The biggest loser in the VA's transition from FTS2001 to Networx is Sprint. Indeed, losing federal business such as the VA's has contributed to Sprint's losses over the last three years.
The VA had Sprint as its sole carrier from the late 1990s until 2007, when the agency began moving to a multi-carrier strategy to improve its network redundancy and reliability. That's when VA awarded AT&T a contract for MPLS- based data services.
By this fall, the agency will quit using Sprint altogether for wireline services.
Cheplick said the VA has taken two years to migrate to the Networx contract because its network is so big.
"It's 10 years worth of inventory," Cheplick says. "If you're doing a physical transition from one carrier to another, there are workload issues. T-1s take 60 days to order, DS-3s take 90 days, and OC-3s can take 120 days or more. Just making sure you've got all of that lined up so the carriers can work on it takes a while."
Cheplick says the VA has migrated 1,300 WAN circuits from Sprint to AT&T or Qwest, with just 200 left to be transitioned. "We expect that to be complete sometime in the July timeframe," he says.
In terms of voice services, the VA has transitioned 200,000 lines from Sprint over to Qwest. "It is our expectation that we will complete transition of our voice services from Sprint over to Qwest in the September/October time frame, and then we will proceed with the remaining disconnect orders that need to be processed through the fall of 2010," Cheplick says.
Sprint says VA will remain "a very substantial customer" for its wireless services, which the agency has not yet migrated to the Networx contract. Sprint says it supports tens of thousands of mobile devices in the VA with mobile integration and broadband services.
"We've shifted our focus to helping the VA leverage the power of mobility in the healthcare environment to utilize our unique access, push-to-talk and 4G services," says Bill White, vice president of federal sales programs at Sprint. White said Sprint is eyeing opportunities to provide 4G services inside hospitals, across hospital campuses and directly to veterans who can take advantage of the VA's burgeoning home-based tele-health programs.
Cheplick says that so far it has been manageable for VA to oversee multiple carriers. But the agency expects additional turmoil among its service providers in the future.