On Campus: Converting Legacy Phone Systems to VoIP

By Digium Content Marketing Team


As legacy phone systems reach their end-of-life stage, colleges and universities around the country continue to make the switch to VoIP. This decision to switch varies from campus to campus, but an overwhelming number of institutions have similar reasons for doing so:

  • “One of the drivers for moving to a more modern, IP-based voice communication system is moving from multiple separate network infrastructures to just one…The older solutions we are operating are part of legacy telephony and while they have provided good service, they are reaching the end of their life in terms of hardware and software.” – University of Pennsylvania
  • “Not only will the conversion mean cost savings for the University, the VoIP technology includes the capability to move phones without having to coordinate with an outside vendor.” – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • “CSUSB and Palm Desert Campus will be undergoing a major upgrade to the campus Voice over IP (VoIP) system upgrade. The project will upgrade the aging telephone system that the campus has been using since 2007, standardize voice systems on the two campuses, and will include new features to unify communications throughout the academic year.” – California State University San Bernardino
  • “Both the cost of wiring and maintaining a traditional PABX has historically been cost prohibitive for schools. With heightened security risks, increasing demands from parents to communicate with teachers and the need to improve productivity, the model of limited voice capability in schools is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As most schools adopt local area network (LAN) networks, the opportunity arises for schools to address these demands with VoIP.” – Bialik College
  • “By moving voice services to the data network, Notre Dame eliminates a separate, managed voice infrastructure and dramatically reduces the cost of telephone moves, adds and changes.”- University of Notre Dame
  • The existing voice communication infrastructure, originally installed in 1996, is outdated and expensive to maintain. It also lacks the capabilities of the current generation voice technology systems that the University needs to handle our advanced communication requirements.” – University of Virginia
  • Our legacy system had the typical problem of parts only being available aftermarket. Also, we were running two systems simultaneously that did not allow for us to move forward without a longer-than-we-desired roll out. The whole system conversion was a financial decision, but we knew that [VoIP] offered more functionality.” – Casper College


The majority of higher education campuses have implemented strong networks that host a growing number of services for faculty and students, such as email integration, web conferencing, instant messaging, and more. The need to continually maintain and upgrade this infrastructure is taken into consideration when contemplating the implementation any new type of technology. Making the switch to VoIP is becoming necessary for universities due to the legacy phone systems not being manufactured anymore. As time passes, obtaining replacement parts for these obsolete systems becomes more difficult, if not impossible. While this is the driving force behind the need to get rid of an old system, the main motives for adopting VoIP are cost savings and advanced feature-sets.

Additional Perks of VoIP

A survey by ACUTA found that the most frequently cited benefits of the VoIP network included improved end-user features, according to 46% of the users; cost savings, cited by 31%; and overall network efficiency, cited by 23%. VoIP systems provide an opportunity for campuses to eliminate PBX systems, in part or altogether. This allows them to advance into full-featured phone services on existing network infrastructure, which streamlines maintenance and reduces operational costs. By migrating phone service to the data networks that colleges and universities already maintain, institutions can take fuller advantage of that infrastructure while ensuring the reliability of those networks, which benefits all of the IP services. Although traditional phone networks provide a level of reliability that IP networks have been hard-pressed to equal, the rich feature sets, along with its affordability, present an ever-more compelling argument for VoIP on campuses.

Campuses can benefit from free nationwide long-distance calls (a must-have for college students and faculty), as well as additional features such as mobility, email integration, call queues, conferencing, and more. VoIP also allows an institution to integrate phone service into its emergency notification plan, along with other network resources such as e-mail, text messaging, networked signs, and alarms. Also worth noting is that cell networks are often overloaded in emergency situations, and a VoIP phone system provides an institution with additional capacity (or bandwidth) to make and receive calls even if cell service is disrupted – a must-have for campus-wide emergency situations.

Future of VoIP

As data networks become increasingly reliable and high-speed networks approach ubiquity, the move toward VoIP will continue, with more and more institutions finding that the switch makes sense financially and technologically. VoIP will likely see greater integration with customer relationship management (CRM) software, and voice calling in apps will become mainstream. VoIP is part of the much larger trend of Unified Communications (UC), which promises expanded feature sets and increased effectiveness of business communications in the coming years.

Whether it’s an international student needing to call home or faculty members with a campus-wide emergency on their hands, instant communication among staff, students, and parents on campuses is vital. VoIP technology has quickly become the most flexible, affordable, and integrative option for guaranteeing effective communication for educational institutions across the country.


Students cell phone

Next Steps

For information on how to configure and install a VoIP system for your school, check out this blog post

 Join our VoIP experts for our webinar, “Have You Done Your Homework Yet?” to see how Digium’s award-winning UC system, Switchvox, is changing the way teachers, administrators, and IT staff communicate.


 Join Digium at the 44th Annual ACUTA Conference & Exhibition

April 19-22, 2015

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia

Booth #104




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