Nortel prevails in Social Security protest

Originally posted at 11:36AM March 18; updated at 10:41AM March 19

(UPDATED) Nortel Government Solutions has prevailed in a protest of its $300 million contract to build a voice-over-IP network for the Social Security Administration.

Nortel won the contract in July 2007, but it was protested by AT&T Inc. Now that the protest has been rejected, work on the Telephone Systems Replacement Project can begin, Nortel officials said.

The project is believed to be the largest VOIP deployment in the world and will support 55,000 field office agents. It will include a centrally managed contact center with unified messaging and interactive voice response capabilities.

"This is a confirmation that VOIP is an enterprise solution," said Mike Paige, chief operating officer of Nortel Government Solutions. "To date most deployments have been much smaller and on the edge of the enterprise."

SSA wants to upgrade and improve its services because the agency anticipates an influx of new users as baby boomers retire, Nortel said.

Nortel said the agency expects the new VOIP network to help consolidate monthly public network service charges, decrease operating and maintenance costs, and establish a platform for future services.

Nortel's solution also will give SSA's network a common look and feel to their networks, which will save costs in training and support, Paige said.

"Today there are separate networks for data and telephony, but as you merge them into one backbone, you can have significant cost savings," Paige said.

Other agencies will be watching the roll-out at the agency. "It is clear in talking to [chief information officers] that they'll look at it," he said. "They'll be asking more questions on how they can take advantage of the trail SSA has blazed."

Implementation will begin immediately. In the first year, Nortel will replace existing telephone systems in 205 of the agency's nearly 1,600 field offices. The company will replace 500 systems per year after that. The contract also includes network integration operation, maintenance, user support and training.

A major advantage of a VOIP network is the information SSA can collect with it. "They want to understand the call flow and volume and use that data to make business decisions," Paige said.

Nortel has built a data mining and reporting capability that will allow SSA to extract the information it wants, he said.

In making their proposal to SSA, Nortel had to show that the quality of service was at the same level with a VOIP network as with a traditional network. Security was another area where Nortel had to prove the capabilities of the VOIP solution, he said.

Nortel is using its Communication Server 1000 switching, Media Processing Server 500 IVR, the Unified Messaging 2000 core platform and CallPilot, and IP Phone 1100 Series handsets.

Nortel's teammates include General Dynamics Corp., Black Box Network Services, Shared Technologies Inc., York Telecom, High Wire Networks Inc., NetIQ Corp., NetCom Technologies Inc. and Planning and Learning Technologies Inc.

The SSA win joins other government VOIP deployments for Nortel. The company also is working on projects at the Senate and Defense, Energy, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments, the company said.

Nortel ranks No. 90 on Washington Technology's 2007 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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