Arizona has launched a $200 million update of its telecommunications system, including statewide adoption of voice over Internet protocol technology for phone calls.
The state government has awarded a contract to Accenture Ltd., a management consulting and technology services company, to implement and manage the overhaul during the next five years.
"This is a very big and important step for the state of Arizona — one of the most important things going on in state government right now," said Betsey Bayless, director of the Department of Administration.
As a result of the contract, many data and telephone systems operated by different state agencies will be consolidated into a single network, Bayless said.
"We’re looking forward to having a much more sophisticated telecommunications system," she said.
Despite the lower cost of voice over Internet protocol telephone calls, the project is not expected to save a lot of money. But it will put the latest technology in the hands of state employees, and it should improve service quality, she said.
"Originally when we started, people believed there would be savings," Bayless said. "But the fact of the matter is, by the time you raise the level of sophistication to take advantage of the technology, that costs a lot of money."
Voice over Internet protocol is a technology in which voice signals are transmitted over data networks such as the Internet instead of by conventional telephone systems, thereby eliminating long distance charges. Adopting the technology also eliminates the need for the state government to operate separate data and voice networks, said Laura Ward, program manager for the Department of Administration.
Under the contract, the network infrastructure will be leased from private carriers, and obsolete telephone handsets will be replaced as they wear out, Ward said. Existing handsets will still be able to use the voice over Internet protocol backbone, she said.
A total of 22,000 handsets are expected to be replaced in the next five years out of 39,000 in total, she said.
The change in technology will not be apparent to people calling into a state agency. In fact, several state agencies — including the departments of Revenue and Commerce and the state Legislature — already use voice over Internet protocol telephones, Ward said.
"You can’t tell the difference in call quality," she said.
In addition, the project will include a new Web-based billing system and annual program operating and performances measurements, said Steve Demarest, the program lead for Accenture.
Subcontractors on the project include Tempe-based Calence and NextiraOne. Telecommunications providers that will supply carrier services will be selected later.