Residence Hall Telecommunications Services

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1 STUDENT AFFAIRS LEADERSHIP COUNCIL Residence Hall Telecommunications Services Custom Research Brief TABLE OF CONTENTS RESEARCH ASSOCIATE David Godow RESEARCH MANAGER Katie Sue Zellner I. Research Methodology II. III. IV. Executive Overview Trends in Residence Hall Telecommunications Telecommunications Installation V. Cost and Revenue Models THE ADVISORY BOARD COMPANY WASHINGTON, D.C.

2 I. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Project Challenge: A member institution approached the Council with the following questions about phone, data, and television services in campus residence halls: Scope: What phone, internet, and television services are offered in residence halls? How are students charged for these services? Telephone Usage Trends: How many students regularly use in-room phones? Has declining in-room phone usage led administrators to remove analog or voice over IP connections from existing residence halls, or to omit them from construction plans for future residence halls? Installing Telecom Systems: o o Services Provided: Do institutions choose an analog PBX, a voice over IP system, or no system to provide phone service in new residence halls? What pieces of hardware does the telecommunications closet in each residence hall contain? Construction: Does the construction of new residence halls require upgrades to other parts of the campus telecom infrastructure? Who makes the final decision about which telecom services will be provided in new residence halls? Costs: What is the cost of installing telecom (PBX or VoIP) equipment in newly constructed residence halls? Service Providers: Do institutions contract with a single provider to provide phone, cable, and internet services? Revenue Models: o o Basic fee: Do students pay a single fee to cover telecommunication services? Premium fee: Do institutions offer residents premium services like extra internet bandwidth, on-demand video, or an additional phone line for an additional fee? Project Sources: Education Advisory Board s internal and online research libraries (www.educationadvoryboard.com) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (http://nces.ed.gov/) Contact institution Web sites 2012 The Advisory Board Company 2

3 I. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Definition of Terms: Telecommunications: In this report, telecommunications refers to phone, internet, and television services. PBX: Private branch exchange, a telephone exchange that connects the internal phones of a private organization with the public switched telephone network. A PBX system automatically assigns outgoing calls to one of the organization s phone lines and connects the call to the public network. VoIP PBX: A software-based telephone exchange that connects an organization s VoIP phone system with the public telephone network. An institution may operate its own VoIP PBX system or purchase a hosted VoIP PBX service. Hosted VoIP PBX: In a hosted service, an institution s telephone service provider operates the PBX software on its own equipment. Coaxial Distribution System: The network of coaxial cable used to carry and disseminate cable television signal to individual in a residence hall. VoIP Gateway: A device that converts telephone signals between the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and a VoIP network. Generally, the gateway includes one port to connect to the campus data network, and multiple additional ports for the phones the gateway supports. Network Switch: A computer networking device that allows the devices connected to it, such as computers, printers, or servers, to communicate efficiently. The switch sorts information between connected devices, transmitting messages meant for individual devices to their proper destination The Advisory Board Company 3

4 I. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Research Parameters: The Council interviewed assistant directors of residence life and information technology professionals at midsize and large public institutions. A Guide to the Institutions Profiled in this Brief Institution Region Type Approximate Enrollment Classification University A Mid- Atlantic Public 9,000 University B South Public 19,100 University C Midwest Public 15,000 University D Mid- Atlantic Public 8,600 University E Midwest Public 10,800 Master's Colleges and Universities (larger programs) Doctoral/Research Universities Master's Colleges and Universities (larger programs) Master's Colleges and Universities (larger programs) Master's Colleges and Universities (larger programs) 2012 The Advisory Board Company 4

5 II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Key Observations: Across contact institutions, residence hall phone usage has declined significantly since the mid- 2000s. At University A, for example, only 10 percent of resident students reported placing a call on a room phone at least once during the school year, whereas 60 percent of students reported doing so during the school year. Contacts at most institutions report that administrators have either removed or plan to remove telephones from residence hall rooms by the end of the school year. At University B and University C, administrators disabled residence hall phone lines in At University D and University E, administrators plan to remove phones from residence halls by summer 2013 but will continue to offer active phone lines in case students wish to bring their own phone sets. Among the three contact institutions that offer active phone lines in residence hall rooms, two use a VoIP phone system, and one uses an analog phone system. Though contacts universally recommend limiting residence hall phone services if usage declines, they differ over the degree to which services should be limited. Administrators at two institutions have disabled or plan to disable residence hall phone lines entirely. Of the three remaining institutions, two plan to remove phone sets but maintain phone lines for students who wish to bring their own phones to campus. By contrast, administrators at University E plan to remove active room phone lines but install at least one communal phone on each residence hall floor. Residence hall rooms at all contact institutions contain one cable television jack and one network jack per student. Additionally, students at University A and University C may purchase premium television channels such as HBO, Showtime, or pay-per-view channels. Contacts report that the construction of new residence halls has not required upgrades in the campus telecommunications infrastructure because administrators plan infrastructure improvements well in advance of any construction. Additionally, if new residence halls are intended to replace existing halls, strain on the existing telecommunications infrastructure is unlikely to increase, rendering improvements unnecessary. Although residence life and IT departments jointly determine which telecommunications services to install in new residence halls, contacts emphasize that final decisions fall to residence life staff. Contacts at University C recommend including students in decision-making processes about telecommunications services to ensure that services satisfy student demand and expectations. Contacts at University E recommend that administrators install telephone infrastructure in new residence halls even if they have disabled or intend to disable residence hall telephone lines. While installing phone equipment during initial residence hall construction is relatively inexpensive, if administrators wish to re-enable phone service in the future, installation costs may be much higher without the correct infrastructure in place The Advisory Board Company 5

