This story has been updated.
The Veterans Affairs Department awarded a contract for national cellular service and devices valued at $200 million to three carriers: AT&T Mobility; Verizon Wireless; and A&T Systems, a company in Silver Spring, Md., that says it provides telecommunications and information infrastructure to federal, state and local governments.
Until now, VA used a variety of contract vehicles to acquire these services and devices. The department said when it launched the National Mobile Devices and Services procurement in September 2012 that it plans to use the contract to consolidate cellular services and drive down costs. Under the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract, the three winners will compete for task orders.
One way VA plans to drive down airtime costs is by pooling minutes for all its cellphones. It asked bidders to provide annual pricing for a 2 million, 5 million, 10 million minute pools serving respectively 15,000, 35,000 and 75,000 users for calls made within all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The department specified an unlimited data plan for smart phone users, and asked for pricing for 10,000, 25,000 and 50,000 users and up to 1,000 tablets in the first year of the contract.
Department officials anticipated that in the first year of the contracts, vendors would be required to support 72,900 voice phones and 14,373 smartphones; by the fifth year, those projections were 75,860 voice phones and 15,373 smartphones. The number of tablets in the fifth year was expected to grow to only 1,040.
The deal calls for vendors to supply basic voice and text phones, smartphones and tablets, but the award notice did not detail which devices the winning bidders will supply.
The national contract covers international roaming with support for voice, text and broadband data. It also calls for unlimited broadband service for personnel who use laptop wireless data cards for connectivity. The department estimates 10,467 users in the first year of the contract and 11,029 in the fifth year.
VA also plans to tap into the contract to support mobile wireless hotspots -- hardware that connects to a cellular broadband signal and then hooks up multiple users through a Wi-Fi connection. Officials plan for 104 hotspots in the first year and 154 in the fifth year.
The awards do not include the other two national carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile. Neither of those companies responded to queries about whether they submitted bids or plan to protest the awards.