July 27, 2015

New IP phones in the White House

(Updated: January 16, 2017)

From a recent photo from the Oval Office, we learn that, probably last May, new telephones for non-secure calls have been installed in the White House. They replace older ones, that were used there since 1996.

The new devices are IP phones, which means they run over an internal packet-switched IP network, instead of a traditional circuit-switched telephone network.

The new Avaya 9608

The new device is a dark gray office phone, model 9608, made by Avaya, which is a leading American manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Avaya was previously part of Lucent Technologies, which was a spin-off of AT&T.

This model is relatively simple, it's one that is commonly used in offices all over the world. It just has an average monochrome display - not a fancy color touch screen, like other high-end executive models from Avaya's 9600-series.

Although that may look nice, for the president such features would not be of much use, as most of his calls are made through an operator from the White House switchboard.

President Obama talks on his phone for secure calls with Secretary of State
John Kerry. In front of it there's the new Avaya 9608, July 13, 2015.
(White House photo by Pete Souza - Click to enlarge)

The new Avaya 9608 phone has no special security features, as it is used for all non-secure calls, both within and outside the White House.

The Cisco 7975G

For secure calls that have to be encrypted, the president uses the other phone on his desk, which is a Cisco 7975G Unified IP Phone (with expansion module 7916). This is also a very widely used high end office phone, and as such not specially secured itself, but here it is connected to the dedicated Executive Voice over Secure IP (VoSIP) network, which connects the White House with some of the most senior policy makers and provides the highest level of encryption.

Update: The new IP phone was also placed underneath the side-table in the seating area of the Oval Office, as can be seen in this picture:

President Obama and FBI Director James Comey speak to members of
the media in the Oval Office of the White House, June 13, 2016.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais - click to enlarge)

The previous Lucent 8520

For non-secure calls, the new Avaya replaces the Lucent 8520T on Obama's desk. This Lucent phone was from the most widely used business phone series worldwide. It came in use in 1996, when the White House got a completely new telephone system, which was installed by AT&T and costed 25 million US Dollar.

This new system consisted of an automated private branch exchange (PBX) with black executive phone sets models 8410 and 8520 from Lucent, with the large 8520 on the president's desk in the Oval Office:

The previous Lucent 8520 and the Cisco 7975 on Obama's desk, July 31, 2011
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Before 1996, the White House still used the manual switchboard from the days of president Johnson. On the president's desk there was even the push button version of the Western Electric 18-button Call Director dating back to the 1960s. The installation of the new telephone system under president Clinton is also discussed in this television report:

NBC television on the new White House phone system (1996)

See also:

- The presidential communications equipment under Barack Obama
- Does Obama really lack cool phones?
- A White House staff phone

- Overview of older Presidential Telephones of the United States


Gun Mayhem 2 said...

its great as your other articles : D, thanks for posting .

Pabx Dubai said...

As the President of United States of America has changes. I believe he will change the current IP Phone systems as well.

In Dutch: Meer over het wetsvoorstel voor de Tijdelijke wet cyberoperaties