First end-to-end voice over IP in APAC

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) and Cisco Systems yesterday launched the Asia-Pacific region's first end-to-end voice over IP telephony system.

The Catholic Church may have its roots in ancient Rome, but its educators in Australia aim to make themselves at home in 21st century cyberspace. The new system will allow ACU to ensure cost-effective delivery of voice, data and multimedia information to more than 10,000 students at six campuses stretching from Ballarat to Brisbane.

Completion of the $600,000 voice over IP (VoIP) network marks delivery of the third stage of ACU's ambitious telecommunications upgrade, which cost a total of $2.4 million. Phase one upgraded the microwave links, while the second phase updated the LAN/WAN networks. ACU staff built the system working directly with Cisco, which last year started a direct program of partnering in e-education.

ACU implemented the system with Cisco designs and hardware, based on Cisco's New World Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID). This is an open, standards-based, distributed architecture which should enable ACU to converge, expand and improve its communications infrastructure at a lower overall cost.

Inter-campus telephone conversations will take place at local call rates regardless of the distances separating callers. As bandwidth becomes less of a bottleneck, methods of delivering content to students and researchers will broaden to include streaming video, teleconferencing and other demanding applications.

According to Gordon Howell, ACU's acting director of Information and Communications Services, ACU hopes the new system will save more than half of the $1.8 million it spends annually on telecommunications products and services.

The pilot phase of the IP telephony network saw the installation of 1000 IP-equipped telephones, each with its LCD screen performing the functions of a mini-web browser. Plans call for eventual replacement of every conventional telephone in the university with the new handsets.

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