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After months of planning, ITS’ Voice Services unit is starting to migrate the University to a new Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system.

The move to AT&T hosted-cloud service from Verizon Business will take two to three years. Carolina uses an existing legacy system that Verizon is eliminating.

Voice Services decided to use the opportunity to switch to the cloud-based AT&T system, which comes with new services and features that will benefit campus users. They include call center service, soft client, voicemail to email, cloud-based voicemail, more flexible caller ID, and a more advanced, better way of providing 911.

Voice Services began accepting requests for the new AT&T hosted-cloud service the week of October 5.

19,000+ phones on campus

The University has 19,000+ Mitel/Aastra devices on campus, used by faculty and staff. These devices will not change, but configurations will change.

Cheri Beasley
Cheri Beasley

“Your desk phone will look the same,” said Cheri Beasley, Voice Services Manager. “Just the system that works behind it will change.”

The most visible change will be to the users of the voicemail system, which is moving to the cloud. The telephone user interface and the prompts will be different — and simpler.

“Overall, I think the new phone system is going to be well received,” Beasley said.

Existing phone numbers must move over to the new phone system. Customers who do not need to keep their current phone number can migrate much sooner.

Long, complex effort

Still, Voice Services can’t move over everyone at once. If you’ve ever switched cell phone providers while taking your existing phone number with you, you know that process can be complex. Multiply that effort by thousands and you’ll get a glimpse of what this University project entails.

ITS kicked off the migration on August 17 by moving 7,500 nonworking numbers to the new phone system.

Voice Services plans to migrate phone numbers based on the buildings where those phones are located. It will port all the phone numbers located in each building, regardless of department.

Customers and departments will receive communications well in advance of when their phone numbers will be migrated, including how-to information and details about new features.

Many new features

The new features and services include:

  • Cloud-based voicemail. This will replace the current, on-premises voicemail system and will eliminate maintenance and support costs.
  • Additional options for voicemail message indicators
    • Visual indicator on the phone (default)
    • Email notification to check your voicemail box for a new message
    • Voicemail to email, in which the new voice message is delivered to the email inbox as a .wav file where it can be listened to using the computer audio
  • Soft-client desktop and mobile applications
  • Flexible caller ID. Outbound caller ID name and number can be altered to show the department name and phone number, or an alternate name or phone number.
  • Call center. Departments and schools can opt for the technology that routes calls to call center agents, provides on-hold messages, informs callers where they are in the queue, and provides a dashboard for real-time call and queue information. The University’s plan with Verizon Business did not offer call center service. Instead, campus groups have had to contract with other providers for that service.
  • Advanced 911

Preparations for switching the University to a new phone system have been a collaborative effort by Voice Services, ITS Networking, Identity Management, ITS Billing, Enterprise Applications, the Institutional Privacy Office and UNC Campus Safety.

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