DFAT's voice revamp misses date

DFAT's voice revamp slips date

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has pushed back its expected timeframe for awarding the contract to revamp its extensive international telephony network.

DFAT put the work on the market early last November, saying it expected to award a contract in January, however, in a statement issued today the department said it was still evaluating vendor responses, and a contract was now expected by mid-April.

The revamp will replace some 100, primarily Mitel-branded PABXs located around the world, over the next four years. Those systems provide telephony to around 5500 extensions located in facilities such as High Commissions and Embassies. The move will also touch DFAT's central office system, which uses Ericsson PABX hardware and Telstra's Spectrum virtual PABX service.

Also covered by the upgrade is the Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO) telephony infrastructure, as well as the Government Advanced Voice Infrastructure (GAVIN), a voice gateway located in Canberra and interconnecting with public bodies such as ANAO, the Department of Defence, Treasury, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and so on.

Meanwhile, DFAT in early February also extended a Telstra Business Systems contract for facilities management of its domestic telephony network. The contract was initially signed in April 2005 and now has a total worth of AU$6.91 million.

The department's statement said the contract covered DFAT's front reception, conference rooms, telephone operators, billing and help desk, and maintenance of the central office PABX system in Canberra, with voice support restricted to Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne only.

"All services provided under this contract relate to domestic Australia-based facilities, and predominately the central office in Canberra," the statement said.

The department declined to comment on its future intentions with respect to the Telstra contract, or the impact on it of the new international telephony contract. However, the Telstra deal is due to be put out to tender again on 31 March 2008. DFAT has around 3,000 telephone extensions located around Australia.

DFAT is Australia's public face to the world, operating in more than 80 overseas countries and with a mandate of advancing the national interest internationally. The department has some 3,400 employees in Australia and overseas.

The department will also by 4 May this year receive a report from an external consultant which is slated to assess the extent to which DFAT's ICT systems and support services are meeting current and anticipated business needs. The department revealed late last year its ICT function had come under "considerable pressure" due to recent changes in its operating environment.