Skytel offers government nationwide paging service

Skytel Government is offering federal users nationwide paging services following an agreement with the General Services Administration earlier this month that extends the scope of Skytel's contract with the agency.

Kathy Garrett chief of telecommunications acquisition at GSA's Greater Southwest Region headquarters said Skytel's contract initially covered only 11 states in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions of the country but has been extended to all 50 states Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the request of customers. The contract was awarded last July.

The agreement puts Skytel in a position to compete with GTE Government Systems the recent winner of a more comprehensive GSA contract for wireless services. GTE officials said they plan to add paging services to their contract this year.

George Spohn Skytel's director of government sales said his company's SuperCarrier network formed with the cooperation of about 2 500 common carriers of paging services gives Skytel the ability to offer the most ubiquitous paging services available. Spohn said Skytel will ascertain where its federal customers live work and travel and ensure that the appropriate carriers are on-board to serve each user.

"The problem with paging is that there are over 2 500 carriers and they are all operating on different frequencies " Spohn said.

Skytel vs. GTE

Spohn believes SuperCarrier will give Skytel an edge compared with GTE when customers begin choosing between the two vendors.

Jay Nelson acquisition director of Post-FTS 2000 business lines at GTE said his company is working on adding a paging feature to its Federal Wireless Telecommunications System contract with GSA and that he is prepared to compete with Skytel for federal users.

Skytel will offer two-way paging which Spohn said will allow users to respond to messages in their pagers with a canned reply. He said users also may buy devices manufactured by Wireless Access Inc. San Jose Calif. to create replies that consist of up to 500 characters. The devices allow users to send and receive messages via the Internet he said.

Spohn said the Wireless Access devices feature a control similar to a joystick that allows users to move a cursor and select characters for creating messages. "It sounds cumbersome but it actually goes rather quickly once you get used to it " he said.

New Contract Terms

Garrett said the renegotiated contract will be worth up to $19 million - up about $9 million from the original contract. It will run for one year followed by two optional one-year terms. She said Skytel will waive activation fees and provide free service for one to two months to agencies ordering 200 or more units. The company will charge users the same rate regardless of their location she added.

Discount Rates

Spohn said Skytel's rates on the contract fall 25 to 35 percent below its commercial rates. The company will offer additional discounts depending upon the total number of units purchased off the contract as a whole. The additional discount ranges from 12 percent for up to 25 000 units to 16 percent for more than 75 000 units he said.

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