It's official: GTE wins wireless pact

Capping off a 27-month effort the General Services Administration this month awarded a $300 million nationwide contract for cellular telecommunications services a move designed to cut most federal users' cellular bills by up to 60 percent.

The award is the first in a series of Post-FTS 2000 contracts to offer services in the approaching era of telecommunications reform.

The eight-year contract for Federal Wireless Telecommunications Services (FWTS) went to GTE Government Systems the sole remaining bidder after AT&T dropped out of the competition late last month. Partnered with Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile GTE will create a network of 32 cellular carriers in 734 service areas covering the 50 states Guam Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bob Woods commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service called the wireless contract "a trend-setting" procurement in terms of price and scope. Interviewed in Honolulu at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Asia-Pacific Conference Woods said he and his staff knew of no similar commercial contract providing such a large potential pool of users with the pricing service and coverage found on the GTE deal.

The scope of the GTE contract Woods added has to be considered not only in terms of coverage but also in its migration path from "plain-old cellular service" to advanced digital data Personal Communications Systems (PCS) service and options for mobile satellite cellular service.

Woods said the new contract also will offer paging services.

Jay Nelson acquisition director for Post-FTS 2000 business lines at GTE said federal employees in the 10 regions of the country that carry the most federal telecommunications traffic will save 20 to 60 percent for cellular calls depending upon the region. He said per-minute charges would fall between 22 and 66 cents with most users paying 25 to 38 cents.

Irving Zaks vice president and general manager of GTE Government's Information Systems Division said the company will waive roaming access charges that are usually added to the price of a call initiated by a user outside of the home cellular region. Although GTE will charge more for calls made by users who travel to other service regions Zaks said the company "will probably be revisiting" that issue.

John Okay deputy commissioner of FTS said users interested in subscribing to GTE's service should contact their designated FTS 2000 agency coordinators until GTE completes installation of an electronic ordering system.

An AT&T spokeswoman said her company chose to market its wireless services directly to agencies rather than compete for FWTS.

"We believe government customers will be better served outside of the FWTS contract " she said.

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