Mooney Valley becomes Melbourne's first converged council

Mooney Valley Council is believed to be the first Melbourne metropolitan council to implement a converged voice and data network.

The council's information systems manager, Maureen Trezise, said ageing telecommunications equipment prompted the move to a converged infrastructure.

"We had to do something about our 15-year-old PABX, which had high maintenance costs and a limit of 50 voicemail boxes," said Trezise.

"Also, after the new customer service centre was brought online the old PABX could not deliver the level of service it required."

To upgrade to a converged network, Mooney Valley needed upgrades to its existing infrastructure and an additional switch.

"Our network is HP Procurve-based so by upgrading our four switches we were able to protect our investment," she said.

"We now have 450 NEC IP handsets, an NEC PABX, and five HP Procurve switches." Mooney Valley council's network administrator, Leon Rastopoulos, said the quality of voice was good after a few initial problems.

"Regular applications were taking up bandwidth through the network," Rastopoulos said.

"We now have two VLANs [Virtual LAN], one each for voice and data, and have applied quality of service to prioritise the voice traffic. Now we are happy with the service, which is clear."

Trezise said the project cost $700,000, for which the council did not have a budget.

"To finance the project we entered into a five-year lease with Macquarie Bank," she said.

"However, the savings we are experiencing offset the lease costs by about $300 a month as we have reduced phone costs between sites and eliminated maintenance costs of the old PABX and switchboard equipment."

With the VoIP infrastructure in place, Mooney Valley council can integrate voice and data applications.

"Our VoIP system is integrated with Microsoft Outlook so customer service officers can see if we are in meetings, for example," Trezise said. "Also, voicemails are sent to the person's e-mail inbox as a .wav attachment which can be listened to on the computer."

The council may consider installing IP softphones on its PCs.

"The IP handsets are patched to the switches and connect one data cable to the PC," said Rastopoulos.

"By supporting power over Ethernet, additional power cables for the phones are not required."

Trezise praised the easy migration to IP telephony for staff.

"Although we could have used our existing handsets they were aged anyway and needed replacing," she said.

"All staff went through about three-quarters of an hour of training on the new technology, which has increased morale. They often say 'I love the new system'. "Although smaller councils may not be able to afford the technology we have had numerous phone calls and will hold demonstration sessions on October 22 and 23." Worldwide director for HP Procurve Networking, Mark Thompson, said the company was excited about convergence.

"HP products are developed for ease of use and offer a lower TCO than our competitors," he said.

"We spend a lot of time certifying VoIP solutions and partner with leading suppliers to make sure all components function well."

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