6 III. TRENDS IN RESIDENCE HALL TELECOMMUNICATIONS Access to Telecommunication Services in Residence Halls Across profiled institutions, residence hall rooms include one network jack per student and one cable television jack. University D also provides one landline phone set per room. Students at all institutions have unlimited access to the campus broadband network and cable television, with the exception of premium channels like HBO. Although contact institutions uniformly offer broadband internet and cable television service in residence halls, only three of five institutions still offer active telephone lines in rooms. Still, at University B and University C, the two institutions where no active telephone lines serve students residence hall rooms, deactivated telephone jacks are still present. The table below describes the telephone service offered at each contact institution. Institution Overview of Telephone Services in Residence Halls Approx. Total Students in Residence University A 1,500 Phone Service Provided? Yes (students bring phones) Telephone Exchange Type Hosted VoIP PBX Percentage of Students Using Room Phones in Current Year University B 5,500 No N/A N/A University C 3,200 No N/A N/A University D 2,800 Yes (phone is included) VoIP PBX <1% University E 3,100 Yes (students bring phones) Analog PBX ~1% Residence Hall Telephone Usage Declines Administrators Plan to Disable Residence Hall Phone Lines 10% Contacts across institutions report that declining room phone usage has caused administrators to disable, or consider disabling, phone lines in residence hall rooms. Administrators at University B and University C disabled room phone lines in At University D and University E, administrators plan to remove room phones during the school year. Meanwhile, administrators at University A are currently considering whether to disable phone lines. Contacts note that the bulk of the residence hall phone usage decline occurred in the late 2000s. For example, contacts at University A note that the proportion of resident students using room phones at least once per year fell from 60 percent during the school year to 10 percent in The Advisory Board Company 6

7 III. TRENDS IN RESIDENCE HALL TELECOMMUNICATIONS Residence Hall Telephone Usage Declines (Cont.) Consider Limiting Phone Services in Residence Halls All contacts recommend reducing residence hall phone services in response to weak student demand. Although some contacts suggest removing phones from rooms and disabling phone lines entirely, administrators at University E suggest installing a single, communal phone on each residence hall floor for students who do not have cell phone access. Strategies for Limiting Phone Services in Residence Halls Disable All Phone Lines Provide a Communal Phone on Each Floor of a Residence Hall Remove Room Phones but Enable Phone Lines Contacts at University B and University C note that completely disabling residence hall phone lines can save thousands of dollars per month in service charges. At University C, administrators have reallocated the funds saved from disabling phone service to expanding the bandwidth of the campus broadband connection. Communal phones in residence hall common areas give students access to a landline without incurring the cost of maintaining active phone jacks in each room. Administrators at University E plan to install one communal phone per 30 residents once room phone lines are disabled during the school year. At University D, students who want room phone service must bring their own phone sets beginning in the fall of Contacts note that keeping phone lines active should assist international students or students without cell phones, who might otherwise lack phone service. University A also requires students to bring their own phones. Remove Access Entirely Maintain Some Access Among Contact Institutions Maintaining Room Lines, Most Employ VoIP Phone Service Of the three institutions that continue to offer active phone lines in residence hall rooms, University A and University D have installed VoIP systems within the last decade. Contacts at University A report that the university s monthly phone bill is approximately $24,500 lower than that under the previous analog system. University E is the only contact institution which operates an analog system The Advisory Board Company 7

