DISA switches on VOIP

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VoIP’s second act

Defense Information Systems Agency officials awarded a $20 million contract to Nortel Networks for upgraded high-capacity, IP-based voice switches. The contract lays the foundation for development of next-generation voice-over-IP phone service via DISA’s global networks.

The contract, announced March 29, will also allow DISA officials to migrate voice traffic from a network managed by MCI to a private network under total Defense Department control, a DISA spokesperson said. Pentagon officials expect the new switches to save money by allowing DISA to use the Defense Department's Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion network to replace leased services.

Voice over IP “that meets military requirements has a clear, positive future as a result of this acquisition," the DISA spokesperson said.

Nortel officials will upgrade six of their SL 100 switches at Air Force bases nationwide to handle IP traffic, including IP trunking, management of PBX systems and voice-over-IP traffic, said Chuck Saffell, president of the company's federal solutions division.

The upgraded switches have been certified by DISA’s Joint Interoperability Test Center to provide military features for voice-over-IP traffic, including multilevel precedence and pre-emption, which ensures priority calls go through during crises, Saffell said.

Each of the new switches can handle more than 100,000 voice lines, according to Nortel. The upgrade will include new software to handle voice over IP and blade-based processor upgrades, Saffell said.

DISA officials will purchase the switches through the Air Force’s Worldwide Integrated Digital Telecommunications Systems contract held by General Dynamics.

Handling voice calls as IP traffic via DOD's high-capacity fiber-optic network should reduce DISA's costs, said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting. DISA's move toward voice over IP represents “a major technology milestone” for the agency, further cementing voice over IP as the preferred technology for voice traffic in government and industry, Suss said.

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