Telco services panel tenders being accepted by government

The new Telecommunications Services Panel will procure whole-of-government managed WAN services, transport data link services, and internet connection services.

The Australian government has gone to tender for a Telecommunications Services Panel (TSP) to produce the process by which whole-of-government internet and telco network connection services are procured.

The request for tender, submitted by the Department of Finance, would see a TSP instated until November 30, 2020, with three 12-month extension options.

The request for tender is aiming to establish a single panel of suppliers to provide terrestrial managed WAN services, satellite managed WAN services, terrestrial transport data link services, satellite transport data link services, and internet connection services, though the Department of Finance may add further categories at any time.

"The goal of this procurement is to establish a TSP that continues to deliver a competitive means to procure telecommunication services and convey continued savings to the Australian government," the call for tenders says.

The department specified that the TSP's objectives would be to decrease the amount spent on supplying network services to departments, agencies, and entities while meeting their business needs, as well as maintaining a competitive industry and ensuring that the procurement process is fair, equitable, and transparent and optimises savings for the government.

The TSP will replace the Internet Based Network Connection Services (IBNCS) Panel, which was formed in 2011 to provide network carriage services, virtual connection management services, internet protocol carriage services, and major internet connection services, and will expire this year.

Tenderers must be able to offer all TSP services across the nation, including to external Australian territories.

In supplying any telecommunications service, the contractor must see through its entire lifecycle: Service strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement.

Contractors must fulfil the requirements for physical scope; general services, including maintaining required service levels; architecture services to enable constant monitoring, delivering, reviewing, and improving of the service; engineering functions, including providing agency-specific test environments in order to design and pilot any proposed network changes; network connectivity and operations services to manage, operate, and maintain all network equipment and software, such as routers, gateways, servers, switches, and firewalls; physical network and communication network environment services; and services to plan, administer, maintain and manage cabling. The successful tenderers must also supply installs, moves, adds, and changes (IMACs) services.

Contractors would also be expected to comply with the government's many varying security requirements, and encrypt data in an Australian Signals Directorate-approved manner.

"If specified in the contract, and for the security classifications of 'unclassified' and 'protected', the contractor must: Provide TSP services which meet the ISM requirements and security classification for information (data, video, voice) being transported using the TSP services; ensure that the TSP services utilise Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)-Approved Cryptographic Protocols (AACP) and Algorithms (AACA) in accordance with the ISM; and provide engineering, design, configuration, testing, installation, monitoring, maintenance (both preventative maintenance and corrective maintenance), refresh, and upgrade services for equipment used across all 'unclassified' and 'protected' domains in the agency's network," the request for tender document says.

For transport services, the expected service levels are 50ms or less latency at 95 percent of all times; 10ms or less jitter for 95 percent of all times; 0.1 percent packet loss for 95 percent of all times; 99.99 percent availability for fully redundant fibre at all times; 99.9 percent availability for single lead-ins on business days; 99.9 percent availability for copper-connected services, including in remote locations, on business days; and 350ms or less satellite latency on business days.

Resolution times in metro and CBD areas for critical service levels are three hours of less for priority one incidents; five hours or less for priority two incidents; eight hours or less for priority three incidents; 11 hours or less for priority four; and 5 business days for a post-incident report.

These times are slightly longer for regional and remote areas: Four hours or less for priority one, and six hours or less for priority two, though the same for the third and fourth priority incidents.

Any contractor will be expected to submit monthly reports and be reviewed on an annual basis, as well as being required to submit ad hoc reports within one business day whenever requested by an agency.

No limit has been set on the number of panellists who will make up the TSP. With the caretaker period now in action due to the upcoming federal election, and considering the possibility of a change in government, Finance may also suspend or terminate the tender process at any time.

The government is accepting tenders until May 31, and will select its preferred tenderers in June. The TSP will then be established in November 2016.