UC Phone Info
Here you'll find details surrounding the transition from the traditional Centrex phone system to the new Internet-based Unified Communications (UC) phone system for MCB & SIB. Please let us know of questions and concerns you may have about the UC phone system at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transition delay for MCB & SIB
You'll be receiving mass email messages stating that Unified Communication (UC) phone accounts will be enabled for most people on February 13, 2012. However, LAS has been granted a delay to assist with the transition.
For most people in MCB & SIB, we expect your UC phone account to be activated on March 13, 2012.
If you are a grad student, you'll be notified that you will receive a UC-based Lync account on February 15, 2012. These accounts will not have the ability to place or receive phone calls via phone numbers, but they can be used for Internet-based communication. Grad students who have TA, RA and other appointments will have the ability to place and recieve phone calls added to their Lync account, upgrading these to full UC phone accounts. The upgrade for these accounts is also expected on March 13, 2012.
You can check your UC phone account status at: http://uc.illinois.edu/myuc/
There are many details to consider for the phone transition and understanding the UC phone system, so please bear with us as we try to sort this out. Here are a few basics:
- CITES is planning to transition most phone numbers to the UC phone system by mid-June. We expect most traditional Centrex phones will stop working at this time.
- There are two types of UC phone accounts: individual and resource.
- Everyone who is faculty, staff or grad student with an appointment will receive an individual account. Your phone number, like your NetID, will stay associated with you if you change positions at UIUC.
Resource phone accounts are for office & lab phones where the use is shared or not tied to an individual. In late January, CITES released a description of how resource accounts will be configured. We are studying this and will assist with documenting the schools' use of resource phones, so they can be transitioned to the UC phone system. If you're interested in resource phone options, documentation can be found at:
- Fax systems must continue to use a Centrex phone and will not be moved to the UC phone system. An effort is underway to establish a centralized, network-based fax service to eliminate the need for individual fax systems.
- Since the UC phone is Internet-based, you'll be able to "log in" to your phone account from anywhere you can use the Internet. When you access your UC phone account via the Microsoft Lync client software, you can also communicate with others with UIUC Lync accounts via video call, instant messaging, file sharing and screen sharing.
- In recent times, a basic Centrex phone line has cost $22.50 per month. The cost to continue using a Centrex phone after June 30, 2012 is currently unknown, but it is expected the price will rise since the campus will be negotiating a new contract with AT&T.
- While charges for traditional phone lines will cease as phone numbers are transferred to to UC, there is a new rate & funding model to cover all campus-level IT services, including UC phone, which has as its foundation, a rate of about $28 per month per FTE, but how this trickles down to the units is complicated and still being discussed. There will still be individual charges for long distance calls, although the rate should be lower than what we currently pay.
Here's one complication that needs to be considered during the transition period (i.e.: until your Centrex phone has been disabled). When your UC phone account is activated and the UC phone is assigned the same phone number as your Centrex phone, an effect called "call trapping" will occur. This will be the case for a current, Centrex phone for an individual, like a faculty member's office phone.
Calls from the outside world and from Centrex phones on campus to your phone number will ring on your Centrex phone.
Calls from other UC phone users to your phone number will only ring your UC phone.
There are several solutions:
- Answer both your Centrex phone as UC phone as needed.
- Forward your Centrex phone number to your UC phone, and all calls will be received on your UC phone.
- Allow your UC phone calls to go to voice mail.
Using your UC phone
Once your account is active, you'll need the proper hardware and software to access the UC phone system. Unfortunately, none of the current Centrex phone hardware will be usable. There are a number of options. You may wish to use multiple methods. We have samples of the hardware in 333 Morrill, so please stop by for a test drive.
All individual UC phone accounts have voice mail enabled. When a voice mail is recorded, it will be e-mailed to you as an audio file attachment. In addition, the voice mail system will make an automated speech-to-text translation, which will appear in the e-mail. It is still possible to retrieve voice mail by calling a phone number. If you have FERPA or other privacy concerns about having your voice mail sent to your e-mail account, this feature can be disabled.
