After seven months’ negotiation since being declared “preferred” supplier, AT&T Corp. has finally signed a contract to provide combined international networking for three major New Zealand government agencies — the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Department of Labor in its immigration function.

The negotiation period was longer than usual, says AT&T NZ general manager Roger Payne, but there were, after all, three large agencies involved. “We have concluded an umbrella agreement among all four of us, with provision for agencies to exit the agreement, and for others to join.

“Under that, there is a specific agreement for each of the three agencies, each with its own service-level terms. The agencies also have separate agreements among themselves, so it’s quite complicated.”

Payne understands MFAT has spoken with other agencies with a view to enlarging the circle, but no definite additional approaches have come back to the supplier yet.

The contract is worth more than NZ$14 (US$9.2 million) over three years, with two optional one-year extensions. With AT&T’s involvement with Fonterra, the company now has very much the lion’s share of large client multinational networking from a New Zealand base.

The network will use multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) on AT&T’s existing infrastructure, to provide each agency with a virtual private network extending into 40 or more countries. Implementation should be completed by the end of this year, Payne says. As many as 20 sites on the network will be shared among more than one agency.

MFAT issued the original RFI in April last year, and by the time the tender was issued, NZTE and the Labor department had joined the picture.