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Why users love centrex.


I like centrex because I don't have to do anything," smiles Rita Shirley-West. She quickly adds that she's exaggerating, of course, but her point is understood by many centrex fans.

As manager of a 250-line system for the city of Fontana, Calif., she knows the advantages of leaving telecomm management to the professionals at the phone company.

Amtrak's Robert Woodie sees a different advantage: "It's good protection against a disaster." His Amtrak division has 500 lines of centrex, with 325 working on the railroad today, the rest scheduled for expansion.

Having telephone service based at the CO is better than having it on premises, Woodie argues, because the risk is spread over a wider area.

Combine those two ideas, and that's why Elton Wennekeker is happy with his 2000-line service to the State of California's department of mental health, where he works.

"We don't handle problems," he says simply. With 600 lines at headquarters andthe rest scattered among five hospitals, he is pleased at all the work relief he can get. The only problem has been minor communications differences between "what we say we want and what the telco thinks we want." He says they normally are smoothed out promptly.

Cost rates high as a factor in choosing centrex. In 1988, the average cost per centrex line was $300, compared to $600 for each PBX line. Typically, 55-59% of telecomm budget costs consist of line, equipment and maintenance charges. That figure should jump to 63-67% next year. Centrex eliminates much of those costs.

Pacific Bell's Bob Lee says centrex sales doubled between 1986 and 1987, redoubled in 1988, then tripled in 1989. 1990 sales are following the 1989 pace.

Disaster Ruggedness

When the earthquake struck last year, American Red Cross centrex service kept going when the PBX in their offices went down. Disaster backup is only one of many services.

Dolores Montgomery, Southern California Gas, manages the voice mail system the utility integrated with its centrex service. She, too, is happy with the service her telco provides and notes that some physical link hangups quickly were straightened out for her.

In addition to voice mail, most centrex providers offer call processing, call forwarding, paging access, station-to-station calling, conference calling, and about a hundred more basic services. Advanced features like uniform call distribution, flexible route selection, metro centrex, data switching, ISDN, and call accounting are available.

While agreeing about the benefits to telecomm management, Sylvia Mason sees a different benefit. The 3000 lines Security Pacific Automation uses are user-friendly, she says. "They are no different to the average worker than their phones at home." She brings up one of the few standard objections to centrex: "You can't get your own technicians in to fix problems." Sometimes lack of control can be vexing, but that's more than made up in cost savings.

The San Francisco-based Bank of the West has offices in two area codes and across many COs. But all calls on its centrex network are "toll free" thanks to metro centrex.

Louis Malouf, Totalcom Solutions, can't think of any advantages for a PBX over centrex: "To add one line to a PBX you may have to add a cabinet." Not with centrex. Centrex is cost effective at satellite offices, down to two lines. Such an installation might be made at a warehouse in the same wiring area as a firm's main office.

Malouf compared the costs incurred by a firm which hires court reporters. First-year costs gave the nod to PBX. Equipment installation and costs: $120,940 with centrex. Monthly fees: $6138. The PBX had costs of just $114,416 but ongoing monthly charges of $7720. By the end of the first year, centrex had covered its initial deficit. After three years, it was $33,000 ahead. At five, it cost $489,220 vs. $547,616 for a PBX.
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Article Details
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Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:Hands free to run a city.
Next Article:Utility merges centrex and PBX.

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