GTE Sole Bidder on Wireless Contract

Ma Bell bows out of a major telecom competition

AT&T, Basking Ridge, N.J., has pulled out of a major competition for a federal wireless phone contract, leaving GTE Corp., Stamford, Conn. as the sole bidder.

Both companies had lined up significant alliances for the bid: GTE has 52 partners and AT&T had gathered 112. The winning company would provide wireless communications services to the federal government, although it would be up to each agency whether to use the contract.

Bernie McKay, government markets vice president at AT&T, said the company removed itself from the Federal Wireless Telecommunication Services bid "because the procurement was non-commercial in nature."

That wouldn't work for AT&T, which recently started selling a new digital wireless product to the commercial market. "With all of the government-unique requirements, it finally reached the point where it didn't make sense," said McKay.

The contract, which is set to run over three years with five, one-year renewal options, is worth about $30 million a year in the federal market, according to Norman Berthaut, a federal market analyst at Input, Vienna, Va.

For its part, AT&T will still try to sell wireless to the federal government. "We'll go directly to the agencies," said McKay.

GTE officials said they had not received official word from anyone that AT&T had dropped out of the procurement.

"We're still treating this as a competitive procurement," said Jay Nelson, acquisition director for Post FTS 2000 programs at GTE.

"We're a little surprised that AT&T has pulled out," said Nelson. The proposal, from GTE's point of view, is not overly burdensome.

Although one would think GTE would be ecstatic to hear its only competition is throwing in the towel, AT&T's move could mean the end -- at least for now -- of the procurement.

The General Services Administration can postpone the entire procurement if it believes it is no longer competitive according to U.S. law.

Bill Bearden, a spokesman for the GSA, said, "GSA does not comment on specific vendors who may or may not be participating in an ongoing procurement.... We are proceeding with the FWTS procurement."

The competing companies' best and final offer was scheduled to be made Nov. 4, and the winner was expected to be announced by the beginning of December.

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