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Farewell to the Alcatel phone exchange

Four people standing in a computer centre, two are holding phones to their ears

Disconnecting the Alcatel phone exchange on 14 February: (left to right) IT Department Head Enrica Porcari, Tony Cass, Rodrigo Sierra and Ihor Olkhovskyi. (Image: CERN)

On 14 February, CERN disconnected the Alcatel phone exchange, which began in 1990 (and hit the frontpage of the Bulletin at the time). This now marks the end of physical office telephones in the Laboratory, with the migration to the software-based systems – TONE and CERNphone – now completed.

“We replaced the Alcatel phone exchange, which routes calls within CERN and to outside lines, with a CERN-built exchange called TONE,” explains Tony Cass, head of the IT Communications Systems group. Last year, the TONE exchange also took over the features of the old “call centre” system that handles calls to, e.g., the Service Desk where several people respond to calls to a single number.

“The harder task,” he continues “was to build the software phone application and replace all the physical phones by software phones.”  After considering various alternatives and providers, rollout of two CERNPhone applications started at the end of 2020. Read more details in the IT README.

When CERN began in 1954, “the CERN phone directory contained everyone’s home number” as Franco Bonaudi recalls in our CERN70 series.  By 1965, just 17 phone lines served 1000 CERN extensions, with callers facing long waits. Now, as well as TONE and CERNphone for phonecalls, CERN also offers the CERN Campus App for on-site information, news and events.