Integrators walk the telecom high wire

Steve LeSueur

No question about it, the telecom industry is a mess.

WorldCom Inc. and Global Crossing Ltd. have filed for bankruptcy. Qwest Communications International Inc. is restating revenue and earnings. Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations into questionable accounting practices.

Meanwhile, the government still has massive networking and communications requirements.

The fallout from these telecom woes may be that systems integrators strengthen their positions as prime contractors on telecom-rich IT projects. Or integrators, looking to protect customers against market turbulence, may develop new teaming arrangements with telecom firms. Or both.

Take the example of Harris Corp., which won the $1.7 billion Federal Aviation Administration Telecommunications Infrastructure contract. Harris didn't team with just one telecom company ? it signed on five. The diversity of the team was a key to winning the contract, company officials said.

Harris won out over a team led by Lockheed Martin Corp., which had AT&T Corp. as its telecom partner, and a team led by WorldCom.

In our cover story, Staff Writer Patience Wait explores how integrators are adjusting their strategies to compensate for present telecom troubles. As one executive said, the last thing you want is a partner suddenly reeling from bankruptcy and scandal six months down the road.

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