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"We have found a reliable partner in Orange for our data and voice calls."
The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp manages Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael. Its operations rely on a wide range of IT services. Voice calls are also important for the society’s 366 employees’ internal and external communication. “We found a reliable partner in Orange for our connectivity and voice calls,” says Kristof Van Bouwel, ICT Manager at the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp.
From DECT to mobile
The management of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp asked Kristof Van Bouwel to review the server infrastructure and phone exchange in late 2013, when its maintenance contracts were about to expire. “We were facing two challenges at the time,” the ICT Manager explains. “First, we had chosen to run our entire server infrastructure in the cloud. We therefore needed strong connectivity for the data centres. And second, we wanted to replace our analogue DECT phone system with a more modern system using mobile phones.”
These were considerable challenges, particularly in terms of voice calls. The employees of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp work within a substantial area, and the organisation did not want to invest in private DECT antennas covering an entire site. However, the DECT systems did offer many convenient features, such as short codes, caller ID for callers not included in your contact list and easy forwarding. “Of course we wanted to keep all these functions after the switch to mobile devices,” Kristof Van Bouwel says.
“We asked the major providers how they would tackle those challenges. Orange, which was already one of our partners, contributed to our plan and proposed a satisfactory solution.”
Managing our mobile phones ourselves
“The switch wasn’t too difficult as far as the data connection was concerned,” Kristof Van Bouwel adds. “We told Orange which data centres and cloud solutions we were using, and Orange assessed the bandwidth we needed.” The voice calls posed a bigger challenge. “Our Account Manager understood our needs well, but what we requested was not fully available yet. Orange then used our input to develop its voice call system in order to offer us a solution that met all our requirements.”
“Two years ago, most companies would have opted for another DECT system in our position,” Kristof Van Bouwel says. “But we really wanted to modernise and Orange allowed us to do just that. Thanks to the portal, our ICT department can fully manage the mobile devices itself, so we don’t have to contact Orange for every SIM card.”
By migrating its server infrastructure to the cloud, the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp can now adjust certain things – such as software updates – faster, as the updates now only have to be done in one place. “At the beginning, we worked very closely with Orange to monitor our use of the cloud in order to adjust the connection’s quality of service,” Kristof Van Bouwel recalls.
Before changing its telephone exchange, the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp was using 250 handsets and 150 fixed devices. When it switched to the mobile phone system, it did not simply replace the DECT devices with mobile phones. All devices were subjected to scrutiny. As a result, the organisation now has 440 mobile phones and 40 fixed phones. “95% of users welcomed the new devices with great enthusiasm,” Kristof Van Bouwel says. “The call quality is better and one of the standard features of mobile phones is a camera, which is useful for our engineers to take pictures in case of problems.”
Orange placed some picocells at Antwerp Zoo to improve indoor coverage for mobile voice calls and data. According to Kristof Van Bouwel, coverage inside the buildings will be even more important in the future. “We built a big new restaurant at Antwerp Zoo, for example. It is a very well insulated building, which unfortunately also means that mobile phone reception inside is poor. We are now working with Orange to see if we can place some femtocells there. We will always assess this for new buildings from now on.”
The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp also wants to install a 4G backup data connection at Planckendael. “This will always guarantee connectivity with our cloud services, even if the fixed connection fails,” Kristof Van Bouwel concludes.