The Western Australia Department of Education is overhauling its public school’s telephony systems to eliminate older systems, some of which have been operating for 20 years.
The Department is upgrading a total of 770 public schools, including both primary and secondary schools in both metropolitan and regional areas across the state. WA has over 300 rural schools, some of which are located in remote area up to 2000 kilometres from a district education office.
The Department of Education telecommunications voice administrator, Gerry Ligtermoet, said the state’s previous ongoing phone system upgrade program was tedious and provided only 30 phones per year as the Department had to go to tender for each individual upgrade.
“It was also the age of the systems, the fleet that we had in installed, he said. “We had over 700 schools and a lot were at least 15 years old or older. They were starting to show signs of breaking down.”
In 2007, the department decided it was time to improve the system and was keen to implement the same system in every school. It issued a tender for a five-year contract to supply and install telephone systems of three different sizes.
Command-a-Com beat four or five other vendors with a Panasonic phone system, including the TDA30 (small), TDA100 (medium) and TDA200 (large). The choice of the three models meant schools could receive a system configured to its needs, including multiple mailboxes, auto attendant features for recording attendance and mobile DECT handsets for remote schools with limited cabling.
“Panasonic won the contract for the tender that went out, on the base of providing a system that was cost effective, was IP compatible and was able to slot in and meet existing infrastructure, such as the Telstra lines we have with both ISDN and PSTN services,” Ligtermoet said.
“The phones all have similar functionalities and we were able to utilise our existing infrastructure with phone lines in terms of analog and digital. We can also use them over an IP network down the track and it was the most effective solution to fit the criteria.”
To date 300 schools have received the upgraded phone systems and the IT team have an installation rate of between 60 and 90 systems per year, replacing systems from a variety of vendors, including Commander, Nortel and NEC.
Ligtermoet said the implementation thus far has been “very well done”, which he put down to the same people from Command-a-Com working with him since the beginning of the project.
“We visit a school, talk to them and work out what they want and come up with a quote,” he said. “Each school is different depending on the requirements, the size of the system and what’s involved.
A primary school typically has four incoming lines with between eight and 20 extensions, while a high school will have a direct in-dial service provided by an ISDN 10/20/30 service, direct in-dial and voicemail, he said.
The Panasonic products have changed slightly throughout the life of the project, with the TDA100 replaced by the NCP1000, a rack mountable phone system. The TDA200 is now the TDE200.
According to Ligtermoet, the upgrade has resulted in numerous benefits to the schools.
“The new equipment has helped reduce a lot of maintenance costs and we now have the same system in many schools so when staff move between schools they all know how to use it,” he said.
“The three models have the same functionality so even if a staff member moves from a school with a small model to a school with a big model they can still use the same functions, the same keystrokes and the same buttons on the phone, which makes it improves productivity as staff on both the admin and education levels move around a bit.”
The upgrade for the entire 770 schools is unlikely to be complete when the tender contract finishes in July 2012.
“I don’t think we’ll cover all 700 in the five-year timeframe,” Ligtermoet said, adding the department will likely replace it with another tender.
“I’m quite happy with the way it’s worked out,” he said. “It’s certainly an improvement.”