Confidential e-mail to FCC indicates Neustar could lose bid for key contract

Neustar — the Sterling-based company that for 17 years has held an exclusive government contract to provide the technology that enables U.S. cellphone users to keep their numbers when they switch carriers — is in danger of losing the work to a rival bidder.

Neustar’s contract to provide “number portability,” which must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, is slated to expire next June. Neustar and rival bidder Telcordia, a unit of the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, have been fighting over the contract for months.

On Monday, the FCC said a panel that advises the agency about number-portability issues recommended that the FCC award the contract to Telcordia.

Members of the North American Numbering Council “unanimously reached this recommendation, with one abstention vote, in a closed meeting on March 26, 2014,” an FCC filing said. The contract is a critical part of Neustar’s business, and losing it would severely cut into its revenue. In 2013, the contract was valued at $450 million, nearly half of the company’s 2013 revenue of $902 million. Neustar, which has about 1,600 employees globally, including nearly 800 in the Washington area, was founded in 1996, primarily to provide number-portability services. Neustar has had the contract renewed, uncontested, until now.

Telcordia provides number-portability services in India.

Word of the recommendation was leaked Friday, when an e-mail alluding to the decision was inadvertently posted on an FCC Web site, a disclosure Neustar called troubling.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the release of the e-mail, saying the agency is seeking public comment on the recommendation.

Joel Fisher, a spokesman for Telcordia, said the company is pleased that the council has recommended Telcordia to serve as the next vendor for number portability.

“That such a diverse group of industry and consumer representatives is urging the FCC to select Telcordia shows their confidence in our ability to be an exceptional partner,” Fisher said in a statement.

Neustar  shares fell Monday 8.4 percent, to $24.43, after word of the group’s recommendation became public.

“The [council’s] recommendation is by no means the end of the process,” Neustar said in a statement Monday morning. “Neustar intends to continue to compete vigorously in the [number portability] vendor selection process, and to advocate strongly that we are the logical choice to remain as administrator.”




Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.



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