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UMass Lowell has begun adopting a new way of moving your voice from phone to phone that utilizes newer technology and saves the campus money.

Let’s say you need to talk with a University vendor off-campus. You pick up the phone and punch in some numbers. If it’s a conventional land line, your voice travels over hundreds of feet of copper telephone cable, through several connection points, to the campus PBX switch room and then off campus to its destination.

This process is called TDM, which stands for time-division multiplexing. TDM works. It’s reliable. Most of the campus’s 5,000 (yes, 5,000) phones use TDM.

But there is an alternative method that realizes cost savings.

It’s called VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Instead of connecting your phone to the world through miles of telephone cable, your phone plugs into your computer jack. Then a connection need only travel through fewer than 300 feet of copper wire connecting your computer to the nearest network switch. And — voila! — your voice gets picked up by fiber optics and sent on the rest of its journey to the campus switch room.

The infrastructure and equipment costs of VoIP are a fraction of those required for TDM, says UMass Lowell Voice Services Technician Bill Anyon: “It’s just another network vehicle, but you don’t need a separate dedicated phone line or all those miles of copper.”

For the user, there is no “culture shock” says Anyon, as the new phones mimic traditional service.

The campus began adopting VoIP in 2009 with the acquisition of the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. Since then, the campus has added nearly 700 VoIP handsets in new buildings and full renovations including the HR, Finance and Purchasing in Wannalancit and the UCAPS, University Police and other offices at University Crossing.

“With all the new building on campus, we have had a great opportunity to introduce this infrastructure from the ground up,” says Anyon. Adding that there are currently no plans to convert offices unless it is part of a major renovation.

Six Fun Phone Facts
  1. There are about 5,000 phones on campus.
  2. On a typical school/work day, 9,000 calls — both inbound and outbound — go through UMass Lowell’s central phone system.
  3. The busiest phone month on campus? November, when volume can reach 14,000 calls per day.
  4. Busiest times of day for calls? Between 10 and 11 a.m. and between 1 and 2 p.m.
  5. The campus telephone operators typically answer 400 to 600 calls per day.
  6. Young adults prefer cell phones. Though all residence halls are equipped with dial tone, only 20 percent of the rooms have land line phones.