Project update - Migration of campus telephones to Skype for Business (S4B) softphone client

Friday, March 12, 2021

As announced in the July 15 Daily Bulletin, we have been reviewing how telephone services are provided to campus and planning a move to a primarily softphone model. Part of this proposal includes the eventual elimination of telephone rental charges. It won’t be realistic to eliminate telephone rental charges for May 1, 2021, the date we had originally proposed, and had started discussions with stakeholders around. Even with the progress that has been made, there are still some matters to resolve, and more time is needed.

The current charges will remain as is ($8/month for S4B and $18.95/month for most other phones) and IST will continue to work with stakeholders over the coming year with a goal to eliminate the rental charges by May 1, 2022 instead.

Migration progress to date

S4B has been promoted during the pandemic as a flexible softphone option to permit use of a University extension from home. IST has converted almost 2,000 phones to Skype for Business in the past year. To learn more about the migration process, or submit a request to migrate, please see the project web page. The S4B solution has been offered since 2016, and it is integrated with the University’s telephone private branch exchange (PBX), but we’ll need to pick replacements for our entire telephone system eventually; our Nortel campus PBX hardware reaches end of life no later than 2024 (and subject to parts availability), and S4B reaches end of life in 2025.

A solution that fully supports end user needs

One logical successor to S4B is Teams. Teams can be used as a full telephone system with additional licensing. Additional equipment is also needed to integrate with the PBX, and support special cases, like hardwired phones. Teams also includes a Linux client. Users would appreciate using a single tool for internal calls and external calls, and Teams would be very attractive in that regard.  

However, Teams is not the only possibility. Both Avaya’s and Cisco’s telephone solutions, for example, offer client-side integration with Teams, such that users could use Teams to make internal and external calls. Both Avaya and Cisco offer complete suites of enterprise telephony equipment and solutions.

Next steps

Given the costs, and options available from multiple vendors, a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) will be needed to select the University’s next generation telephone system. Given the time needed to completely replace the University’s telephone system before 2024/2025, and motivation to deliver a more integrated softphone solution for users sooner (vs the current mixed Teams/S4B), we plan to issue an RFP this fall, for implementation starting in 2022.


Please send comments or questions to your Faculty UCIST representative, or IST’s Director Client Services Andrew McAlorum

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