The RSC: to IP or not IP.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has signed a deal with business communications specialist CCT to support its multi-site campus and deal with the rise in ticket sales over the busy summer period.

With more than 75 percent of its box office ticket sales handled by its call centre operations, the RSC’s new IP telephony system will enable the theatre company to more easily deal with peaks in demand and operate smoothly across multiple sites.

The combination of more people staying in the UK for their holidays , the billing of popular plays A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice , The Taming of the Shrew and David Tennant and Patrick Stewart appearing in a sell-out production of Hamlet, have all contributed to a busier than usual summer. The advanced communication network has given the RSC the scalability needed to deal with the higher volume of traffic expected in its main call centres.

The RSC employs more than 700 staff and, in addition to its main Stratford campus, operates across multiple sites in the UK including offices in London’s West End and rehearsal rooms in South London. These will all be linked into the centralised IP telephony platform, seamlessly extending feature-rich communications functionality to create a ‘virtual national campus’. Telephony costs between sites will be eliminated as voice calls will effectively ‘ride for free’ over the Company’s existing data network. The RSC also plans to extend connectivity to home workers and mobile staff in the future.

CCT are rolling out the new platform in a phased implementation and will manage the complex process of migrating users as RSC staff are re-located during a £112.8 million development of the company’s new and existing sites in Stratford-Upon-Avon, including reconstruction of the iconic Royal Shakespeare Theatre which is due for completion in 2010.

The flexibility of the IP telephony platform will make it easy to add and move users and bring completed sites online as the development progresses. In addition, RSC will be able to centrally manage its communications infrastructure from the main Chapel Lane server, thus reducing administration complexity and operational costs.

CCT will implement a primary communications server at the new Chapel Lane site, and then create a ‘virtual system’ by installing a second server at The Courtyard Theatre and linking both sites via a fibre link. Should the network fail, both sites will be able to operate independently, thus ensuring communications up-time.

“In this period of massive redevelopment, maintaining communications is absolutely critical to the success of the Company,” said Chris O’Brien, Head of Information Technology at the RSC. “Our auditions for the right technology and service partner, therefore, were extremely stringent. We chose CCT because of its excellent track record in IP implementations and a very strong recommendation from another performing arts organisation, the Wales Millennium Centre. We’re confident that CCT will prove to be a safe pair of hands and are sure that we won’t suffer any nerves on the opening night of the new system.”

“We’re extremely delighted to be supporting one the UK’s most iconic and important theatre companies in this exciting period of growth and change,” said Russell Attwood, CEO at CCT. “We’re looking forward to a long and successful relationship with RSC to assist it in realising its ambition to create the best modern playhouse for Shakespeare in Stratford.”

The core of IP telephony solution will be based on Avaya Communications Manager Server and Gateway technology. As well as designing and implementing the solution, CCT will provide ongoing maintenance and supports services in a six-figure deal.

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