Lumen reels in $1.2B contract to overhaul USDA’s legacy network

Lumen Technologies landed a massive $1.2 billion contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), setting it up to give one of the biggest government agency networks a major makeover.

Zain Ahmed, SVP of Lumen public sector, told Fierce the 11-year task order represents entirely new business for the company.

Under the contract, Ahmed said Lumen will “completely transform” the USDA’s network covering 9,500 locations across the country. It will provide a range of services, including SD-WAN, managed trusted internet protocol, zero-trust networking, edge computing, remote access, virtual private networking, cloud connectivity, unified communications and collaboration, contact center, voice-over-internet protocol, ethernet transport, optical wavelength, and equipment and engineering.

“They have a lot of legacy network from an MPLS or a point-to-point network, some of it is TDM based,” Ahmed explained. “So, this is taking that and transforming it to an SD-WAN solution with NFV solutions around it and edge for better compute closer to farmlands.”  He added that apart from the U.S. Postal Service, the USDA has “probably the biggest network out there for a civilian government agency.”

In addition to allowing the USDA to provide a better quality of service, Ahmed said the upgrade is also expected to save the agency money. While he couldn’t speak to the USDA project specifically, he said such network transformation projects usually end up saving customers between 30% and 40% on opex.

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“I definitely want to give USDA credit for actually taking the brave step of moving away from a legacy provider and kind of embracing a change agent coming into their world and providing a modernized network,” Ahmed said. “It takes a lot of courage to go with that change and they embraced it with both arms.”

Ahmed said the USDA has “aggressive” timeline targets and Lumen is in the process of working with the agency on planning. Most transformations of this nature take around two to three years to complete, he added.

The contract was awarded under the General Service Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) technology procurement program. Lumen has won a number of other EIS task orders, including a $23 million networking contract with the U.S. Army Reserve Command; a $52 million deal to supply high-speed internet and VoIP services to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command; and a SD-WAN contract with U.S. Navy JAG.

Earlier awards included a $1.6 billion deal to modernize network services for the U.S. Department of Interior.