Jim Robbins, the Harvard-educated president of one of the nation's largest cable companies, was in southern California on a business trip when he decided to check his voice mail and got the stunning news that America Online had agreed to merge with Time Warner. The deal was not only the largest of its kind but one that promises to reshape how executives in a wide range of telecommunications businesses view the concept of convergence.
To protect information systems from security breeches, organizations increasingly are embracing a comprehensive strategy that relies on both technology and enforced policies. Meanwhile, the legal system has been hard pressed to keep pace with information system protection issues, leaving many questions unanswered about how far businesses may go to protect their systems.
Uncertainty surrounding a patchwork of commercial information security products hurriedly placed in use on U.S. Defense Department computers and networks is reshaping policy. Successful test and evaluation of these products in specified laboratories will soon become a prerequisite for procurement by military services and defense agencies.
As evaluation policy emerges, the National Security Agency (NSA) is embarking separately on a major long-term program to modernize the inventory of high-grade cryptographic devices. The new cryptography will exploit technology to keep pace with modern communications as bandwidth applications change.
Creation of a national operations and analysis hub is finding grudging acceptance among senior officials in the U.S. national security community. This fresh intelligence mechanism would link federal agencies to provide instant collaborative threat profiling and analytical assessments for use against asymmetrical threats. National policy makers, military commanders and law enforcement agencies would be beneficiaries of the hub's information.
Faced with a burgeoning humanitarian crisis amid a virtually nonexistent communications infrastructure, Australian peacekeeping forces worked with private industry to establish a broadband network in the heart of East Timor that included connectivity with other peacekeepers as well as their own national headquarters in Australia.
The U.S. Army's mobile signal brigade is moving at a faster pace with smaller, more capable hardware that can be deployed rapidly into a theater of operations. The increasing propensity for diverse missions set in foreign lands is impelling the requirement for comprehensive communications systems that can be established quickly in unfamiliar, or even hostile, settings.
The U.S. Army is on the verge of deploying technologies that will enhance and extend the scope of information-based warfare by linking all echelons together. These devices and systems are part of a larger effort to assure future warfighters battlefield superiority.
Powerful forces of private-sector competition and an onslaught of technical advances are propelling the United States into a telecommunications renaissance era. In every sector-wireless, wireline, local and long distance, video and Internet-more services are being delivered at lower prices and higher bandwidth.
As militaries, governments and businesses continue to struggle with the obstacles posed by bandwidth limitations, scientists in industry and research laboratories are improving compression technologies to allow high-quality images and text to be sent to the desktop-or palmtop-with phenomenal speed. The proposition is simple: Until scientists design a way to make the communications pipelines larger, engineers must make the volume of data smaller.
Telecommunication technologies allow people to reach out and touch someone in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. No longer restricted to voice-only transmissions, consumers are using the metal and fiber veins that run throughout the world to send data, images and even multimedia presentations worldwide. Companies that develop the technology and services that facilitate these connections are watching opportunities blossom. More importantly, they are fighting hard to stay ahead of a game in which ignoring a chance to provide in-demand services means handing your competitor the advantage.