Sprint wins bulk of DOD low-speed network services

Sprint captured the largest initial order on a new $600 million, multiple vendor, 10-year Defense Department contract to provide relatively low-speed network services departmentwide across the United States.

The Defense Information System Agency created the program to meet the needs of DOD organizations that are not located near a major wideband DOD communications node in the lower 48 states. AT&T Government Markets and MCI WorldCom also were awarded contracts.

Frank Pacello, DOD branch manager at Sprint Government Markets, said his company won a three-year contract to provide 534 of the 666 circuits covered by the new Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) contract, indicating that "we are very competitive in this market. This was a price-based competition." Pacello congratulated DISA for "taking a multivendor approach. It levels the playing field."

Pete Paulson, chief of networks for DISA, said DOD needs the new contract vehicle - the DISN Transmission Services-Continental U.S. Extension - "because we still have a requirement to provide a significant number of subT-1 [1.544 megabits/sec] circuits...which we then typically plug into our backbone."

Paulson said these circuits connect DOD units or activities, such as a recruiting station in a small city or a remote radar site into a DISN wideband hub. There, he explained, the smaller circuits are bundled together for transmission on the wideband DISN transmission network operated by AT&T.

Paulson called multiple vendor contracts "a new way of doing business.... We want to see what this kind of competition can do for us." Paulson described the subT-1 circuit requirements as "mostly regional [rather than transcontinental] in nature," and he believes that this will play to strengths one or more of the vendors on the new contract have in various areas of the country.

Warren Suss, a Pennsylvania analyst who follows the federal market, said the new multiple vendor contract marks a new approach for DISA, which in the past has awarded major contracts only to single carriers. "DISA's strategy is now to treat transport as a commodity," Suss said, adding that he expects DISA to "aggressively" compete new circuit requirements between the three vendors.

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