NY CIO: Wireless network project award is daunting task

The state of New York faces a major challenge next month when officials begin evaluating the bids for a statewide wireless network because of the complexity of the technology involved.

"The difficulty in judging such an award is that we can't predict what technologies will be included in the responses," James Dillon, the state's chief information officer, told Washington Technology Dec. 17. "So we will have to judge and compare in a way that gets as close to apples to apples as we can."

State officials may find themselves evaluating wireless technologies from both the commercial and defense sectors, Dillon said. "We may end up dealing with different technologies," he said.

Bids on the 8-year, $400 million statewide wireless network project are due Jan. 7. The request for proposal was released June 3, 2002.

Tom Davies, senior vice president at the market research firm of Current Analysis, Sterling, Va., said evaluating the bids and making sure that industry capabilities match government requirements for the statewide wireless network is a daunting task.

To help it make the best selection, the New York Office for Technology might hire a consulting firm that specializes in public safety communications, he said.

New York is one of about a dozen states that have plans in the works to upgrade their statewide communications systems for justice, public safety, and public health operations, Davies said.

New York is the first to issue an RFP, and its project "will be one of the largest and most complex," he said.

The project initially was envisioned as providing wireless infrastructure for the New York State Police, but it's scope has been broadened to include the state's criminal justice, public safety and transportation functions, Dillon said.

The state expects no more than a handful of teams to bid on the project because of its complexity, Dillon said.

Eighty-seven companies attended a pre-bid conference last June. Among the 20 companies that subsequently filed an intent to bid as prime contractor were Accenture Ltd., General Dynamics Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., M/A-Com Inc., Motorola Inc., Nextel Inc., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Verizon Inc.

The state will take at least three months, and perhaps longer, to evaluate and award the project, Dillon said. The winning team is scheduled to start work on the project before the close of 2003, he said.

Dillon said that the state's first-hand experience with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has impressed upon it the need for interoperability. He said that the statewide wireless network would provide New York state and local government with the capability to respond to any future emergency, whether a security matter or natural disaster.

"This will be a system that is working when everything else fails," he said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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