Bringing our PBX phone system into the future

March 18, 2021

Think back to the year 2000. After recalling the Y2K bug, do you remember the type of cellular phone that you used? The chances are good that you were using either a Nokia or an early version of a Blackberry. For some locations on the Yale University campus, telephones are from the same vintage.

For background, the University currently maintains three telephony platforms - including a Cloud VoIP system, On-Premises Cisco system, and our Legacy Nortel \ Avaya Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system. Collectively, these systems account for almost 18,000 users/lines.

The Legacy PBX entered service in the early 2000s when the manufacturer was still known as Nortel. At the time, our Nortel installation’s size and sophistication elevated Yale’s environment as one of the most advanced in the world. Yale’s data and telephony environment has changed drastically since then, but the Nortel PBX remains in service today.

Given the length of service of the Private Branch Exchange (PBX) – and the fact that it reached the end of the manufacturer’s support cycle – planning began to migrate Yale’s most critical user communities to other viable telecommunication platforms.

As part of this planning, we decided to start by testing at 300 George Street. We chose the location partially due to an ongoing renovation taking place on the floor containing our PBX equipment. This effort made it possible to test the migration of the phones at this location to the on-premises Cisco system while simultaneously improving the quality of telephone service to Yale’s Medical Campus.

While considering the overall migration plan, other factors helped to support the decision to expand the migration to other buildings. As most individuals using our telephone systems worked remotely, testing during renovations would minimize interruptions to individuals in the building. We also decided to retain voicemail on its existing platform, preventing lost voicemail messages and requiring no changes to existing greetings or passwords. Pending a successful test at 300 George Street, we felt it was essential to act quickly, intentionally making the best of a situation where many people would continue to work remotely from other locations through the summer of 2021.

Our implementation plans prioritized locations most vulnerable to equipment failures – those that included a type of fiber remote equipment called a mini carrier. Of these first six areas, we chose 100 Church Street South. After we successfully migrated equipment at this location on March 15, we will continue working on additional buildings, including Amistad, The Anlyan Center, and 40 Temple Street.

Advancing our campus telephony carries many benefits to our customers – including more reliable phone service and the ability to answer calls remotely from laptops and mobile devices.