Critical Bosnia communication contract up for grabs

The Army is seeking bids on the integral communications network that links U.S. forces in Bosnia with a satellite-fed wide-area network.

The job is up for recompetition, with an award due by the end of next month, just as the Texas National Guard takes over the peacekeeping mission from the active duty Army.

Sprint won the initial contract for the Bosnia network, which provides high-speed data access and voice telephone service to even remote base camps.

Since October 1996, the Bosnia contract has garnered Sprint about $40 million in business, according to industry sources. The destruction wrought by the Bosnian civil wars wiped out most of the communications infrastructure in Bosnia, requiring Sprint to build the equivalent of seven commercial Internet and voice switching centers packed with routers and hubs. The company moved all of that equipment in transportable vans, flown to Europe and then driven to Bosnia.

The new Bosnia contract will run five years with an estimated value of $50 million. Besides Sprint, it has attracted bidders including teams led by Siemens A.G. of Germany and L3 Communications of the United States, industry sources said.

Communicators from the Texas Guard — due to arrive in Tuzla, Bosnia, on Feb. 7 — view the commercial network as integral to their mission. Maj. Brian Attawy, deputy director of information management for the Guard's 49th Armored Division, said, "we're falling in on the Sprint network. We're responsible for managing it, as well as integrating our tactical networks with the commercial network. It's complicated...in some places [in Bosnia] you find six different kinds of phones."

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