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Situation Overview

Our client is a private University located on a single campus in a major US city. Telephone services are provided to the campus via a Nortel Network Meridian 1 PBX system.  At the time of our initial engagement, this system had been in service for over 6 years and was originally configured with analog trunking to the public telephone network. The University was preparing to implement a circuit switched "board room" style videoconference system, and there were also concerns about Y2K issues that would affect their PBX and voice mail system.

Project Scope

Our engagement addressed three areas:

Audit of telephone charges
Update of the University’s infrastructure to support videoconferencing requirement
Resolution of Y2K issues for the PBX and Voice Mail systems

Expected Deliverables

The University wanted confirmation that they were paying for services that were required, and needed to have their infrastructure configured so that the new videoconferencing system could be operated in a cost-effective manner. There was also a need to insure that all affected systems would continue to operate correctly during the crossover to the new millennium.

Process

We initially completed an audit of the University’s service provider billings and discovered a significant billing error in the area of local trunking.  The local exchange carrier had been charging for twice the quantity of local trunks that were actually in service.  Although they acknowledged the error we identified, they offered only limited credits to rectify this situation.  We had several negotiating meetings that resulted in offers first for a 12-month credit, and then this was increased to an offer of a 36-month credit.  I advised the University to reject these offers and located in the Carrier's tariff a provision that acknowledged responsibility for a billing error from the point the error occurred.  I then located documentation from the original system installation that substantiated that the error had been made when the PBX was first installed, and had been billed in error for over six years.  We quantified and negotiated a settlement for the entire amount that was due to the University.

In addition to resolving this billing situation, we also developed recommendations for a network upgrade to support the new video conferencing system.  The video equipment vendor had recommended the system be configured with ISDN BRI lines directly from the local telephone company.  Since the videoconference usage projections were initially rather modest, this would have created a recurring cost of several hundred dollars per month that could be avoided by enhancing the on-campus infrastructure.  I recommended a redesign of the network so that the PBX would be able to provide the ISDN BRI services that were required for the videoconference system, and do so without additional recurring costs.  This also required that connectivity to the local telephone network be upgraded to ISDN PRI service, and this change also helped to improve overall service to the campus. These changes were addressed along with other updates that were also needed. Specifications and RFPs were prepared for the required upgrades, bids evaluated, and appropriate awards were made.

To prepare for Y2K, we also developed an RFP to address the updates needed for the voice mail system, as well as other growth requirements.  As part of this phase, we arranged for diversified routing to the public telephone network with PRI digital trunking from two different carriers.  Once the upgrades were awarded, we monitored the installation to insure that it was done correctly and also provided guidance to the vendor on the design of least-cost routing and overflow requirements and translations.  The PBX vendor encountered difficulties getting the digital upgrades to function correctly.  We eventually had to intervene between the PBX distributor and the manufacturer to finally get this matter resolved.  Also during the voice mail update, the PBX installer encountered additional difficulty.  Both of these issues were resolved with complementary upgrades to newer vintage hardware that was provided by the manufacturer without additional cost to the University.

Results

Quantification and negotiation of the billing error resulted in a cash refund with a check for over $97K being provided to the University.  Our efforts also resulted in significant concessions by the PBX manufacturer for resolution of the system hardware upgrade difficulties encountered by their distributor.  This resulted in the original Meridian 1 ST system being replaced with a new Meridian I Option 51 system with the latest software available at that time.  The value of these complementary upgrades was well over $200K.

Summary

The expectations of the University were significantly exceed as a result of our efforts.  Recurring costs were significantly reduced, the infrastructure was updated to fully meet their requirements and technically enhanced to exceed what was suggested by their equipment vendors, and a long standing billing error was resolved that may never have been found without our support.