Non-incumbent carriers on GSA's new telecommunications contract hope federal agencies are looking to diversify their solicitations.
As the government begins to shift between its expiring Networx telecommunications contract and the new $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, new contractors are hoping they'll get a chance to compete.
The issue for vendors who aren't incumbents on Networx is trying to get agencies to pay attention to their pricing and solutions alternatives.
"Agencies are under tremendous cost pressure. We hope they will shop by price" under EIS, said Diana Gowen, senior vice president at MetTel, one of nine prime contractors on EIS.
The non-incumbent carriers may face more headwinds in obtaining authorizations to operate than the big players. AT&T, Centurylink and Verizon received ATOs in March, allowing them to bid on early EIS task orders.
MetTel, BT Federal, CoreTech, Granite Telecommunications, Harris and Microtech have yet to receive their ATOs. The six providers, however, are neck-and-neck in the General Service Administration's latest report on back office system testing, a crucial process that must be completed before they receive authorities.
GSA "is grinding through the ATO process," said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting Group and former commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service. "I worry the process has been slow, but the slowest two carriers are over 60 percent done," he said in an interview before the May report was issued.
GSA has set a deadline of September for agencies to issue EIS task orders. For carriers expecting to earn ATOs over the summer, there could be a scramble to address that first wave of solicitations. Executives from the smaller carriers are also concerned that agencies are now planning their solicitations not knowing which companies will be able to respond.
Woods said the smaller carrier contractors also have to do business development work to address potential agency solicitations, on top of working to do back office testing. Doing both, he said, can tax smaller carrier resources.
Agency IT officials are also watching the progress of ATOs.
"We need them [second-tier carriers] to get their ATOs," one senior IT official at a big federal agency told FCW recently. That agency is looking for diverse options as it moves to leverage EIS to transform its IT operations and wants as many provider options as possible, the official said.
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