Bank of Queensland takes the lead in VoIP deployment

Von Rodney Gedda

Amid all the hype surrounding the VoIP ambitions of Australia"s big four banks, the Bank of Queensland Ltd. has quietly become the first local bank to deploy IP telephony throughout its head office in Brisbane.

Bank of Queensland technology director Nick Young told Computerworld the move to a new building last year gave the bank an opportunity to deploy IP telephony as the business case was there as part of the new network.

"We just wanted to implement a tried and tested voice communications system," Young said, adding that a reliable phone system is fundamental to the bank"s operation.

The bank"s corporate head office was relocated to the top four floors of the Bank of Queensland Center in Brisbane where some 450 handsets are now in use.

Young was pleased to report there have been no "significant incidents" since the move and conceded it is "simpler" for a tier-two bank to move to VoIP than the large institutions.

"We are now extending it to state administration offices and working out the branch networks," he said. "We didn"t want to make it too big a project."

One of the key drivers for the project was to have a platform for convergence which Young said would be quicker and more cost-effective with VoIP over the traditional PABX. Converged applications the bank will leverage include unified messaging and integration with Lotus Notes, and call center capabilities for the bank"s internal helpdesk, including skill-based call routing.

Young could not comment on the value of the project only to say that it fits in with the bank"s existing contract with outsourcer EDS and is being delivered as a per-phone charge and there was no capital outlay to go to VoIP.

Young said the cost is roughly the same as the previous voice system and was not a key driver.

Cisco was chosen as the equipment vendor.

The bank"s infrastructure architect Brendan Jackson said the installation took three months and there are no issues with bandwidth.

"Two call centers at separate sites have more redundancy than a single PABX," Jackson said. "There is a separate VLAN for VoIP and the quality of service is good."

Jackson said toll bypassing will be trialled as part of the state administration center pilot over the next three months and encryption will be switched on when calls begin to travel over the WAN.

"There are many intangible benefits, for example, there is also a directory of every staff member available on the phone"s screen," he said.

The bank is not using softphones on notebooks, but they are an option once doubts about wireless security and user demand are overcome.

"The mobility options are there but there is no demand at the moment," Young said.