With a $216 million kick start, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has embarked upon a comprehensive overhaul of the global secret telecommunications network used to ferry sensitive data to and from Australian diplomats and Commonwealth agencies operating overseas.
The Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network (SATIN) connects more than 100 Australian Government operations such as consulates and embassies across the world. However core components of this infrastructure, which is critical to Australia’s international relations, will reach the end of their usable life next year.
Under the guise of the International Communications Network Program (ICNP) DFAT plans to “replace core elements of the existing DFAT global communications network (known as SATIN) as well as introducing new capabilities in support of over 45 Australian government agencies across 140 sites domestically and overseas,” explained a Departmental spokesperson.
It hopes that the upgraded system, which is due to be completed by 2017, will result in the:
- “Modernisation of DFAT ICT systems and a stronger alignment with business objectives;
- Greater connectivity, collaboration and secure information sharing across government agencies overseas; and
- Enhanced response to increasingly sophisticated cyber threats,” she said.
The replacement network is expected to last DFAT for another 4-10 years from 2017. DFAT was the recipient of the largest new ICT allocation in the 2013-14 Federal Budget, $216 million over five years to fund the project.
DFAT has foreshadowed a number of approaches to market “over the next few years” to source industry assistance with the project.
One of the first, and possibly the most influential of these will be the market testing of the range of telecommunications services that the Department currently sources from Pacnet, which includes the international telecommunications bandwidth upon which SATIN operates.
The DFAT/Pacnet deal is currently worth $96.5 million and will reach its final expiry in September 2014 having already exhausted all allowable extensions. It is the last major deal that Pacnet holds in the Federal Government market. Its only other current contracts are for data carriage or associated services through the Internet Based Network Connections (IBNC) panel. Pacnet has a total of $3.5 million in contracts through the IBNC panel including $1.6 million for supply to Austrade and $1.1 million for IP Australia.
However the latest round of procurement plans from DFAT, released in June, suggest that the Department could be looking to break up its monolithic telecommunications agreement rather than refreshing it as a single contract.
Planned procurements for 2013-14 include:
- The supply of fixed line telecommunications services (Q1 2013-14)
- Global WAN carriage services (Q2 2013-14)
- LAN/WAN hardware equipment (Q2 2013-14)
- Unified Communications, Telephony and Video Conferencing Capabilities (Q2 2013-14)
Fujitsu currently holds the contract to provide global helpdesk support to DFAT and its client agencies, including support for SATIN, under an $11.7 million contract.
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