FAA's telecom program reaches 'milestone'

Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration's Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) program — a 15-year effort aimed at improving telecommunications at more than 5,000 FAA facilities nationwide — reached a milestone this week when the agency certified its FTI National Test Bed.

Harris Corp., the systems integrator the FAA selected for the FTI program last July, will use the test bed to conduct service integration verification, ensuring that FTI operational interface and performance requirements are met. Receiving final certification paves the way toward implementing the initial phase of FTI services.

Located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., the test bed will also be used by the FAA for operational testing before full FTI deployment.

"This is an important milestone in the FTI program," said John O'Sullivan, FTI program vice president for Harris' government communications systems division. "The test bed is now fully installed and configured to support transition to the initial services that will comprise the backbone of the FTI network."

The FTI program is designed to consolidate older systems into a single infrastructure, delivering a greater range of networks. Included in this group is the Leased Interfacility National Airspace Systems Communications System, a transport network that links more than 5,000 locations and 14,000 connections.

Other systems to be phased out are the Data Multiplexing Network, Bandwidth Manager and National Aviation Data Interchange Network.

According to Steve Dash, FTI program manager for the FAA, the program is on schedule for the initial phases of implementation. These beginning phases include the recently completed test bed, the Network Operations Control Center's development and commencing the testing program.

The next two major phases involve completing the testing and security certification processes. After that, the FAA hopes to have initial FTI services to two "Pathfinder" facilities — Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Worth, Texas — in place by the end of the year.

Harris is leading a telecommunications team consisting of BellSouth Corp., Qwest Communications International Inc., SBC Communications Inc., Sprint and Verizon Communications to accomplish the task. In addition, Raytheon Technical Services Co. is performing on-site technical services and support for the FAA's facilities nationwide.

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