NHS VoIP pilot launched in London

A pilot has been launched to offer National Health Service (NHS) trusts in London free voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls, following enhancements to the N3 Local Gateway Service (LGS).

The N3 LGS allows NHS organisations to connect their voice networks to the N3 Voice Core Services Central platform and get free calls to other users of the new voice service, to which 21 trusts in London have already signed up.

The pilot has been running for a couple of months and another 26 NHS Trusts are expected to join, while more are likely to sign up before funding expires on 31 December 2007.

The only expense to the trusts is the cost of the signalling interface card to connect to the N3 gateway, software configuration charges, and a monthly management fee.The nationally negotiated rates for fixed-to-mobile calls will lead to substantial savings for NHS organisations, through subsidies offered by mobile network operator O2.

This means NHS organisations can converge their voice and data over a single network and benefit from cost savings. The NHS IT department, Connecting for Health, said the savings would be particularly valuable as up to 70 per cent of the NHS's call charges from landlines are spent on calling mobiles.

N3, an IP-based network which underpins the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS, has largely been used to date to speed up the transmission of clinical data. Voice-enabling the N3 network, which BT announced plans to do in July, means that two new services are now available - the N3 Local Gateway Service and N3 Hosted Voice.

N3 Hosted Voice will initially be targeted at small-to-medium sized users, such as GP surgeries. N3 provider, BT will effectively host the users' IP telephony, managing the entire infrastructure and the billing process. BT has partnered with Cisco to provide hosted IP phone handsets.

Connecting for Health has funded the voice upgrade of the network. Additional set-up and rental fees will vary, depending on the local NHS organisations' existing infrastructure, which will be met locally.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.