Telecommunications | News

Houston School System Moving to Wireless IP Phone System

A Houston, TX school system is upgrading its communication infrastructure with the latest release of Microsoft's communication application and new 802.11n wireless gear from Aruba Networks. YES Prep Public Schools, a public charter school system that serves 4,200 students in eight schools, moved from Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007 release 2 to Lync Server 2010 in April. Now it's deploying at each school Aruba access points and model 3600 controllers, each loaded with two M3 controller modules.

Lync Server, Microsoft's unified communications replacement for Office Communications Server, provides multiple communication and collaboration modes, including presence indicators, instant messaging, shared calendars, voice over IP, video conferencing, and file transfer.

"No one here has a desk phone, period," said Troy Neal, director of IT engineering and support at YES Prep. "We give all our staff $7 cheap headsets, and then if someone wants a handset, we purchase Polycom products." He said those include Polycom's CX300 desktop phone, as well as CX500, CX600, and CX700 IP phones; and CX5000 components for capturing 360-degree video in group meetings.

He added, "With the discounts that Microsoft gives K-12 on Microsoft Lync 2010, the quality with which it performs over the Aruba access network, and the cost savings associated with deploying Lync instead of traditional PBXs, every K-12 school in the country should be doing this. We went from it taking six to nine months and $40,000 to $60,000 dollars to get a school up and running with a voice PBX to two or three weeks at between $300 and $3,000 dollars per site. As for the video and voice quality over the Aruba wireless network, let's just say no one can tell it's wireless, and that pretty much says it all."

The school system has plans to grow to 13 schools with 10,000 students by the end of 2012.

The announcement of the installation comes at a time when Aruba Networks has begun promoting its wireless infrastructure gear as a high-performance platform upon which to run Microsoft's communications technology. The company recently released a 22-page whitepaper that lays out guidance for deploying Lync Server 2010 on an Aruba wireless network. It has also been named a Microsoft Network Infrastructure Optimization Partner, along with Cisco and several other vendors, to deliver services and support to organizations that want to deploy the combination of technologies.

"The performance testing and associated solution guide for the Aruba wireless infrastructure with Lync Server 2010 will help make it faster and easier for integrators to deploy a combined system," said Kapil Sharma, principal group program manager of Lync Partner Engineering at Microsoft.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.