Nuclear scientists dump Telstra, call on VoIP

Nuclear scientists dump Telstra, call on VoIP

Telstra is set to be the first casualty of a move by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) to upgrade to IP telephony. With its migration to a VoIP-enabled network infrastructure all but complete Russell Tuckwell, ANSTO's chief information officer, confirmed the organization will go to tender next year.

The dumping of Telstra follows a phone bill review six months ago, which Tuckwell described as "not cheap".

He said ANSTO has about 300 mobiles and 90 PSTN connections so the tender is likely to also cover mobiles.

Although not positioned as a commercial carrier, the Australian Academic Research Network, or AARNet, gives ANSTO another option.

"We are in the process of joining AARNet and are waiting on [that]," Tuckwell said. "We expect this to happen before June 30 next year."

The move to AARNet will also let ANSTO bypass toll for regional and interstate calls.

ANSTO has recently installed an Alcatel network which can be upgraded to VoIP with a software upgrade and some additional hardware at "minimal cost".

Tuckwell said VoIP only delivers savings if the public Internet is used to make calls and "you still need the infrastructure at the other end".

"With VoIP we wouldn't get major benefits with calls to the PSTN," he said. "On our first look, there was not enough traffic volume to generate savings and give a reasonable ROI."

The project has been under way for 12 months and is nearing completion.

It includes new fibre cabling between the 72 buildings on ANSTO's Lucas Heights site in Sydney's southern suburbs.

Tuckwell said the cabling alone cost $500,000 and the Alcatel infrastructure cost $1.3 million without handsets.

The cabling process to replace "ancient infrastructure" is still ongoing and Nexon is ANSTO's integration partner.

"We are constrained a little because of security [and] we are running separate networks as there are different security requirements for voice and data," Tuckwell said. "The move to pure VoIP is therefore mostly due to compliance and security issues."

Tuckwell said VoIP call encryption ensures security but also "ups the overhead".

ANSTO is already using some of the specialist communication features the Alcatel infrastructure brings, like emergency paging via the PABX.

When it comes to computer telephony integration, Tuckwell said it is not needed because ANSTO is in a "small market" adding that "CTI is expensive, both the capital and maintenance".

Telstra spokesperson Warwick Ponder said ANSTO is a valued customer and Telstra will bid for the contract competitively. "In 2003 Telstra was first to offer VoIP and we are still at the cutting edge," Ponder said.

He declined to comment on AARNet's competitive position only to say it is "just another competitor".

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