Agencies look to integrators for telecom services

As agencies rely on service-level agreements and performance-based requirements, the traditional telecommunications industry has to evolve.

'FTS' John Johnson

Olivier Douliery

Award of $3b deal to Lockheed Martin makes USPS latest agency on the bandwagon

The Postal Service's award to Lockheed Martin Corp. of a $3 billion telecommunications infrastructure contract signals a change in the way the government is buying voice, data and video services.

Increasingly, agencies are looking to systems integrators and away from traditional telecomm carriers for network services.

'To some degree, agencies are looking for service providers rather than circuits,' said John Johnson, the Federal Technology Service's assistant commissioner for service development and delivery.

The USPS contract, with a six-year base period and four three-year options, is one of many recent deals where agencies chose systems integrators over traditional telecomm carriers.

The Homeland Security Department picked Northrop Grumman Corp. for its Homeland Secure Data Network. Northrop also runs the Treasury Department's communications system, and Computer Sciences Corp. manages the Transportation Security Administration's network under the agency's managed services contract with Unisys Corp.

Storming the barricades

'For an integrator to win a deal like USPS, it means integrators have succeeded in invading the fortress,' said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. of Jenkintown, Pa., which follows federal telecommunications trends.

'To a large degree, the future of IT is in the network. More intelligence is going into the network, and the network is no longer defined as the pipes that deliver the service but is defined by the services the network provides,' Suss added.

Johnson said systems integrators are suited to work with agencies as more procurements rely on service-level agreements and performance-based requirements to define the terms of a contract.

'As agencies move toward that environment, they need a mix of skills, which means the traditional telecommunications industry has to evolve,' Johnson said.

Lockheed Martin dissolved its global telecommunications office in 2002, but it and other integrators are looking to take advantage of telecom contracting opportunities.

Lockheed will take over from MCI Inc. the management of the Postal Service's data network as well as providing data, voice, video, wireless and managed services for the third-largest network in the world.

'Lockheed's team put together the best package for the Postal Service from a technical and financial perspective,' said Robert Otto, USPS vice president and chief technology officer. 'We will save 20 percent to 30 percent over the previous contracts.'

Lockheed's team'which includes AT&T Corp., BellSouth Corp. of Atlanta, Hewlett-Packard Co., Hughes Network Systems Inc. of Germantown, Md., Qwest Communications International Inc. of Denver, SBC Communications Inc. of San Antonio, and Verizon Communications Inc.'beat out teams led by telecommunications providers MCI and Sprint Corp. MCI was the incumbent on many of the contracts USPS is consolidating, including the network operations center.

Otto said USPS employees will see a difference within the next month because Lockheed Martin will begin upgrading some facilities immediately. He said full transition to the new provider will take between two and three years.

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