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School districts utilize VoIP to reduce costs

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School districts utilize VoIP to reduce costs

Administrators use 4G LTE to save money, time & man-hours

Recent changes to E-rate funding policies mean that by 2019, schools will be completely responsible for the costs of implementing and maintaining their voice services. As a result, many schools are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems to create efficiencies and reap cost savings.

Some sources suggest that most districts will see 40 percent to 80 percent cost savings on their phone systems by implementing VoIP. The following are a few of the costs associated with phone services that can be partially or entirely cut by making the shift to VoIP systems:

  • Routing and service fees
  • Call routing hardware
  • Support and maintenance fees
  • Usage and long-distance fees

In addition to hard cost savings, other advantages of VoIP phones include:

  • Savings of time and man-hours for managing the system and making routine changes.
  • Quick setup compared with wired phone lines, which can be particularly advantageous for a rapidly expanding school district or one that relies on portable classrooms.
  • The ability for users to keep the same number, no matter where they might move within the district.
  • The ability to gain advanced features at a lower price.
  • The ability to keep phones operational during a weather emergency or other natural disaster (as long as the Internet connection also stays up).

While VoIP phones can yield significant cost savings, they require reliable, high-speed connectivity. According to EducationSuperHighway’s 2015 State of the States, 77 percent of schools have Internet speeds of 100 mbps, while the State Educational Technology Directors Association recommends about 1 gigabit per 1,000 users. Many school districts will need to provision extra bandwidth to support the large VoIP packets — even districts that have recently deployed high-capacity networks to meet the growing bandwidth needs surrounding online testing and mobile device usage.

Without proper bandwidth and reliability, phone systems are likely to experience the following problems:

  • Delay: Like other Internet applications, VoIP packets are subject to delay, and high latency can create call quality issues.
  • Jitter: Created when the voice packet latency is inconsistent, which makes voices sound distorted.
  • Packet loss: Occurs when there is excessive delay or network congestion.
  • Dropped calls: Even an extremely brief network outage will cause calls to be disconnected.

Many schools choose to deploy wireless overlay networks to meet the demand for greater bandwidth, faster speeds, and more reliable connectivity. After all, always-on, high-speed connectivity is becoming increasingly critical for all facets of school functions, not just phone service.

Wireless overlay networks, which utilize 4G LTE Internet rather than traditional DSL or “plain old telephone service” (POTS) lines, can help network administrators load balance and offer higher-speed bandwidth during peak-usage periods (This improves service on all Internet-dependent applications, not just VoIP phones.). These wireless networks also can serve as a failover solution. Because wireless networks are not subject to the same outage causes as wired networks, districts gain greater assurance that their VoIP phones and other mission-critical applications will work during weather emergencies.

When seeking a wireless network solution to provide additional capacity and reliability, make sure you consider whether the solution offers the following features:

  • 99.99% reliability with seamless failover.
  • Dynamic packet prioritization to ensure optimal call quality.
  • Out-of-Band Management (if you currently use telephone lines as failover/OOBM).
  • The ability to pool data among multiple locations to efficiently manage data usage in accordance with your data plan.

On-Demand Webinar: ‘Maximizing E-rate With Wireless Networking’

Watch Cradlepoint’s on-demand webinar about E-rate program funding changes and how school districts are using wireless to do more and wire less within their networks.

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