Telecoms try to integrate

All of the telecommunications providers will face competition from systems integrators, said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. In the past, telecom deals focused on telephone service and then data transmission. Now, such services are often part of larger, more sweeping integration projects.

Telecom firms say they're partnering with integrators rather than trying to compete. The integrators need them as much as they need the integrators, they say.

"Systems integrators can't fully manage an infrastructure," said MCI spokeswoman Natasha Haubold. "That's one of our real strengths. A lot of contracts out there are infrastructure-based, where we have control over the infrastructure. That's extremely important for security, redundancy and reliability."

"Most of us learn to partner with each other," said Anthony D'Agata, vice president and general manager of Sprint's Government Services Division. "Our largest contract win was with an integrator." That was a $1.7 billion contract the Federal Aviation Administration awarded last year to Harris Corp. for the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure project.

"There are times we choose to partner and times we choose to compete," D'Agata said. "We base our decision on what we think the customer is really looking for."

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