FAA telecom contract worth nearly $2 billion

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to solicit proposals in the next

two weeks for a vendor to provide nearly $2 billion in telecommunications

services for the National Airspace System.

With the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure program, the agency's

leased and owned infrastructure of multiple networks will be replaced with

a consolidated, centrally managed leased service meeting the strict availability

requirements for air traffic management and control.

An award is scheduled for March 2001, said David Lantzy, FAA's deputy

director of telecommunications. Lantzy spoke Monday during the Federal Telecommunications

Conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Telestrategies Inc.

The contract potentially be worth $1.9 billion over 10 years, based

on the estimated $200 million per year the FAA is spending now, Lantzy said

in an interview. By the time it's awarded, most of the existing leases will

expire and many legacy systems will approach the end of their service lives.

"It's a very specialized field," Lantzy said. "We don't feel the FAA

is doing the best job it can. We want to move toward full outsourcing of

all our telecom needs."

FTI should eventually reduce the costs of telecommunications services

by minimizing the inefficiencies associated with using multiple, independent

networks.

The solicitation will be about two weeks late, primarily because of

input from industry to move toward system integration and a service-oriented

approach, Lantzy said. The new services will have to be modern enough to

accommodate the FAA's rapid growth in bandwidth use as it moves to new IP-

and data-based communications, he said.

The FTI team also has been working with the General Services Administration's

team for the federal FTS 2001 telecommunications contract to incorporate

similar discounts in the FAA's contract, Lantzy said. But FAA must take

more than low prices into account, he said.

"A vendor may propose to use FTS 2001 bandwidth and pricing but the

FTS 2001 requirements are too low to meet [National Airspace System] safety

requirements," he said.

The FTI provider will be responsible for the transport layer of services,

which includes frame relay, asynchronous transfer mode, voice-over-IP, wide-area

network routers, data switches and multiplexers. At least three firms have

indicated their intent to bid FTI, Lantzy said.

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