FAA keeps telecom partner

The Federal Aviation Administration announced plans to extend its contract

with WorldCom Inc. (formerly MCI WorldCom) to operate the telecommunications

network that carries the most critical data in the nation's air traffic

control system.

The services provided by WorldCom on the Leased Interfacility National

Airspace System Communication System (LINCS) will become part of the consolidated

telecommunications program, a future $2 billion contract called the FAATelecommunications

Infrastructure.

But the FAA's existing contract with WorldCom for LINCS expires in March

2002, well before the agency expects to have its new program fully implemented,

said Steve Dash, FAA acquisition manager for telecommunications.

Meanwhile, the FAA will issue WorldCom a sole-source contract worth

up to $500 million to provide services until as late as 2007. The FAA is

planning to award FTI in June 2001 but will implement it over several years,

Dash said.

Extending FAA's contract with WorldCom for LINCS has "long been the

strategy" to bridge the gap between the two contracts without losing services

on a critical network, Dash said.

LINCS provides connectivity to all National Airspace System facilities,

including air traffic control towers. WorldCom also is providing FAA certain

long-distance telephone services, dedicated transmission services, calling

card services, toll-free number services and other telecommunications through

the FTS 2001 contract being implemented at the Transportation Department.

WorldCom, Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management and Harris Corp. all

plan to compete for the FTI contract.

Telecommunications analyst Warren Suss said he sees the bridge contract

with MCI as a backup if there are delays in the contract or transition period

of FTI.

"I don't think there has been a single major government network where

the government hasn't issued a bridge contract to cover their contingencies,"

Suss said. "It doesn't commit them to spending that much money. It doesn't

commit them to that much time."

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