DOE spurns GSA cell pact

The Energy Department has issued a request for technical proposals for agencywide cellular service turning its back on a recently awarded General Services Administration wireless contract designed to cut most federal users' cellular bills by more than half.

In what may lead to similar contracts governmentwide DOE officials are hoping to negotiate a better deal for nationwide cellular service under an indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity procurement."The technical folks took a look at what GSA had to offer " said Jody Naleppa a DOE contract specialist. "Based on our historical information [and GSA contract analysis]&hellip we saw the potential to get a better price [and] we made the decision to try to go competitive."

DOE is forgoing GSA's eight-year Federal Wireless Telecommunications Services (FWTS) pact a $300 million contract awarded in November to GTE Government Systems after AT&T Co. the only other bidder pulled its bid. The contract should cut most federal users' cellular bills by up to 60 percent.

John Okay deputy commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said he was surprised to learn of DOE's move. He said he was not aware of any other agencies moving to contract independently for services offered under FWTS.

"We believe we have an excellent contract [with] excellent prices nationwide " Okay said. "We have price management mechanisms in the contract that guarantee we will be getting prices better than the largest commercial customers. An agency will be hard pressed to do better than that."

DOE envisions a two-year contract for 200 to 1 000 phones. The agency currently has 460 cellular phones through a contract with Cellular One.

Proposals for the contract which will be awarded by Jan. 31 were due today. The contract which calls for services only - there are no hardware requirements - will provide cellular access from Motorola Attache STARTAC Sony and secure telephones. Service requirements for the fixed-price contract will include FTS 2000 call forwarding conference calling call waiting digital dialing electronic billing freedom link and long distance.

The DOE solicitation requires cellular services in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and will include but not be limited to Idaho Falls Idaho Richland Wash. Albuquerque N.M. Livermore Calif. Kansas City Mo. Las Vegas Amarillo Texas Golden Colo. Chicago and Oak Ridge Tenn.

Warren Suss a telecommunications consultant based in Jenkintown Pa. said other agencies may be prompted to follow DOE and issue their own cellular service contracts.

"It's certainly possible they could get a better price " Suss said. "The federal wireless contract at the end had only one bidder. In an environment like that the government does not get the price it would get if there were two bidders at the end. The intention of the FTS 2000 project is to have multiple providers competing to drive down the prices."

According to Suss GTE must closely monitor its pricing structure or face the possibility of other agencies spurning the GSA contract to search for a better deal in the evolving federal procurement market. "Without the Brooks Act agencies do have much more independence " he said. "The challenge to GSA is to offer services that are so attractive in terms of price and features that agencies should have no motive to go off and buy separately."

GTE Vows to Adjust Rates

Jay Nelson GTE's federal wireless telecommunications program manager said FWTS prices which were based upon the use of 83 minutes per month will be adjusted during the next year to take into account the competitive price structures in various metropolitan areas. "When we find the contract is not competitive for any reason&hellip we have the ability to lower our prices " Nelson said. "[DOE's solicitation] may highlight that we have a shortcoming here in the Washington area. The flexibility of this contract allows us to go back in and adjust. We would welcome the competition."

Nelson said GTE is ooking into DOE's solicitation but declined to reveal whether it plans to bid. GTE is partnered with Nynex Mobile and Bell Atlantic under the FWTS contract.

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