Deadline coming up for biggest federal telecom deal

$20 billion Networx program will define the future of federal telecom for at least 10 years. Internet telephony, video conferencing, multimode cellular, wireless internet, are among requirements.

Contrary to appearances, the federal government is intent on building state-of-the-art, next-generation telecommunications systems. And, the Washington Post reports, any contractors wanting a piece of that action will need to be on the General Services Administration's $20 billion Networx contract. The winners will be chosen over the next few months.

According to GSA's Networx overview page:

Networx will introduce new technology, new industry partners, and new ways to achieve a more efficient and effective government. It will allow agencies to focus resources on building a seamless and interoperable operating environment while GSA ensures agency access to the best technology industry has to offer.

There are two pieces to Networx: Universal and Enterprise.  Universal is the largest piece of the contract, and its requirements are substantial. Writes the Post:

Bidders must be able to serve more than 15,000 locations in the United States and overseas. The work will include some noncombat communications for the military and U.S. missions in roughly 190 countries. The 1,000-page request for proposals goes well beyond the traditional realm of voice, video and data transmission. It includes requirements for communications over fixed and mobile satellite dishes, Web videoconferencing, and cell phone and wireless Internet services. It would prepare the government for a world in which voice, video and data are increasingly sent over the Internet instead of phone lines.

Ultimately, it may mean providing a federal worker sitting at a desk with an Internet phone, videoconferencing, e-mail and data, all flowing over a single communications pipeline.

Enterprise is a more focused program that enables small and medium business to apply. There are four major bidders for Universal - Sprint, MCI, AT&T and Qwest, each with dozens of partners among government  and defense contactors. The Post reports that the GSA official in charge of Networx was looking at only two or three winners for Universal and five for Enterprise. So at least one company will be out in the cold for at  least 10 years.

After being picked as a Networx provider, the telecom can go after individual agency business. "When the winners win . . . what we really have is a license to hunt," said one AT&T exec.

Washington Technology is  hosting an online forum on Networx on Thursday, Oct. 13. with former GSA officials John Okay and Robert Woods.

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