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In brief: FCC spectrum allocation to Nextel draws howls

Jul 12, 20044 mins
Cellular NetworksCisco SystemsGovernment

Plus: IBM and Sprint sign new deal; Forrester study shows almost half of large corporations scan outgoing e-mail; Cisco is buying Parc Technologies; and, the iPod security risk.

The FCC decision last week to give Nextel Communications a prime chunk of radio spectrum triggered howls of protest from competitors and industry groups. Nextel will give up frequencies it has used in the 800-MHz band, where it has impeded police and fire radio systems, and the FCC will modify the carrier’s licenses to grant it two 5-MHz blocks of spectrum in the 1900-MHz band. Nextel competitor Verizon Wireless labeled the FCC decision “bizarre” and accused the FCC of “bypassing both Congress and the FCC’s own spectrum auction process, and conferring a multibillion [-dollar] windfall on Nextel at taxpayer expense.” The FCC determined that Nextel’s new spectrum is worth $4.8 billion. It will credit Nextel the value of the spectrum the carrier is giving up, and Nextel will pay the cost of moving incumbent spectrum holders to other frequencies. If those figures fall short of $4.8 billion, Nextel will pay an “anti-windfall payment,” the agency said.

IBM customer and business ally Sprint is in a new deal with Big Blue. The two companies announced a five-year, $400 million agreement last week that calls for IBM Global Services to provide application development and maintenance support for select Sprint systems. As part of the deal – which expands on a contract Sprint awarded IBM last September – about 1,000 Sprint IT employees will transfer to IBM. In February, the two companies announced a five-year, multibillion-dollar customer service outsourcing agreement that transfers much of Sprint’s call-center management work to IBM.

A study by Forrester Research shows that 43% of the large corporations surveyed have dedicated staff to scanning outbound e-mail for security and compliance reasons. Making sure confidential memos aren’t being sent outside the company is the No. 1 reason for scanning outbound mail, the study showed. These organizations also are concerned with making sure employees comply with government regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and with corporate guidelines, as well as ensuring that trade secrets and intellectual property aren’t being sent outside the company. Outbound mail also is scanned for inappropriate content. The study, sponsored by Proofpoint, is based on responses from 140 companies with 1,000 employees or more.

Cisco last week announced it is buying privately held Parc Technologies, a developer of traffic engineering software for routing optimization, for $9 million. Parc is a spinoff of Imperial College, University of London, where it developed search algorithms. Cisco had a previous investment in the company. Parc’s Route Server algorithms break up network routing problems involving quality-of-service constraints. These algorithms help service providers improve network utilization and reduce capital expenditure, Cisco says. Initially, Cisco will use Parc’s technology in the planning and optimization of Multi-protocol Label Switching Traffic Engineering products.

The iPod might be popular, but it also poses such a major security risk that corporations should consider banning it and other portable storage devices, according to a study by Gartner. The devices, using USB or FireWire (IEEE 1394), present risks on several fronts: from introducing malicious code into a corporate network to being used to steal corporate data. The report pointed to a variety of devices, including pocket-sized portable FireWire hard drives, like those from LaCie Group or Toshiba, or USB hard drives or keychain drives, such as the DiskOnKey from M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers. Gartner also named disk-based MP3 players, such as Apple’s iPod, as a security risk, as well as digital cameras with smart media cards, memory sticks and compact flash. Gartner advised companies to forbid employees and external contractors with direct access to corporate networks from using these privately owned devices with corporate PCs.