Telecom clears up over Pacific
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Jan 12, 1998
The Hawaii Information Transfer System will give Hawaii-based military services units
switched voice, switched data, Integrated Services Digital Network, and digital and analog
transmission services at bandwidths of T1 and higher.
"The current Oahu Telephone System is not able to provide ISDN services and the
futuristic type data services. But when we bring up HITS, we'll start connecting our
islands in the Pacific," said Norman Nazworthy, HITS program manager for the Defense
Information Systems Agency.
In addition to broadband ISDN, the HITS contract exploits emerging technologies like
Synchronous Optical Network ring technology--all at competitive prices for Defense
Department users in the Aloha State. Sonet is the key to HITS bandwidth, Nazworthy said.
HITS will replace an infrastructure of dedicated and switched networks called the
Hawaiian Area Wideband System and Oahu Telephone System. In some places, these systems use
copper cabling that predates World War II. Each service's post, camp or station can
replace copper with fiber-optic cables.
Although asynchronous transfer mode technology is not specified in the HITS contract,
Nazworthy said it can be put into the contract when it is more developed.
"I look at my morning reports and all I see are ATM switch outages throughout the
mainland U.S. on all the ones that DISA put in. So we're not ready for that type of
service yet," he said.
Using Sonet technology, DISA had planned to implement the first phase of the Defense
Information Systems Network within the continental United States by Jan. 15. But cutovers
to the new DISN-CONUS backbone network have been delayed until July 1998 because AT&T
failed to deliver its Sonet components.
DISA officials blame an industrywide Sonet shortage for delays in AT&T's DISN
Transmission Services-Continental United States contract. Nevertheless, they say HITS'
Sonet supply will not be affected by AT&T backlogs.
"That's because the Sonet for DISN-CONUS is provided by AT&T, whereas the
media for HITS will be provided by Oceanic Communications," Nazworthy said.
HITS subcontractor Oceanic Communications of Honolulu will provide Sonet ring
transmission technology. Automated Research Systems Ltd. of Alexandria, Va., will provide
training. Amstar Communications of Frederick, Md., will supply premise equipment, inside
wiring and site survey coordination. Wang Federal Systems of McLean, Va. will provide
fault monitoring and network management. AT&T is responsible for overall program,
security, network and systems engineering management.
DISA awarded the five-year, $291 million HITS contract to AT&T in February. But
within days, losing bidder GTE Corp., whose subsidiary GTE Hawaiian Tel enjoys a local
phone service monopoly in Hawaii, filed a protest with the General Accounting Office.
"GTE had the better technical proposal, but their price was significantly higher,
way more than anybody could justify," Nazworthy said.
GAO denied the protest, but the filing delayed the start of work on the HITS contract
until July. The two companies now have agreed to cooperate.
"It took a while before there was any cooperation. But now they're starting to
talk, and things are beginning to move," Nazworthy said.
HITS achieved initial operational capability Nov. 28. Switches have already started
going in at four sites--Wahiawa, Wheeler Army Air Field, Schofield Barracks and
Lualualei--but those sites haven't cut over to the network. Switches will be installed at
12 sites and will connect to HITS over T1 lines.
AT&T has submitted plans for connecting three other locations--Hickam Air Force
Base, Camp Smith and Fort Shafter. Four others will follow--Kaneohe, Ford Island, Barbers
Point and Pearl Harbor.
The first cutover is scheduled for March at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications
Area Master Station in Waihawa. AT&T officials have predicted they'll have the last
switch up and running by June. Full operation is slated for August.
The military services mainly outsource switch maintenance at bases in the United
States. But in Hawaii, a single HITS contract will supply and maintain the switches for
Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps installations.
The HITS contract requires regional leased telecommunications services to work with
DISN, domestic and international telecom networks, public switched networks, Government
Emergency Telecommunications Service, the Defense Satellite Communications System and
other strategic and tactical networks.
As one of three subnetworks in the Pacific, HITS will connect to networks in Japan and
Korea, creating a virtual WAN called PACNET that will link military bases throughout the
"Most of the switches in Korea and in Japan are connected with common channel
signaled networks," Nazworthy said, "but in Hawaii, there isn't a complete
network. But when HITS comes in, it will provide the catalyst to connect everything
PACNET will be leading-edge in the switching area, Nazworthy said.
For instance, he said, DOD users calling to the Pacific and getting a busy signal will
be able to dial a code to trigger a callback when the line is free.
Nazworthy estimates the price of a T1 connection between Hawaii and Japan at $50,000
per month and a T3 connection at $250,000 per month.