Army, Air Force cellular buys to save $200M
- By Bob Brewin
- Sep 25, 2006
The Army and Air Force have negotiated blanket purchase contracts since this spring for cellular telephone service and equipment with the major wireless carriers that will save the two services over $200 million between now and 2011, a contracting officer for the Army’s Information Technology, E-Commerce, and Commercial Contracting Center (ITEC4)-West estimated.
Linda Van Collie, ITEC4-West contracting officer for the wireless deal, said the cellular contracts provide discounts of 17 percent or more depending on the rate plan, with savings achieved through leveraging the combined buying power of Army and Navy cell phone users through contracts developed under the Army and Air Force Strategic Sourcing Program and the Defense Department Strategic Sourcing Wireless Initiative. She said the contracts have built-in “cost avoidance” as they also offer users free handsets.
Van Collie said Defense Telecommunications Service-Washington, which provides wired and wireless service to users in the Pentagon and other facilities in the Washington area, has also signed onto the wireless BPAs, and the Navy has also expressed interest in the contracts. Other agencies outside DOD are also interested in using the BPAs, Van Collie said. The contracts are mandatory for Army users and suggested for Air Force users, she said.
Chris Hill, vice president of the government solutions group at Cingular Wireless, said his company’s BPAs have a wide range of discounted pricing plans, including an unlimited voice and data plan that comes in at under $100 a month.
Cingular does not offer such a service even to its large commercial customers, Hill added, with the closest comparison being a combined unlimited data and unlimited voice plan that would cost about $250 a month, Hill said.
Army and Air Force users can also receive free basic handsets, but they will have to pay for higher-end models, such as the Razr phone or Motorola or BlackBerry e-mail terminals, Hill said. “We’re not giving away Razrs or BlackBerrys,” he said.
Cingular does offer a free laptop data card to users who purchase an unlimited data package from the BPA, Hill said. Commercial pricing for data cards runs around $75.
Commands can also save money by bundling minutes on monthly call plans for all users within the command, Hill said. Eileen Marhefka, a public sector sales manager at Sprint Nextel, said her company also offers similar bundled rate plans on its Army/Air Force BPA and added that the BPA rates “were better than commercial” but she did not detail these rates.
Other companies holding Army/Air Force BPAs are Alltel, Apriva, CellHire, Metrocall, SkyTel Communications, T-Mobile, WorldCell and Verizon Wireless.