 5ESS, the identification is stripped off and recorded. The ANI does not accompany the call to its destination. Call data is sent to a billing center, then to the U.S. General Services Administration.

It's a creative application, but one that has been plagued with problems. It began operation nearly a year later than originally scheduled because of incompatibilities between the PBX and the central office switch.

"There was a whole array of problems in the software," Plott says. "The hardware and physical connections seemed to be fine, but setup and release commands were where you saw the problem."

Fixing the problem involved several software changes. Then the system worked fine for a while earlier this year before crashing.

"Once everything was up and running, the quality of the voice picked up tremendously and the reverse ANI information was received properly," says Plott. In addition, call setup time was a mere two and a half seconds.

But then, after 45 days of smooth operation, the system came down. Plott, whose office is in North Carolina, talked about the problem just before a fix-it trip to Boston.

The crash followed a recent change from 5E7 to 5E8 software on the FTS-2000s 5ESS network, but Plott doesn't believe that the change brought the system down. He was hopeful that a software patch would bring the system back up.

In the interim, the EPA converted the ISDN back to straight T1 to provide the FTS-2000 service.

Plott says the relatively short duration of service didn't allow the EPA enough time to determine the benefits of reverse ANI at Lexington. However, a similar effort in Seattle, where the reverse ANI was provided through contrex service, paid off in a big way.

"Using the ANI in Seattle, we discovered a problem with the circuits there. By finding that problem, we saved the agency $120,000. That showed us that ANI was an important tool."

Plott says frustrations of the past year at least provided a learning experience. He says the lessons he learned apply not only to NEC but to vendors in general.

Once the problem is straightened out, Plott says, EPA will try reverse ANI in six to eight more locations. Other possible applications are Group 4 fax and desktop videoconferencing.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum; an innovative use of automatic number identification at the US Environmental Protection Agency
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Make plans globally, not nationally.
Next Article:Vendors reply to frame relay 20 questions.

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