The Department of Finance will establish a new panel of suppliers to service the federal government’s secure fibre network, dubbed the Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON).
The department opened tendering for the new panel last week to find up to 12 suppliers to “maintain, service, expand and protect” the 840 km point-to-point dark fibre network from April 2020.
ICON connects more than 500 sites across Canberra, including both agencies and data centres, via fibre-optic cable and is used to carry information classified up to protected without the need for encryption.
It is one of the few remaining government IT services provided by Finance since the Digital Transformation Agency assumed responsibility for government-wide IT policy and procurement in late 2017.
The new panel will replace the existing fibre-optic infrastructure works and services panel, which has been in place since April 2015 and consists of eight panellists.
The department said it is looking for “suitably qualified contractors with the expertise and experience to deliver repairs and maintenance, minor works and small to medium capital products” for up to five years.
Tenderers will be able to provide services across three categories: minor works and associated services, fibre optical splicing and testing services and civil infrastructure, minor construction and cabling services.
The department is planning on holding a briefing with industry on October 17, with submissions to the tender to close on November 14.
In 2014, the government considered selling off the secure fibre network to a private sector third-party as part of its cost cutting drive.
It directed Finance to conduct a scoping study to assess whether a private sector operator could run the network for cheaper than the government.
However, that study found recommended against outsourcing ICON as the network provided “significant value to the government as a strategic asset” and was “highly valued by government agencies for its low cost and high volume bandwidth”.
Dark fibre will also form a component of the new government-wide telco marketplace, which will replace the existing telecommunications services panel, expiring mobile panel and expired telecommunications management panel from early 2020.