Proposed changes to campus telephony service and pricing

Revision State: Published
Most recent version: Yes

UPDATE: The date for the elimination of telephone rental charges was revised on March 9, 2021 from May 1, 2021 to May 1, 2022. 

About the proposal

IST is proposing a move to a primarily softphone client model for campus telephony, and eliminating telephone rental charges effective May 1, 2022. Such a change will require campus consultation and a review of financial implications.

High-level changes

  • This proposal would eliminate most campus desk phones
  • Users would be provided a softphone client, without a rental charge, and would use their desktop computer or laptop, with a USB headset or handset, to make and receive telephone calls
  • Special cases requiring a conventional phone would be accommodated, as needed

Considerations for timeline of proposed changes

Logical timing for budget changes may be for the 2021/2022 fiscal year. IST is proposing a phased approach, such that many of the benefits of this proposal can be achieved before May 1, 2022.

Background and motivation

There are approximately 8,000 campus telephones (or lines) with a typical monthly rent of approximately $19 creating approximately $1.8M in gross annual rental income.

The monthly rental of desk telephones is historical; the dollar amount has no relation to the capital or operating costs. The income significantly exceeds the cost to operate the telephone service, and the excess revenue is used to fund institutional IT operating expenses and IST operating expenses.  Given the loss of telephone rental income, additional operating budget would be requested to fund institutional IT operating expenses that have relied on the rental income. IST would provide an accounting of these expenses in support of such a request.

The operation of this service as a revenue generator is not consistent with the approaches for other centrally provided services (e.g. email). Most other telephone related costs are passed on to clients with no mark up (e.g. long distance charges and cell phones).

The high equipment rental rates encourage sharing of telephones and voice mail boxes. The current funding model creates unnecessary internal budget transfers. The use of normal operating budget to fund operations, versus use of a revenue stream not widely understood, is more transparent.

Improved service

A move to softphones can be justified based on improved service (for most use cases) and reduced cost. Approximately 7,000 existing telephone desk sets will require eventual replacement with new models, at significant cost. Reducing the number of physical phones needed reduces that eventual renewal cost.

Cost reductions

There are user experience benefits to softphones, including the additional features that integrate with computer workstations, such as online messaging, user presence indication, video, conference calling, file and screen sharing, and voicemail transcription. Softphones can also be used on laptop computers and smartphones, and can be an important part of supporting Work From Home (WFH).


Digital, IP, and Skype for Business

Most telephones installed prior to approximately 2010 require dedicated cabling to the main campus PBX (or to a satellite PBX in some satellite campus locations). We refer to these hardwired phones as ‘digital phones’. Most telephones installed after 2010 do not rely on dedicated cabling, but rather use the network. These phones are called ‘IP phones’. More information about digital and IP phones is available at Telephone sets/Voicemail quick reference guides.

The IP phones IST installed from 2010 up until about 2016 were Nortel (later Avaya) model 1140E. These, like the digital phones, provide a telephone extension in the 3xxxx range. These IP phones connect to the main campus PBX over the network.

After 2016, IST has deployed Skype for Business (S4B) telephones in new buildings and during major renovations. The desksets are the Polycom VVX IP phone model. These provide a telephone extension in the 4xxxx range and connect to a S4B server environment, which is also connected to the main campus PBX.

S4B includes a softphone client, which can be used instead of, or in addition to, the Polycom deskset.

Type and number of phones installed across campus, 2021

Type Number on campus
1140 IP Phone 2,200
S4B (softphone and/or deskset) 2,400
Digital phone 2,500

Type and number of phones installed across campus, 2007-2021

Phones on campus

Migration to primarily softphone model

The below describes a proposed desired end state, to be in place before May 1, 2022.

Changes to telephones

  • Users would be migrated from their existing digital or IP phone to the S4B softphone client, with no deskset provided in most cases

  • Desksets would be provided in special cases as follows:
    • Justified by reasons of accessibility; costs covered institutionally
    • Special telephony requirements that cannot be met otherwise (e.g. call centres)
      • Existing services will be left in place, or migrated to new technology as an institutional expense, at a time of IST’s choosing and in consultation with client


  • Existing Polycom desksets would be removed, in most cases
  • New installations with special requirements may have one time equipment charges
  • Unfortunately, there is no S4B linux client available from Microsoft, however, IST will provide an appropriate deskset until an alternative solution can be provided
    • Note, the S4B smartphone client can also be used
  • Desksets will generally not be provided in any other cases and an exception approval process will be needed

Changes to extensions

  • Users would be given a new extension in the 4xxxx range, instead of the 3xxxx range and their old 3xxxx extension would be forwarded to their new 4xxxx extension for up to three months
    • Note, each forwarded call uses one of a limited number of telephone lines for the duration of the forwarded call
    • Reliance on forwarding needs to be reduced to the extent possible

Purchasing headsets and other equipment

  • Departments would be responsible for purchasing headsets, cameras, or other peripherals as needed
  • Recommended headsets are available for purchase from Print + Retail Solutions
  • At a later time, IST will be exploring replacing the S4B client with Teams
    • S4B is supported by Microsoft until 2025

Impact on emergency phones

  • Emergency phones in elevators would continue to be supported as now, and costs covered as an institutional expense
  • Emergency digital phones are provided in key areas and are restricted to making on-campus calls, emergency calls, and cannot receive calls 


Costs are covered as an institutional expense and such phones could be installed:

  • On walls near exits and elevators, on all floors in all buildings
  • In labs, shops, and other areas with unusual hazards (e.g. equipment, chemicals)
  • Large spaces would have an appropriate number of digital phones installed

Phased approach

IST is proposing a phased approach as follows:

The ‘Migration to a primarily softphone model’ as described above to be discussed and refined in consultation with stakeholders, for full implementation effective May 1, 2022

Elimination of telephone rental charges effective May 1, 2022, after the financial elements above are discussed and refined in consultation with stakeholders

A S4B softphone only service be offered immediately, for $8*/month ($0 after May 1, 2022.

$8/month plus $15.50/month for zero to three months of forwarding from the existing 3xxxx extension to the new 4xxxx extension. If no forwarding is requested, there is no forwarding charge.


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

Additional resources

Additional financial information is available for review using the link below: