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In its multi-year project to migrate the University’s phone service to AT&T from Verizon, ITS completed its sixth and largest port on September 9. In this batch, the ITS project team migrated 5,828 phones across 55 buildings and 14 divisions. 

The move included phones in the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, UNC System Office and the Chancellor’s Residence, among others. 

Majority of campus phones now migrated 

This port was milestone for the migration project. ITS has now successfully migrated nearly 14,000 phones, meaning there are now 3,000 or fewer working numbers remaining to port. In just the past 18 months, the project team has either ported or added roughly 15,000 phone lines.

Wearing Service Desk T-shirts, Cheri Beasley and Brenda Carpen pose together outside on campus.
Cheri Beasley and Brenda Carpen during a break as Fall Rush volunteers on August 17, when they aided the ITS Service Desk with troubleshooting students’ tech issues

The project is on schedule and the team expects to complete all ports by early 2024. ITS kicked off the migration in August 2020 by moving 7,500 nonworking numbers to the new phone system. In early May 2021, ITS started moving phone lines, by building. Earlier this year, ITS successfully moved more than 4,000 phone lines.

Quick and smooth 

Porting is a complicated process and is highly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The process to move a group of phone lines, when everything goes according to plan, takes 55 days. This includes more than just prep time. It includes time required by service providers as governed by the FCC. 

This was “the largest port we have done to date,” said Brenda Carpen, Director of ITS Project Portfolio & Change Management.  

ITS Project Portfolio & Change Management is providing project management support to ITS Voice Services, Transport Operations and Networking, the key units collaborating on the migration.  

After porting thousands of phone lines, the project team has streamlined the process. According to Carpen, this was “the smoothest port ever.”

For this port, the service provider had five separate ports, or port orders, scheduled to accommodate the large number of phone lines. “There was great potential for each individual port to run into bumps,” said Cheri Beasley, Manager of ITS Voice Services. None did. “It was quite amazing, actually.”

And it was over quickly, too. According to Carpen, “we started at 8 a.m. and ended our call with AT&T at 9:30 a.m.,” meaning that customers didn’t have much downtime in the transition. 

Up early

ITS Transport Operations staffer installs a new phone in an office
In May, Danny Maddox of ITS Transport Operations installs a new phone in an office at the Bioinformatics building

While phone porting may seem like a largely digital and administrative process, thousands of phones across campus must be upgraded to work on the AT&T network. ITS Transport Operations starts the process weeks in advance of the actual migration of phone service from one carrier to the other. The team must go into each building, locate the phones and switch out the existing phones with the latest models. 

The Transport Operations team, led by Chad Ray, was up early for this port.

“One of the first stops was to the UNC System President’s house to make sure the phones were working there,” Carpen said.

While porting was successful, the work for Voice Services and Transport Operations doesn’t end on port day. “There remains a lot of work for my team, and the Transport Operations team, to respond to tickets and clean up,” Beasley said. “This week has been busy, but manageable, and we continue to respond as quickly as possible.”

New provider, new opportunities 

The University’s phone contract with Verizon ends in 2023, and Verizon is discontinuing the legacy service. This end-of-service presented ITS Voice Services with an opportunity to evaluate other providers. The new service from AT&T saves the University money and provides additional features that support mobile and remote work settings. The project aligns with the Carolina Next strategic initiative to streamline operations. 

The new service from AT&T is cloud-based, which comes with new services and features that benefit campus users. New features include call center service, soft client, voicemail to email, cloud-based voicemail, more flexible caller ID and advanced 911 calling. 

For more details on the project, visit the New and enhanced phone services page. 

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