New Zoom Phone service to offer greater flexibility, mobility

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The University of Michigan will begin upgrading telephone service on the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn academic campuses this summer, transitioning to Zoom Phone, a cloud-based softphone service that will operate via Zoom.

The transition to the new service, which is estimated to take about two years to complete, will allow users to make and receive calls over the internet using their computer, smartphone or voice-over-IP-enabled deskset.

Faculty and staff will be able to use their U-M telephone number wherever they may be, without the restriction of sitting at a desk with a physical telephone, and no longer will need to use or share a personal cell phone number for work purposes.

Information and Technology Services will begin transitioning phone numbers on a weekly basis — starting in mid-July — from the current, traditional campus telephone system to Zoom Phone, a cloud-based softphone service. The project involves a full transition of 28,000 telephone lines and end-user devices across the three academic campuses. It will not include Michigan Medicine or the Medical School.

“The demands of remote and hybrid teaching, learning and work have transformed what our community expects from a telephone service since our current system was installed in 1984. We’re more mobile and need more flexibility in how we communicate,” said Ravi Pendse, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

“We are excited to be able to provide a service that so many units across campus have requested and that meets many of the university’s current and future needs.”

The university has signed contracts with Lumen and Zoom to provide the new service, which will add the use of Zoom Phone to the U-M Zoom application that is already used by the U-M community.

The effort also will allow a significant reduction in the number of new handsets across campus, which will reduce electronic waste and supports the university’s sustainability goals.

ITS has been working with a group of Unit Ambassadors, which includes staff members who handle telephone service for units, to plan and prepare for the transition. Unit Ambassadors are working with their departments and ITS to address any specialized needs and submit phone numbers to move to the new service.

Unit Ambassadors will work with their communities to determine which hardware options work best for a unit’s faculty and staff. Units may choose to provide physical desksets as needed. Individuals who do not receive a physical deskset will have the option to order a project-funded headset for their computer, if needed, through the ITS Tech Shop at no cost to them.

University employees will not be required to use personal phones for work purposes, but if they choose to do so they can make and receive calls from their U-M phone number using the Zoom Phone feature that will become part of their phone’s Zoom app.

Once a person’s university telephone number is transitioned to Zoom Phone a new icon will appear at the top of their Zoom application menu bar. Users can press the phone icon and use the keypad to make a call from their desktop computer.

ITS will roll out the ability to send text messages from U-M numbers as part of the new telephone service within a year.

“The pandemic has exemplified the need and direction for this transition to a modern telephone service,” said Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Infrastructure. “This is a major step forward for integrated communications across our three academic campuses.”

A small pilot group of faculty and staff members successfully transitioned to Zoom Phone in June.

“Some of our leadership team moved to the new softphone service in June, and we have been impressed by the new service and the flexibility it provides,” said Cassandra Callaghan, chief information officer for the School of Dentistry. “We’ve received feedback that it is easy to use, both receiving and making phone calls, switching between a meeting and phone call, and the quality of sound is good, too.”

Visit the Telephone Service Upgrade Project website for information on the benefits and features of the Zoom Phone application, to find a Unit Ambassador, and for continued updates on the project as it progresses.

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