COMSAT wins $112M Navy pact for global net circuits

Communications Satellite Corp. last week won a $112 million contract to provide the Navy with the global communications circuits vital to the service's "network-centric" warfare strategy.

The five-year contract calls for COMSAT's Mobile Corp. subsidiary to provide the Navy with 64 kilobits/sec pipes on International Maritime Satellite (Inmarsat) Communications Organization satellites for service to ships in deployed battle groups and amphibious ready groups. These groups provide the front-line communications platforms for Marine Expeditionary Groups such as the USS Kearsarge ARG, which last week deployed Marines for service in Kosovo.

The contract also calls for COMSAT to provide terrestrial connectivity to major Navy communications centers in Norfolk, Va.; Wahiawa, Hawaii; and Naples, Italy.

The contract will provide service to ships that lack the deck space needed for the large satellite dishes used by carriers and command ships for T-1 (1.54 megabits/sec) connectivity. The Navy plans to devote half the bandwidth of each of the COMSAT Inmarsat circuits to classified traffic. The other half will be dedicated to unclassified service, including crew e-mail, which has been hailed by top Navy leadership as an important morale tool for crews and their families.

The Navy started providing 64 kilobits/sec service last year to a small number of deployed ships through an interim contract with Stratos Communications Inc. Capt. Peter Hayes, commodore of Amphibious Squadron Eleven, said in an interview earlier this year that the connectivity made a "significant change" in how he and his staff did business.

Betty Alewine, COMSAT's president, described the contract as "a significant satellite services agreement" that positions the company "to continue to meet the evolving communications needs of the Navy over the next five years."

"D" D'Ambrosio, vice president of global accounts at Stratos, said the company, which also competed for the contract, was disappointed to learn of the decision.

"Feedback we have received [on the interim contract] has been outstanding in terms of Stratos' service to the fleet," D'Ambrosio said. He added that Stratos will determine whether to protest the award to COMSAT after it receives a debriefing from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which managed the procurement.

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