Longare, Italy -- Soldiers, civilians and local nationals gathered to witness an end of an era as 509th Signal Battalion hosted the decommissioning of the Longare Electronic World Switch Digital, or EWSD, end office telephone switch.

The event followed a highly successful initiative to upgrade legacy voice services on the site to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.

The legacy EWSD telephone switch was part of the larger Defense Switched Network (DSN), providing U.S. government dialing services worldwide and a cornerstone of the U.S. Army's ability to communicate over the past 12 years. Evolution in communications technology in recent years has rendered the switch obsolete.

The 509th, whose mandate is to provide communications support "South of the Alps" to U.S. forces across Italy, the Balkans, the Black Sea region and Africa, has been working to field next-generation VoIP services across Southern Europe. The decommissioning of the Longare EWSD is the beginning of the implementation of the new system.

According to Todd Hunt, chief, Network Infrastructure Division, "The decommissioning of the EWSD switch represents an honorable end to an analog era on the Longare campus as we replace this legacy system with the latest converged network technology. The advent of unified capabilities has enabled us to stand down extensive communications facilities, significantly reducing our operations and maintenance footprint across the theater while enhancing the quality of voice services to the warfighter."

The process of instituting VoIP services as the primary means of telecommunications began in September 2016 when the Signal Battalion concluded a campus-wide migration of all analog voice subscribers from the EWSD switch to the regional VoIP enclave. Since then, upgrades to the VoIP network have introduced several key service enhancements to include voice mail and call handling capabilities.

Overall, the network equipment and VoIP instruments on Longare campus represent a $250,000+ investment and the beginning of a series of five sites across the area of operations scheduled to be decommissioned over the next 18 months.

The 509th's team of trusted professionals continues to lead the way in providing next-generation communications support to more than 23 sites in eight countries as well as deployable VIP communications support on the continent of Africa.