The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames has opted for a £500,000 state of the art voice over IP system (VoIP) from Cisco.
Gerry Sevenoaks, head of strategic services at the local authority, which has about 150,000 residents, said simply replacing the old PBX system would have been just as expensive, without offering the future-proofing potential.
"We had to change our old system and this gave us an opportunity to be forward-thinking. We moved the funds set to replace the PBX to fund the VoIP system," he said.
The project involved migrating the council's existing 1500 extension PBX system to Cisco IP telephony over an 18 month period. The network has been replaced with Cisco Catalyst switches and 1500 Cisco IP phones have been installed.
The authority wanted to pay over three years to help it stay in budget and Cisco agreed to this. Kingston expects to save £80,000 per year on rental and call costs.
Tim Hearn, local government manager at Cisco, said the vendor is flexible about payment to fit local government preferences.
"When we work on projects there are various ways of paying. If they want to pay upfront capital or through revenue schemes we will match what they want," he explained.
Kingston upon Thames has already made 80 per cent of its services available online.
"We did not do it for the [government's] 2005 targets but because there was an issue about public access and we wanted to make it easier for people to contact us," he said.
To this end the council is launching the next phase of its upgrade with the introduction of IP telephony kiosks throughout the borough.
Residents will be able to contact the council from 10 kiosks, which will be fully integrated by October.
Other services from the network include the introduction of voice helplines on CCTV cameras.
Keith Humphreys, analyst at EuroLAN Research, said more benefits could be reaped from the network's call centre capabilities.
"The benefits come when it can use the system for call centres and as a service provider it can deal with all enquiries effectively."
Sevenoaks said Kingston had already developed five small contact centres.
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