Fort Leonard Wood's network infrastructure is now capable of calls using Voice Over Internet Protocol telephones. Calls can now be made using the installation's computer network.

The installation of more than 960 VoIP telephones has begun in various facilities as a product of the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program.

Facilities that used digital phones, which are not compatible with and would not function on the VoIP network, received the first allocation of VoIP devices.

This initial deployment and cost of VoIP equipment was centrally funded by the U.S. Army. In the future, units wanting VoIP phone devices and related services will incur VoIP costs, according to the officials at the Fort Leonard Wood Network Enterprise Center.

VoIP conversion began in January with changes to the back-end network infrastructure. VoIP phone training took place from October through early November.

The VoIP phone instruments, which cost between $250 and $300, should work seamlessly with current telephone devices, according to the NEC.

"The deployment of the VoIP phones will not affect the normal phone devices being used," said Steve Eberharter, cyber security chief, NEC.

According to Eberharter, the network is designed to support non-VoIP phones that are currently used. "The transition to VoIP should be transparent to customers who have not received VoIP phones," he said.

VoIP-enabled devices decrease the cost of voice and data communication, enhance existing features and add new communication features and data services, Eberharter said.

He said the money-saving aspect and major advantage of VoIP is the technology avoids tolls charged by ordinary telephone service.

A VoIP phone is a telephone set designed specifically for use in a VoIP system by converting standard telephone audio into a digital format that can be transmitted over the internet and by converting incoming digital phone signals from the internet to standard telephone audio.

A VoIP phone allows the user to take advantage of VoIP technology without involving a personal computer, although an internet connection is required.

Even though VoIP phones are capable of features and services not possible on regular phones, current post users will have to wait a little while.

"The VoIP phone features will be the same as currently offered, until the technology has matured, which should be about six months," Eberharter said. "Maturing means tested for reliability and functions. Only after such time will NEC offer additional features based on the customer's requirements and duties."

According to Eberharter, the entire installation will be fully VoIP functional by Jan. 15, when the half-year maturing phase begins.

A VoIP-phone set resembles a traditional hard-wired or cordless telephone set. There is the familiar ear and mouth arrangement with an earphone (or earpiece) for listening to incoming audio and a microphone (or mouthpiece) for transmitting audio.

"It's just any ordinary phone," said John Wilson, an information technology specialist with NEC, who has been using a VoIP device for more than two months.

"It rings, you pick it up, talk, you make a call; it's all the same. It's the back-end technology that makes VoIP phones capable of some fancy features, some that won't be activated until all transition bugs have been worked out," he added

Some VoIP phone sets offer enhanced quality audio, comparable to that on compact disc.

Some of the most common VoIP-related features and services are:

-- Unified messaging

-- Interactive voice recognition

-- Call center administration

-- Voice mail

-- Conferencing services

Organizations desiring VoIP phones will have to submit a capabilities request through the NEC. "It's the same as purchasing a computer," Eberharter said. "There is no complexity or difference of how the VoIP devices are purchased. Customers just submit their request, receive their phone and plug them in."