Forward calls to another number (cell phone)
You can configure your UC phone account to forward your UC phone calls to another number, like your cell phone. There's also a feature called "simultaneous ring" which will cause an incoming call to ring on both your UC phone and your forwarded number (cell phone). Please be aware that transferred calls will use minutes on your cell phone plan. Currently there isn't a way to place UC calls from a cell phone, but eventually CITES plans to support the Microsoft Lync smartphone apps that will allow this. Be aware that if you forward your calls (or use simultaneous ring) your cell phone's voice mail may answer the call before it rolls over to UC voice mail, and voice mail messages may be recorded elsewhere.
Use your computer as a phone
The UC phone system is based on a product called Microsoft Lync. There are Lync clients for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS that allow you to make calls and answer your phone via your computer. These are available without cost via the UIUC webstore, and can be installed at any time, (although you won't be able to use your account until it is activated, of course).
You'll need a microphone and a speaker to make calls. These come in a few varieties:
USB corded headset A traditional headset with a cable that connects to your computer. Corded versions are inexpensive (~$30) and come in one- or two-ear models. They include buttons on the cord to answer, hang up, mute or change volume. (The Microsoft Lync client software for Macs doesn't support answer, hang up and mute buttons on the headset, so you have to use the on-screen buttons in the Lync software for these functions.)
Our favorite is the Plantronics C210-M (IBuy: L8C210-M, $24.73)
USB cordless headset Same idea as a corded headset. Includes a small wireless transmitter that plugs into one of your computer's USB ports and a lightweight headset which contains a battery that needs to be recharged by placing the headset on a charging base. (The battery life is currently unknown, but expect to replace the battery after a year or more.)
Our favorite is the Plantronics Savi W440-M (IBuy:L8W440M, $130.51) which comes with parts to support wearing the headset over the head, behind the head and on one ear. We found the Savi had a range of about 100 feet.
USB handset Something that looks like a phone but plugs in to your computer. Has a handset and a dialing pad. Currently only compatible with Windows computers.
Our favorite is the Plantronics Calisto 540 (P540-M) (IBuy: L8CM3347, $94,08).
- Use your laptop's built-in speaker & mic. Only useful if you're in a quiet place and don't mind having your call on "speakerphone".
Use an IP phone
You can purchase a device that looks like a corded phone, but it connects to a network wall jack and you log in to your UC phone account via the phone's keypad. (Typically the need to log in would be infrequent.) Unlike most current phones, it has a display to provide information about calls, accounts and configuration. There are only four models of desk IP phones available at this time. Changes to network hardware need to be made to support IP phones on the life.illinois.edu network. We're working with CITES to make the changes.
If you don't have an unused network jack for your IP phone, your computer's network connection can be passed through the IP phone. Be aware that you'll need a AC outlet to provide power to the IP phone.
There are no cordless phones available at this time, although this is still being explored. The best we have been able to work out would be a scheme where you use an adapter to connect a cordless phone as an audio device to your computer. You'd place and answer calls via the Lync software on your computer, and could then pick up the cordless phone to speak & listen.
There are also no multi-line phones when using the UC phone system. Calls to resource lines will ring on individual UC phone accounts (or an IP phone may be configured to answer the resource line). When you use the Lync client or an IP phone, you'll be able to see the name of the phone line that is being called.
Our favorite IP phone is the Aastra 6721 (IBuy: A6721-0131-20-55, $152.95). You must also purchase the power adapter (IBuy: D0023-1051-00-75, $17.01). This phone can only be used on certain parts of the network until the life.illinois.edu hardware is upgraded. Please contact us for specifics. We can currently support the Aastra 6725, IBuy: A6725-0131-20-55, $191.99, which also requires the D0023-1051-00-75 power adapter.)
CITES - Complete list of recommended phones (including photos)