TOP 100

TOP 100: Verizon Public Sector embraces customer-facing model

A common storyline stretches across three Top 100 profiles this year because with some exceptions, many government employees and contractors have had the same work-from-home environment during the coronavirus pandemic.

I spoke with leading public sector market executives at the Top 100’s three largest telecommunications companies in AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon for this year’s Top 100 edition to learn more about how those business units have contributed to the larger work of the corporations in running the networks and keeping people connected.

To hone in on Verizon for this profile: the telecommunications giant is in year two of its shift to a customer-facing model versus one modeled around products and its public sector portfolio falling within the business group, one of three across the corporation.

Verizon's share of prime contracts came in at $2.1 billion, good enough for the No. 20 spot on the 2020 Washington Technology Top 100 rankings of the largest government contractors.

As a refresh, here is how Verizon’s public sector senior vice president Mike Maiorana characterizes the opportunities ahead for the company.

“We now have end-to-end dedicated and disciplined teams, as well as funding, to bring forth solutions and services that resonate well with the customers that we’re supporting for our specific segment,” Maiorana told me.

Conversations with executives at blue chip telcos like Verizon often go back-and-forth between developments in the consumer market and enterprise markets such as government, even if they have their own unique characteristics.

COVID-19 has even further blurred the lines between both kinds of markets this year, although Maiorana has a pitch for Verizon Public Sector’s own uniqueness.

“In no other segment, are you able to help elevate and deliver for such mission-critical work to ultimately allow for these very important departments and agencies to service and support their constituents in their greatest time of need,” Maiorana said.

Take for instance this one order Verizon got from the Defense Department early on in the pandemic. USNS Comfort, a Mercy-class Navy hospital ship, was dispatched to New York City in late March to support that jurisdiction’s COVID-19 response. Verizon helped connect that ship to a wide area network.

“That’s a tall order to get a request from DOD and a few days later the ship is coming into port,” Maiorana said. “But we’re used to that because we’ve supported mission-critical customers in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), National Guard.”

On a government-wide basis, Verizon’s main goal was to help them shift rapidly to a telework posture and that meant additions of bandwidth and capacity to handle increased traffic. Verizon communicated directly with the Office of Management and Budget to describe how the networks are engineered and their other inner workings.

“You could imagine with such large workforces being displaced and now working from home or working remotely,” Maiorana said. “The network capacity, the network performance is critical, then you layer in the collaboration tools....People are now used to staring in their computer 12 hours a day going from one to the next.”

Contact center activity also increased for agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service. That too required a ramp-up in network capacity and access to collaboration tools, Maiorana said.

COVID-19’s requirements for telecommunications resources are currently going through the General Services Administration’s Networx and WITS contracts given the quick turnarounds they provide.

But that is not necessarily holding up work on the next-generation Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle run by GSA that Verizon is one of nine carriers for. Some EIS task orders, or fair opportunities, are getting pushed out to the right but bid and proposal activity remains constant.

“Certain agencies that had the mission critical ‘I’ve got to do job one, support COVID,’ we saw a delay and rightfully so,” Maiorana said. “Others that were not as much in the front line around COVID, (business as usual) related to fair opportunities.”

“We’re starting to see more of a cadence of (EIS) awards, which has been terrific,” Maiorana added.

Two big wins with a combined $885 million ceiling came in last year from the IRS and Social Security Administration. The biggest one yet came earlier this month from the Health and Human Services Department at a ceiling of $2.5 billion over up to 12 years.

Even with what today’s demands bring, Maiorana highlighted Verizon’s “lean in” bent eyeing the future even as some of it goes more toward now.

There is what Verizon is doing in the 5G arena, which has applicability for all customers individual and enterprise alike. Verizon’s 5G coverage is available in 35 metropolitan areas with plans to be in 60 by the end of this year.

“People realize how important dynamic bandwidth is and when you’re getting the network performance that we’re seeing with 5G, it not only elevates how that smartphone will perform, but it will elevate how the enterprise will perform as agencies are looking to include 5G in their wide area network access planning,” Maiorana said.

Within its 5G lab in Washington D.C., Verizon has briefed federal agencies over the last 18 months on possible use cases. Maiorana said Verizon is standing up a similar lab for the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to test new 5G capabilities.

A pair of other 5G-for-government efforts Maiorana pointed to include rolling out a network for the Veterans Affairs Department’s hospital in Palo Alto, California to support telehealth; plus the launch of a node at the Marine Corps’ Miramar station in San Diego to eventually create “smart bases” for the future.

In Maiorana’s words, Verizon is also “anxiously awaiting” the first batch of prototype awards from the National Spectrum Consortium and expects to be “very active” in future 5G bids.

His pitch on Verizon’s behalf?

“Because we’ve delivered on what we already have enabled, our teams have a license to be proactive and lean in with our clients on new capabilities like 5G.”

Since our conversation took place, Verizon gave more details on the future of its federal business in the wake of Maiorana’s announcement in March that he would leave Verizon at the end of this year for a new venture. Former Amazon Web Services executive Jennifer Chronis joined Verizon in early August as head of the federal business. Chronis previously was general manager of AWS’ Defense Department unit.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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