Treasury flags VoIP upgrade


The Federal Department of the Treasury has gone to market for a supplier to replace its existing PABX with a Voice over Internet telephony (VOIP) system.

When reached, the agreement will be effective for three years and will see the chosen company delivering core services such as the design, supply and installation of the system, coupled with adequate training of the Treasury staff and maintenance.

In an a statement included in a Request for Tender document, the Treasury said an Internet Protocol-based (IP) technology would allow the department to finalise its unified communications strategy, which includes voice, instant messaging, presence and conferencing capabilities. “Treasury is seeking a solution that empowers its staff to self-service features, thereby reducing the ongoing ICT support costs,” the department wrote.

Prior to substituting its PABX system with a new platform, the Treasury will also upgrade its email system, from Microsoft Exchange 2007 to 2010. At a later stage, the actual deployment of the VOIP solution will involve changes at all levels. New telephony solutions will require 1,300 user handsets, 20 door handsets, 300 expansion modules and 20 conference handsets. Also the Treasury will standardise its headsets on one model of wired and one of wireless.

Its current Norten Meridian PABX switchboard supports features as call hold, transfer, call forward, pick up groups, hunt groups, shared lines etc. With the rollout of the VOIP technology, the Treasury expects to deploy a software-based console to support high inbound calls volumes.

“The proposed software console is to meet the operator’s requirements for accepting and dispatching calls, directory searching, call queuing, night-switching, and reporting,” it is written in the RFT document. “In addition, identification of “presence” status for end users from the software console is to be provided”.

Customized solutions to meet the needs of selected departments – such as the IT Helpdesk, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Australian Office of Financial Management – will also be put in practice in order to deliver services which are time and cost-effective.

During the deployment period, technical support will be provided by the Treasury IT team as well as by the successful tenderer.

“The Treasury is intending to support the new telephony system with a combination of in-house, outsourced and vendor support,” the document stated. “Treasury has a preference for a full-time equivalent (FTE) support model that reduces headcount as Treasury staff become accustomed to the new functionality”.

Image credit: Radu Andrei Dan, royalty free


  1. Renai, haven’t we just about reached a point where this is just a straight telephone system upgrade? Is there a provider that doesn’t use IP technology for telephony now?

    • Hey Renai – I dunno if I agree what you are saying. We’re saying IP telephony is somewhat unexciting – ie everyone has been doing VOIP for a decade and been doing POE IP handsets probably for a decade too. You can buy them at Harvey Norman!

      As you may recall I did ask you some pointed questions about whether that CIO actually had thought this thru or not (ie he had some convoluted statements saying “noone uses their phone” – yet he is still going to provide them with a software phone??). I think his organisation has significant problems if they aren’t communicating verbally with each other and their business partners.

      Let me say it’s not much fun trying to run software phones in true business anger – where a dropout or voice distortion incites rage in the customer (and staff member).

      I can see why a software phone as an adjunct to a hard phone is nice – more traditional unified comms solution. The hard phone is good as it’s an appliance – very difficult to mess around with it.

  2. the place I now work for do not see the point in upgrading there phone system to IP based. So since we all came from somewhere else and brought our own gear we are the only floor with IP phones

      • Generally IP tel works when:

        1. you have a green field site and don’t have to include voice grade outlets to every desk. Building project managers get really excited about saving that one outlet (makes up for that other stuffup they did elsewhere – until you tell them you want CAT6 outlets in the ceiling for wireless APs). One set of outlets saved per person, one patch lead saved per person. Don’t really see a saving until you get a lot of people.
        2. you have a lot of movement within your organisation – ie Executive types reshuffle everyone, project groups reform into agile scrums etc. Letting end users move their phone and desktop saves everyone time – ie move when it’s convenient to the end user. Not when the troll in the pabx room deems it is time to rejumper you…

        When it doesn’t work is when:

        1. you have lots of legacy analogue devices – eg massive lab or factory floors with handsets every 10 metres. Recabling them all to CAT6 for IP Phones is just a waste. Got lots of faxes, franking machines, data loggers? well you’re stuck with analogue devices and you’ll have to maintain them in the old fashion way.
        2. you work for jetstar and apparently don’t use a phone…

  3. I work directly in the VoIP/telephony/unified communications market, and I find this an interesting discussion.

    It is quite correct that IP-based telephony is far more likely to be deployed in a greenfield environment, than it is in a brown field location. The “rip and replace” concepts that many VoIP solutions deliver scares the hell out of many CIOs, and many are delaying the move.

    Many still trust ISDN, and in pure voice quality and stability terms, ISDN is still king. The problem is that ISDN is old technology, and as a result is expensive to maintain. All carriers would love to turn off their ISDN gear tomorrow if they could.

    Traditional PABX systems are seen by most companies as a 7-year commitment – (taking upfront cost, and depreciation into consideration) – and many will be at least loosely locked into that traditional 7-year closed loop. This is holding up many who would otherwise jump at a more cost effective VoIP solution.

    I’m noticing a few more companies making toe-in-the-water moves – (moving a single site to VoIP/UC solutions) – and seeing how they play out, but running it off existing ISDN trunks, so they can easily switch back if it doesn’t play out as well as they hope.

    The biggest factor in the VoIP field at the moment is that there are a lot of “bad” VoIP offerings out there, and there are plenty of horror stories of failed installs, consumer tribunal hearings, and broken contracts. There is still not a “general trust” of VoIP.

    The biggest reason for this is bandwidth and latency. Without decent, low-latency bandwidth, all you are doing is patching up customers who are having voice quality issues.

    Do it over fibre, and these issues disappear. The problem here is that with only few exceptions, decent fibre is available in the major CBDs, their immediate surrounds, and not many other places.

    Everyone else struggles with 2Mbps/2Mbps, 1Mbps/1Mbps or 512Kbps/512Kbps SHDSL – (if they can get it), or home-user grade ADSL/ADSL2+. In a very small number of areas, you can get 10Mbps/10Mbps symmetrical DSL using, but this footprint is smaller even than fibre.

    A lot of VoIP players are working on the products themselves at the moment, rather than organic growth of subscriber base while they wait for the NBN saga to become clearer.

    Only then will the network layer be really appropriate for almost universal VoIP implementation.

    So I do still think that any major organisation who wants to make the jump beforehand is an interesting situation. That said, in this instance given it is the federal government pushing the NBN, it makes sense that a federal department should be pushing this barrow.

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