Bell Atlantic Packages New Gov't. Service

Bell Atlantic Packages New Gov't. Service

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

Bell Atlantic Federal has become the latest government telecommunications provider to offer its network services in a consolidated package that combines a broad range of information technology solutions.

Bell Atlantic's new Network Performance Service (NPS), announced to its government customers in late February, brings together services such as network planning, development, testing, operations and maintenance ? services often managed and run by assorted vendors ? and puts the whole process in Bell Atlantic's hands.

The new program enables government agencies to outsource their network services to Bell Atlantic and concentrate on their own core businesses, said officials with the New York-based company.

"Our NPS offerings allow us to create stronger value-added partnerships with our customers by eliminating the need for them to self-manage their networks, so they can concentrate on delivering services to their constituencies," said Barbara Connor, president of Bell Atlantic Federal. "Our goal is to make IT network performance issues transparent to our customers."

Bell Atlantic's new program comes at a time when other telecom companies are expanding their range of professional services. On Feb. 14, AT&T Corp., the nation's largest long-distance telecom company, grabbed Vienna, Va.-based GRC to boost its professional services capabilities and pursue more outsourcing, information assurance and systems integration work from the government, said Mary Jane McKeever, senior vice president for AT&T Government Markets.

AT&T is not the only company that wants to get more federal business by buying a partner with network experience or changing its service offerings. The General Services Administration March 21 awarded a Multiple Award Schedule contract for professional engineering services to systems integrator Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif.

The Multiple Award Schedule, valued at $50 million, provides an array of engineering services to include strategic planning, requirements analysis, system design and integration, testing and evaluation, integrated logistics support and acquisition management to include outsourcing.

Also, competitor MCI WorldCom Inc., Clinton, Miss., is considering joint ventures with a consultant company or systems integrator to provide software and other IT services to customers, according to industry sources. The joint venture would be similar to what Qwest Communications International Inc., Denver, formed with KPMG LLC of New York.

Why are so many telecommunications providers linking up with other companies or adding services to include all aspects of building and maintaining the networks?

It is about providing a one-stop shop for all customers' network needs, said Richard Knop of Boles Knop & Co. LLC, an investment-banking firm in Middleburg, Va. NPS, for example, gives federal agencies a single point of accountability for building their IT networks, instead of subcontracting each individual part of the network, Bell Atlantic officials said.

The NPS approach also provides Bell Atlantic with a better framework for managing its services. Bell Atlantic will still rely on vendor partners for many of the individual network services offered with NPS. But the initiative allows the company to move away from piecemeal transactions to deliver telecommunications services and use a whole "life-cycle management" perspective, said John Eidsness, manager of product management for Bell Atlantic Federal.

Bell Atlantic Federal formed an alliance to help provide the NPS service. The partners are:

? Bell Atlantic Data Solutions, Frazer, Pa., an IP-based solution provider;

? DynaNet Corp., Columbia, Md., a company specializing in local area network help desks;

? GMSI, Rockville, Md., a company providing telecommuting solutions;

? SETA Corp., McLean, Va., a network management company;

? Wang Government Services Inc., McLean, Va., a provider of custom applications software programming, systems integration and support services.

Although Bell Atlantic has not yet sold NPS to any new government customers, it has provided life-cycle management services for Defense Department agencies in the national capital region under the Defense Telecommunications Modernization Project.

The range of services include advanced voice, data and network communications, customer equipment and technical support, design, engineering, installation, maintenance and training.

Outsourcing also provides other advantages to both businesses and their government customers, Knop said. Companies like the contracts because they are longer term, while governments obtain greater access to new skills and technology.

"Technology is changing rapidly, and a number of agencies, such as NASA and the Patent Office, are looking at outsourcing their entire network," he said. "It can help agencies refresh new technologies as they develop, and allows the government to stay up to date."

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