Telecoms giant Ericsson has won an £18m managed services contract with London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine.
The seven-year private finance initiative deal will see Ericsson provide and support voice, data and Web-based services for the college's 10,000 students, 6,000 staff and 65,000 former students.
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Tim Wetten, head of communication services at Imperial College, said, "This project does not address our core business - providing education and research.
"However, this kind of leisure time facility gives us a competitive edge in attracting students, it enhances college life and it gives us a chance to maintain contact with our former students," Wetten added.
The project, named IC4, includes the UK's first closed vertical Web portal (vortal), IC4life, to be developed for an educational institution.
IC4life's unified messaging facility will provide users with a single point of access to send or access their voice, fax, e-mail and SMS messages through a touch-tone or mobile telephone or PC. Users will also be offered free Internet access, up to five free e-mail addresses and free Web space.
Ericsson will also supply managed student voice services (IC4talk) and data services (IC4data) and a managed voice services to connect the college's main campus at South Kensington, two other college locations, and five campuses of the School of Medicine.
IC4talk provides telephone extensions for the 2,000 students living in halls of residence. with free room-to-room calls.
IC4data offers data points in all halls of residence rooms and for £10 per term students will be able to access the college's data network and departmental services, and get unmetered Internet access.
Ericsson's modular digital MD110 PABX will provide the voice and data platform with 36 MD110 Line Interface Modules at 11 college sites. Other features and applications include six operator workstations, Extension and Performance Manager, directory and billing, and voice processing. Cisco equipment will be used in the data network.
Paul Humphries, services campaigns manager for Ericsson Enterprise Networks, said the project was important for the company because it raised Ericsson's profile among students, early adopters of new technology products.
Jonathan Smith, business director at Ericsson Enterprise Networks, said the scheme would be funded through advertising and by making the vortal as "sticky" as possible - 30 third-party content suppliers have already been signed up.