FAA to unify telecom systems

FAA to unify telecom systems

Agency expects technology and cost benefits in addition to bandwidth boost

By William Jackson
GCN Staff

The Federal Aviation Administration expects to get more than extra bandwidth when it consolidates its telecommunications programs under a single contract next year.

'There is no question we are going to get new technology,' said Steve Dash, FAA's division manager for acquisition management. 'More importantly, we expect to get more efficient ways of pricing.'

The agency released a draft request for proposals in September for the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure and expects to release the final RFP this month. Bidders will be pared to the top three in March, and the finalists will take part in a second round in April.

FAA expects to make an award in December 2000.

The long haul

The anticipated savings will not come at once. FTI will replace communications systems that are nearing the end of their life spans and contracts that will expire within five or six years. The new $1.9 billion contract will run for 15 years, with three base years and 12 option years.

'This is going to be a long transition,' Dash said.

One of FAA's immediate telecom needs is upgrading the Agency Data Transmission Network 2000, an IP administrative network operated under a 1994 contract with CACI International Inc. of Fairfax, Va. The WAN supports application hosts and servers and intranet sites. Last year it carried 1.3T of data per month.

'That network has seen our largest growth, on average 8 percent or 9 percent a month,' Dash said. Upgrading it to accommodate growing traffic is a near-term necessity.

On the other hand, traffic on the Leased Interfacility National Airspace System Communications System has been growing slowly. LINCS provides redundant dedicated circuits for more than 5,500 locations. Its contracts, one with GTE Corp. for services in Hawaii and one with MCI WorldCom Inc. for more than 12,000 channels in the continental United States, expire in 2004.

The transition from LINCS to FTI likely will take three years.

FAA itself owns the Data Multiplexing Network, which aggregates low-bandwidth transmissions on high-bandwidth pipes obtained through other contracts. The network has thousands of multiplexers and many analog modems a decade old. It will take several years to replace the devices, Dash said.






Who is vying for the FAA deal?



  • AlliedSignal Inc. of Morristown, N.J.
  • AT&T Corp.
  • CACI International Inc. of Fairfax, Va.
  • Computer Sciences Corp.
  • Electronic Data Systems Corp.
  • GTE Corp.
  • Harris Corp.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J.
  • MCI WorldCom Inc.
  • Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego
  • Wang Government Systems Inc. of McLean, Va.



FAA also owns the National Airspace Data Interchange Network, which is actually a pair of systems. The first, a store-and-forward messaging network used mostly for flight planning and weather data, has a pair of switches in Atlanta and Salt Lake City connected by two 9.6-Kbps circuits, each controlling a star network of concentrators. The second, an X.25 packet-switched network, augments and works in parallel with the first network.

FAA's Telecommunications Satellite System is a leased service that consolidates previous satellite services used primarily for weather radar broadcast data, as well as some en-route radar data circuits and air-to-ground voice circuits.

MCI WorldCom holds the 1996 FAATSAT contract for a base of five years with five one-year options.

Although FAA is requesting an integrated solution, whether all these systems will be replaced by a single system or several systems will be up to the winning bidder, Dash said.

The agency wants to acquire services, not equipment, he said. 'We believe we can get greater efficiency by outsourcing these functions.'

So long

That is no radical departure from present policy because 90 percent of FAA telecom capacity now is leased rather than owned, said Dave Joyce, FTI product team leader.

One change, however, is that FAA will move away from dedicated point-to-point circuits. 'We are looking for FTI to be an on-demand environment,' Joyce said.

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