8 IV. TELECOMMUNICATIONS INSTALLATION Upgrades to Campus Infrastructure The installation of telecommunication services in new residence halls has not required upgrades to the campus phone, data, or television infrastructure at any contact institution. Contacts at University D and University E note that administrators schedule infrastructure improvements and new residence halls construction separately as part of a long-range capital plan. This planning helps ensure that an institution s telecommunication and data infrastructure can accommodate the service needs associated with a new residence hall. Contacts also suggest that new residence halls generally do not increase demand for telecom services sufficiently to strain existing infrastructure. Replacement of Residence Halls Does Not Require Infrastructure Improvements The construction of new residence halls may not require infrastructure upgrades if the new residence halls simply replaces previous housing. At University A, administrators rebuilt all eight of the institution s residence halls without adding a significant number of beds. Consequently, strain on the campus network did not increase, rendering upgrades to telecommunication and data infrastructure unnecessary. Installing a VoIP Phone System May Require Data Infrastructure Upgrades Though administrators do not upgrade telecommunications infrastructure during the construction of residence halls, they may need to improve the campus data network during a transition from an analog to a VoIP telephone system. At University A, administrators installed new servers, network switches, cables, and VoIP-capable telephones before the transition to VoIP service; the total cost of the improvements was $550,000, with phones representing the largest portion of the cost. Decision Rights over Telecom Services in New Residence Halls Across contact institutions, residence life and IT staff collaboratively decide what phone, television, and internet services to install in new residence halls, but the director of residence life makes the final decision. The diagram below outlines the University C telecommunications advisory team for a new residence hall, which will open in Fall Notably, administrators invited a student from a residence hall student association to join the advisory team, and contacts recommend including students in decision-making processes to ensure that telecommunications services reflect student demand. Telecommunication Services Advisory Committee at University C Residence Life Director (project manager), Assistant Director IT Network Manager, two other staff representatives Residence Hall Student Association One representative Facilities Management Electrician Final Decision 2012 The Advisory Board Company 8

9 IV. TELECOMMUNICATIONS INSTALLATION Contents of Telecommunications Closets In most institutions residence halls, each floor contains one closet that is set aside for telecommunications equipment and infrastructure. The table below lists the equipment included in residence hall telecommunications closets at University A and University C, the two institutions for which closet information is available. Equipment in Telecommunications Closets at Two Profiled Institutions University A (2 closets per floor) 24- or 48-port Cisco VoIP voice gateway Cisco network switches Coaxial distribution system for cable TV Fiber-optic cable routed from central IT office University C (1 closet per floor) Cisco network switches Uninterruptible power supply Fiber-optic cable and copper wire routed from IT and telecommunications offices (includes copper backbone cable from central campus analog PBX) New Residence Hall Construction Considerations for Installing Telephone Infrastructure Contacts at University C recommend installing telephone infrastructure in new residence halls even if administrators have disabled or are considering disabling phone service in rooms. Contacts note that installing the necessary equipment during construction is less expensive than adding such infrastructure features later if administrators decide to re-enable phone service. Contacts at University A add that the installation of internet infrastructure on campuses with VoIP phone systems automatically provides potential phone access because VoIP phones depend on data networks, not copper wire. Options for Residence Hall Telephone Service VoIP Phone Service On campuses with a VoIP-based telephone system, room phone lines depend on the same network infrastructure as room internet connections. Therefore, according to contacts at University A, enabling internet access in residence halls automatically prepares the halls for phone usage. Administrators, therefore, will not need to install new telecommunications infrastructure if they decide to re-enable room phone lines in the future. Analog Phone Service At University C, which operates an analog phone system, administrators install phone infrastructure in new residence halls even though room phone lines were disabled in Contacts suggest that administrators may decide to re-enable phone lines in the future if demand for phone services increases. Contacts add that the cost of installing phone infrastructure during hall construction is much lower than installing it in existing halls after administrators re-enable room phone lines The Advisory Board Company 9

10 V. COST AND REVENUE MODELS Costs of Telecommunications Services in Residence Halls At most institutions, administrators employ three separate service providers for phone, internet, and television services; however, at University A, a single provider operates the institution s internet network and its accompanying VoIP phone system. The table below lists monthly rate charges for phone, internet, and television services at two institutions. Monthly Rates Levied by Providers for Telecommunication Services Institution Phone Service Rate Internet Service Rate University A ~$4.16 per jack $3.50 per wired jack University C $7,500 (all halls) $13,000 (all halls) Cable Television Service Rate $1,531 (all halls) $5,000 (all halls) Revenue Models for Telecommunications Services in Residence Halls Students pay for telecommunication services as part of their general room fees at most institutions, but at University E students pay technology fees of $50 per year for internet service and $60 per year for television service. Some Contact Institutions Offer Access to Premium Television Channels At University A and University C, students may purchase premium television channels like HBO and Showtime, in addition to pay-per-view channels. Contacts report that students must contract directly with the television provider to purchase premium channels for an additional fee levied by the provider The Advisory Board Company 10

11 PROFESSIONAL SERVICES NOTE The Advisory Board has worked to ensure the accuracy of the information it provides to its members. This project relies on data obtained from many sources, however, and The Advisory Board cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information or its analysis in all cases. Further, The Advisory Board is not engaged in rendering clinical, legal, accounting, or other professional services. Its projects should not be construed as professional advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Members are advised to consult with their staff and senior management, or other appropriate professionals, prior to implementing any changes based on this project. Neither The Advisory Board Company nor its programs are responsible for any claims or losses that may arise from any errors or omissions in their projects, whether caused by the Advisory Board Company or its sources. April 2012 The Advisory Board Company, 2445 M Street, N.W., Washington, DC Any reproduction or retransmission, in whole or in part, is a violation of federal law and is strictly prohibited without the consent of the Advisory Board Company. This prohibition extends to sharing this publication with clients and/or affiliate companies. All rights reserved The Advisory Board Company 11

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