GSA sets wireless purchase agreement

Smartphone in hand

The General Services Administration's new blanket purchase agreement with the four major U.S. wireless carriers will not only allow the agency to consolidate service plans and centralize device management, it could save the government hundreds of millions of dollars.

GSA said the agreement with AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon was the first of its kind for wireless service and device consolidation for the federal government.

Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, joined by executives from the four companies, announced the governmentwide BPA on May 22. Calling it a significant accomplishment that could save the U.S. government as much as $300 million in the next five years, Tangherlini said the agreement also takes advantage of the government's multibillion-dollar annual wireless service expenditure.

"By buying in bulk, we're buying once and we're buying well," Tangherlini said in a statement. "This common-sense approach allows us to do what families and businesses across America do every day. We're driving down costs, increasing efficiency, and improving service and operations. These agreements give agencies the ability to pool minutes, order plans and devices more efficiently and have greater visibility into their purchases."

This is the first time agencies have had a single governmentwide option with the ability to access a pool of unused minutes rather than paying overage fees, according to GSA. Federal agencies spend about $1.3 billion on wireless services and mobile devices annually. Until the new agreement was signed, wireless buying was split among multiple buying channels, which meant that individual agencies and offices were managing more than 4,000 wireless agreements and 800 wireless plans from various carriers.

GSA said state and local governments are also eligible to use the contract to buy service plans and devices. Agency officials said the wireless BPA is a key deliverable of the president's Digital Government Strategy, which seeks to increase the adoption of mobile technology across government. The work is also part of a larger effort led by the Office of Management and Budget to drive strategic sourcing across government.

The wireless companies' leaders praised GSA's efforts and touted the benefits of the BPA for agencies.

"Sprint is pleased to participate in this contract and believes that the GSA did an exceptional job leaning on industry and government expertise to pull it together," said Sharon Montgomery, vice president of Sprint's federal/public sector. "For years, Sprint Federal has focused on maximizing [agencies'] spend and management capabilities. This Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative will ensure that those sorts of capabilities are available to all agencies and that every dollar spent on wireless technology is maximized."

"As budgets tighten, our customers want more flexibility to find much-needed cost savings with wireless services and devices," said Kay Kapoor, president of AT&T Government Solutions. "This new agreement will allow AT&T to offer more value and options to our government customers under one contract, combining the strength of our wireless network with superior service plans and secure devices that meet their specific needs."

"From the delivery of vital citizen services to protecting the homeland, mobility is the catalyst driving transformation of day-to-day federal operations," said Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president of public-sector markets at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "Under the GSA's Wireless FSSI agreement, federal agencies will benefit from a broad array of advanced mobility solutions, including machine-to-machine and data services, powered by the reliability, speed and reach of Verizon's 4G LTE network. These services will help agencies boost productivity and accelerate information sharing."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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