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Wake Forest to offer IP phoning

The school announces plans Tuesday that include eventually replacing the landline phones inside 1,900 dorm rooms with ones that make local and long-distance calls over the Net.

Wake Forest University announced plans Tuesday that include eventually replacing the landline phones inside 1,900 dormitory rooms with ones that make local and long-distance calls over the Internet.

Like a growing number of universities, Wake Forest no longer earns as much money by selling traditional phone service inside its dormitories, a result of the growing number of students who are eschewing this dorm room staple for cell phones.

"In five years, traditional dorm room phones will be gone," because there will be too few users to justify the cost of maintaining the network, Wake Forest Chief Information Officer Jay Dominick said.

The replacement that's envisioned will use another Wake Forest University dorm standard, a broadband connection, plus a technology for making phone calls with the world's most popular method for sending data from one computer to another, he said.


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About 1,000 students at Dartmouth College already use a similar telephone system that relies on voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.

The transformation is Wake Forest's attempt to keep pace with shifting technology choices among its student body. The growing use of cell phones has not only cut into university telephone revenues--it's also preventing the school from ensuring that it could reach its students via phone, he said.

"We were once certain we knew how to communicate with our students, because we had their dorm phone numbers in our databases," he said. "But in the last two years, we've seen a tremendous revolution in communication mobility, which includes all those cell phones."

Wake Forest's push is generating business for companies such as IBM, which is helping Wake Forest with the change. It's also working on finding other new ways for the university to generate new revenues, such as videconferencing.

"We are getting a tremendous amount of interest from other universities," said Mike Sisto, an IBM market development executive.