VoIP Is a Good Call for the Dallas Cowboys
As nearly 66,000 football fans pack Texas Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys' annual Thanksgiving Day game, many will enjoy the benefits of the owner's decision earlier this year to convert the stadium's communications system to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Growing demand for its lines of clothing and products, ranging from sports apparel to the "Dallas Cowboys Weekly" fan newsletter, necessitated an upgraded telecommunications system for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones's entire organization. Jones also owns numerous other businesses in the area, including the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Blue Star Financial, Blue Star Oil and Gas, Blue Star Storage, 35 sports merchandising operations, and several other firms under the Jones Enterprises umbrella.
The organization needed to equip its merchandising warehouse with additional telephones to fulfill orders and support a 15-seat call center that handles customer service calls. But its legacy private-branch exchange platform lacked the scalability to support more handsets without a substantial investment.
Additionally, although the separate business entities shared data communications using a significant communication backbone, Pete Walsh, the Cowboys' director of information technology, says the company was spending uncounted dollars on long-distance and local toll calls between the different properties. The organization wanted to leverage its technology infrastructure and save money on phone charges. "In Dallas we have four different area codes, [so the addition of VoIP] killed most of our long distance charges right there," Walsh says.
When looking at different VoIP systems, Jones Enterprises considered systems from Cisco, Alcatel, and 3Com, according to Walsh, who says 3Com offered the same features and functionality as the competitors, but at a lower price. Additionally, the company liked the aesthetics of the 3Com NBX 2100 series of handsets, including the phone's layout, with the dialing keypad in the middle of the phone, rather on the left or right side. There are about 350 of the 2100 series handsets currently in use throughout the organization.
The system went live earlier this year; the Cowboys saw the first major benefit in training camp this past summer. Rather than renting analog handsets or bringing cell phones--and running up bills in telecom charges--team executives where able to bring their 3Com handsets, plug them in, and use the same extensions as they do in their home offices. And there's no more 10-digit dialing, according to Walsh--now, calls within the company can be handled with simple four-digit extensions.
The change in telecom systems also gave the company a way to upgrade communications within Texas Stadium, where the Cowboys play their home games. Ticketing, catering, and merchandising operations in the stadium, as well as shops outside the arena, all rely heavily on the VoIP system on game day. The system also integrates with the legacy analog system that remains in some areas of the stadium.
Catering, in particular, can serve the needs of the patrons in the 381 luxury suites much more quickly with the new system. Rather than an employee having to go to a different part of the stadium to fill an order, a simple VoIP call communicates the information, leading to quicker order fulfillment. Similarly, merchandising areas inside and outside the stadium can communicate any needs with a VoIP call. Merchandising is particularly heavy on game days, especially the annual Thanksgiving Day game, according to Walsh.
The Cowboys have the option of taking the entire system with them when they move to a new stadium in 2007. According to Michael Leo, 3Com NBX product marketing manager, Cowboys and 3Com executives are also examining possible systems upgrades, which will enhance capacity and functionality in the systems the team and associated companies use now.
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