YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The 8th Army will use a small commercial contractor for all new official cell phone use effective Aug. 1, officials said Friday.

The more than $1 million contract went to GIcellphone, which operates a three-person shop in a concessionaire building outside Camp Coiner’s Gate 20. The contract is valid for a year, with an option of four annual renewals.

Army officials expect to lease about 1,900 phones in the first year, officials said.

Company manager Kris Choi said she’s not worried about handling the contract, a big jump from her existing 800-phone business. She estimates she’ll provide the Army with up to 5,000 phones in the next five years.

Choi said she’ll hire two additional employees and drivers as needed and might open additional offices.

"We have a Web database," she explained. "Ordering will be done through the Web site and we’re using the same provider — SK (Telecom)."

James Hancy, an information technology specialist with U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, said the Army should save about $350,000 the first year of the contract.

Hancy said there are no concerns whether GIcellphone can handle the large contract.

"If contracting command trusts them, I trust them," he said.

Hancy said the decision to go to a single provider was ordered by former 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. David Valcourt, who noticed a wide disparity in cell phone bills among 8th Army units, which used different providers.

Hancy said the new contract offers some advantages over the way the Army currently does business, including "minute pooling."

Each user will be authorized 300 minutes of phone-time per month, along with 30 text messages. All of a unit’s cell phone minutes will be combined into a single pool, meaning that if one person goes over their limit, and another person is under the limit, they can average each other out.

"It’s going to be very rare that someone goes over their limit," Hancy said.

He said if the monthly minutes are exceeded, the unit will pay the penalty of 108 won (about 10 cents) a minute.

Another advantage is that the unit telephone officer can monitor cell phone usage via a Web site, Hancy said.

Phone plans will come in two tiers, with tier-one phones — those that can be used outside South Korea — going mostly to senior leaders.

Those tier-one phones will cost 54,383 won ($52.75) per month. Tier-two phones, which work only locally, will cost 34,600 won ($33.56) per month.

Hancy said the majority of the phones will be tier-two contracts and anticipates about 46 tier-one phones will be ordered.

The contract with GIcellphone will affect only new cell phone orders after Aug. 1, Hancy said, leaving the 6,700 cell phones in operation now unaffected.

"We’re not going to make people migrate into this contract," he said. "But we suspect a lot of them will because of the minute pooling, the Web site and it’s probably cheaper."

The phones will be leased through the contractor and replaced every three years, using the same phone numbers.

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