MCI, Sprint Juice Up FTS 2001

WASHINGTON (05/01/2000) - In hopes of enticing agencies to transition to FTS 2001, Sprint Corp. and MCI WorldCom Inc. have added several cutting-edge services to the U.S. General Services Administration's telecommunications contract.

The new offerings include high-speed networking services and equipment, as well as Internet-related services.

"The agencies helped us define our priorities," said Zane Shankar, group manager of FTS 2001 modifications for Sprint. "These are items they told us they wanted."

Because agencies are free to buy telecom services from other contracts and because the FTS 2000 contract has been extended through December 2000, many agencies have been reluctant to switch their long-distance carrier.

In addition, services such as World Wide Web hosting and encryption were not available on the FTS schedule, causing some agencies to hold off on deciding whether to transition, sources said.

MCI WorldCom has asked GSA to approve 27 modifications to its FTS 2001 contract. Among the modifications are price reductions to reflect current market prices and additional services for supporting agency call centers.

"There is a high demand for call-center services that will handle everything from telecommunications to PC desktop services," said Richard Slifer, director of FTS 2001 for MCI. "GSA has been great about listening to the agencies' needs and looking at what the vendors have to offer and adding services [to FTS 2001]."

MCI would also like to add more frame-relay and Asynchronous Transfer Mode equipment and services.

Sprint has already added ATM services and equipment that will provide agencies with faster network connections and allow them to bundle T-1 lines, which transmit data at 1.544 megabits/sec.

Bundling T-1 lines will give agencies higher data throughput without having to upgrade networks. "This will be of interest to smaller agencies who might not need [T-3] capabilities," Shankar said.

Both MCI and Sprint are hoping to add wireless communication services and security management services to the FTS 2001 contract in June.