Nextel wins GSA pact for wireless

The General Services Administration last week awarded Nextel Communications Inc. a contract potentially worth several hundred million dollars to support wireless communications across the government.

Under the contract, Nextel will provide integrated digital cellular and radio services and products for a two-year base period and three optional one-year periods.

The technology offered by Nextel - an integration of digital cellular services, text/numeric paging and digital two-way radio - is Motorola Inc.'s IDEN (Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network) technology, which Nextel has exclusive rights to in the United States, according to Nextel.

The Federal Technology Service offered the contract because of a large demand for this integrated technology from federal agencies, said Joey Phelps, the contracting officer's technical representative at the FTS Greater Southwest Region office, which awarded the contract.

Right now, Nextel is the only vendor offering the integrated solution on a nationwide scale, analysts said. "You can get different pieces from different people...but getting it all over the same network - no," said Julie Reitman, senior analyst for wireless and mobile communications at International Data Corp.

Because of this, many agencies already have bought the Nextel service individually. "[The Federal Emergency Management Agency] has a large number of these units deployed already," Phelps said. The FBI and the Defense Department also have several thousand units in place, and judging from agency response to the FTS contracting office's inquiries, many others likely will be taking advantage of the contract, he said.

"It's a good fit for anyone that has mobile team tasking," Phelps said. "It allows the team to be in touch with each other and be in touch with their leaders at the same time, and we have a lot of agencies that are working in those conditions."

Law enforcement agencies first expressed an interest in this technology for the ability to keep in touch with other team members instantly using the two-way radio feature, Phelps said. The military quickly followed suit, he added. These agencies foresee deploying this technology during natural emergencies to establish communications within minutes of arrival, he said.

FTS already has several contracts for wireless products and services, including the $300 million Federal Wireless Telecommunications Services contract with GTE Government Systems Corp. But FTS wants to offer agencies every type of wireless service available.

"What we're trying to do is say to customers, 'If you want to communicate without a wire, and there is a service and technology out there that can help you do that, we'll have a contract for you,' " said FTS Commissioner Dennis Fischer.

"Nextel came out with a different wrinkle of technology that our current contract did not offer, and they also have the only cell phone with a speakerphone," he said. "This is a technology different from Fed Wireless, and we wanted to offer it to our customers."

The Nextel radio technology is something that cellular service vendors do not offer and are not going to any time soon, Reitman said. "[The two-way radio feature] is unique," she said. "It's a different technology altogether."

Nextel could not be reached for further comment.


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