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What is Unified Communications (UC) vs VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is technology that replaces traditional phone systems with routing voice calls over the network and Internet. Unified Communications extends this concept and provides a variety of other services and features beyond making and receiving phone calls. These include unified messaging (voicemail integration with email), instant messaging, video conferencing, fax services and call center. Our traditional PBX phone system is near end of support life and we are looking to modernize and improve the communications for Lehigh University. This project will reduce our costs, dramatically improve services for communications and provide a holistic communications strategy. LTS selected Cisco Unified Communications as the core infrastructure for our communications strategy. Cisco is a leader in unified communications and a perfect fit with our core Cisco network infrastructure.

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What is Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)?

With Unified Communications, you may encounter the term Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signaling protocol used to create, manage and terminate sessions in an IP based network. While most usage is with VoIP, it is also used with instant messaging and video conferencing. For example, when setting up a video conference, someone may ask you what the SIP address is for the meeting. This usually is This address and protocol is an open standard that allows for different conferencing systems to communicate.

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What’s the same? What’s different?

Basic phone functions (our dial plan and features such as hold, transfer and conference) will remain, though you will access features differently.

What will not change?

  • Your phone number will remain the same.
  • All faculty and staff will receive a desk phone, though eventually there will be various ways to make phone calls with UC.
  • You will continue to dial 8XXXX for on campus calls and 9+ 10 digits to call off campus.
  • E911 services will not change and has been reviewed with University Police.

What will change?

  • The type of phone you receive will be based on your current phone model, and will meet or exceed your current features. Any upgrades will be at the expense of the department.
  • Your new phone will be connected to a network jack, not a phone line. You won't need to request an extra network jack, though - your phone is designed to share a network connection with your computer. No major performance impact is expected with this configuration.
  • You will not be able to plug a phone into a mini-switch, or run a mini-switch off your phone.
  • During a power interruption, your phone may not work unless the building network is on a generator. In an event of a building power loss, ensure that you have your cell phone accessible in case of an emergency.
  • If your network connection is supported by an older cable plant or network switch, you may need to plug your new phone into a power strip or outlet.
  • Traditional fax machines are difficult to support in a VoIP environment. A new fax university-wide central fax service is planned and will be the subject of a future announcement.
  • Long distance billing codes will no longer be supported.
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What is the expected migration schedule?

The project had an internal kickoff in January to focus on architecting and deploying the core infrastructure. LTS will migrate first and we expect to begin migrating other campus users in September 2017. Due to the complexity and concerns of overwhelming users, LTS has taken an iterative approach to the project by focusing on replacing basic phone functionality in the initial rollout and then gradually introducing new features and services. Faculty and staff desk phones will be moved first, followed later by utility phones (i.e. courtesy phones, conference rooms, emergency phones etc.) All features, services, functionality and decommission of the legacy PBX system is expected to be completed by April 2019. LTS will provide project status reports as well as migration schedules on the main Unified Communications webpage.

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What do I have to do to be migrated?

Migrations will occur on a building by building basis, depending in part on the condition of the building's network and cable infrastructure. LTS will contact you over the coming months to review your current phone models, review your voice mail and other feature needs (such as line appearances, forwarding and call pickup groups), and determine where phones may require external power.

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Will there be a cost to departments?

LTS will cover the cost for the core infrastructure, licensing and the initial phones. The project team has selected replacement phones that meet or exceed the capabilities of your current model. If you require a higher end phone, you will be responsible for paying for that upgraded phone. After the project is complete, departments will be expected to fund new phone installations, as they do today. Long distance and voice mail will continue to be charged at rates similar to today's.

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What about fax services?

The initial rollout is focused on replacing user desk phones, so we will not be addressing fax machines until mid 2018. LTS is planning a central fax service that is integrated with Cisco Unified Communications - this will be the subject of a future announcement. If for some reason you cannot migrate to the new fax service and absolutely require a physical fax machine, a converter may be available at a cost of $200 per device.

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Will I lose phone service when I’m migrated?

Phone services will be interrupted for a brief period (less than 15 minutes) as your line is moved from the old system to the new.

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Where can I get help after migration?

As with any service provided by LTS, you can always reach out to the Help Desk at Chat, email, call 610-758-HELP (4357), text 610-616-5910, or come to EWFM Library's main lobby.

During the migration, LTS will be holding regular training sessions. Anyone is welcome to attend multiple sessions.

The LTS Unified Communications webpage will continually be updated and is an excellent source of information.

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Can I place an order for a specific phone? How will buildings/depts be prioritized?

Unless you are not satisfied with the phone model you receive, there will be no need to place any orders.

Migrations will occur on a building by building basis, and the project team will determine the order of building migrations based on various factors such as infrastructure condition and department readiness. If a particular department has an urgent need for this technology, please reach out to Lizanne Hurst. We cannot accept individual requests for migration due to the complexity of managing a campuswide deployment.

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I would like to upgrade my phone model. How do I order one?

The project team will reach out to departments several weeks in advance of the migration date to review current phone models, voice mail and other feature needs. Users may request upgrades during this review or anytime up to the actual installation of the new phone. If you require an upgraded phone, you will be responsible for the cost of the upgrade.

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What is a softphone?

A softphone is a software program for making telephone calls over the Internet using a general purpose computer, tablet or mobile phone, rather than using dedicated hardware such as a desktop.

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What is telepresence?

Telepresence is a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present or to give the appearance of being present at a place other than their true location. Video Conferencing allows meetings to be held from multiple remote locations but have the appearance of being in the same room.

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For additional help, please contact the LTS Help Desk at 610-758-4357 or