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Lucent wins $75 million Iraq contract

The Department of Defense taps the company to build or modernize phone networks used by Iraqi private businesses and the nation's interim government agencies.

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded Lucent Technologies a $75 million contract to repair or upgrade communications networks used by Iraqi private businesses and the nation's interim government agencies, Lucent said Thursday.

Lucent plans to begin work immediately on both wireless and wireline telephone systems for police, airport flight controllers and postal services in Iraq, according to a Lucent representative.

The representative said repairs are also slated for connections between privately owned Iraqi communications companies and telephone companies outside the embattled nation.

A representative said the Lucent contract and other Iraqi telephone infrastructure repairs are a "significant portion" of the more than $7 billion the U.S. is spending to rebuild vital infrastructure in the war-torn country.

Although rebuilding efforts have been slowed by sabotage, access to telephone systems has improved by 10 percent since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year, Iraqi officials say. There are now nearly a million homes and businesses with access to a phone, with about a quarter using cell phones, said the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

But phone systems certainly haven't escaped the sabotage altogether. In early April, for example, a bombing attack destroyed a major a telecommunications facility.

Lucent Technologies has so far won about $100 million in contracts in Iraq. Major defense contractor Bechtel paid Lucent $25 million to install 13 switching, optical and network management systems in and around Baghdad under a separate subcontract to Bechtel.

Neither Lucent nor the Department of Defense would say how many companies bid on the contract.