Department of Finance hunts for fibre optic communications service panel

A request for tender has been launched to find a maximum of 12 contractors that can maintain, service, expand, and protect the agency's network and associated infrastructure.

The Department of Finance is looking to create a panel that can provide fibre optic infrastructure works and services to the agency.

According to tender documents, the Department's Government Network Services Branch (GNSB), which is responsible for providing support to the government's Intra-government Communications Network (ICON) and the Ministerial Communications Network (MCN), is after a panel of a maximum of 12 contractors that can maintain, service, expand, and protect its network and any associated infrastructure.

"Finance is seeking to engage suitably qualified contractors with the expertise and experience to deliver repairs and maintenance, minor works and small to medium capital projects on time, on budget and with a customer focussed outlook," the department outlined in the documents.

ICON currently links over 85 government agencies in Canberra and operates 3,852 fibre connections. The network has 1,766 pits, 840 kilometres of fibre cables, and 102,000 kilometres of individual fibres. The government spends approximately AU$5 million per year on new connections to the network and AU$3 million in annual uptake.

The work required to be carried out is divided into three service categories: Minor works and associated services; fibre optical splicing and testing services; and civil infrastructure, minor construction, and cabling services.

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Specifically, this includes supplying and installing new pits; installing new lead-in cables; supplying and installing sub-ducts between pits; and perform tests to verify that services are properly completed.

The tender documents outlined that tenderers can tender for one, some, or all three of the work categories, stating that tenderers must tender for all the services in a single service category and not just part of those services.

In addition to carrying out work for these service categories, the documents also noted that successful contractors will be required to carry out minor works from "time to time" for GNSB, including site map analysis; 24/7 emergency call out capability; site coordination and supervision capabilities; and minor infrastructure repairs.

Finance said while the panel will be created for three years, there is the potential to extend it for three further periods spanning two years each.

"Any such extension will be at Finance's discretion, and will be based on available funding and satisfactory performance by the contractor/s of its obligations under its DoSO (deed of standing offer) and will be subject to written agreement between the parties," the Department of Finance outlined in the documents.

Ahead of tender closing 14 November 2019, Finance said it will carry out an industry briefing on 17 October 2019.

Once a panel is formed, service is scheduled to commence on 1 April 2020.

At one point, the Australian government had considered selling off ICON when it appointed KPMG to advise on the potential sale in 2015.  

Earlier this year, the Digital Transformation Agency published a discussion paper on its ideas to refresh the whole-of-government telecommunications panel, that considered the inclusion of further services, such as dark fibre, unified communications, and software-defined WAN (SDWAN).

The new telecommunications panel would consolidate the expiring mobile panel, the expired telecommunications management panel, and the current telecommunications services panel. It would also see the addition of new categories not currently under a panel arrangement.

Currently on the telecommunications service panel that was announced last December include Telstra, TPG Network, Macquarie Telecom, Verizon Australia, Nextgen Networks, and Sliced Tech.

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