With cocktails downed and sushi devoured, the attendees, including service provider representatives and CXO-level executives from some of the telecom sector's leading players, were reminded how the shortlists had been narrowed down from hundreds of excellent entries that gave the panel of judges, comprising Heavy Reading analysts and Light Reading editors, plenty of food for thought. (See The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists.)
The diners were also reminded how the industry had a much greater say in these awards, the fifth held by Light Reading, as our readers were able to vote for their favorites in all eight categories in an extensive Reader Survey poll that attracted nearly 26,000 votes. While none of the awards was decided exclusively by readers' votes, the results were taken into consideration by the judges in all categories, and were instrumental in deciding on some tough final, close calls.
So, who won?
Person of the Year: Awarded to the individual that our editorial staff, with the help of reader votes and nominations, selected as having had the most remarkable impact on the business of next-generation communications during the past 12 months.
Anil D. Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Communications
The telecom world order has been stood on its head during the past few years, and Ambani, by selecting strategic international acquisitions and building up a fixed and mobile power base in India, has been one of the protagonists, transforming Reliance Communications into an international power house.
In the past year Ambani has further raised Reliance's profile on the international stage, stating his ambition to make the carrier one of the top five data service providers in the world, opening his wallet again for another business services acquisition and further showing his intentions to expand into other emerging markets by engaging in takeover talks with South African carrier MTN Group Ltd. (See Reliance Unit Targets 'Complacent' Giants, Reliance Globalcom Beefs Up Its Metro, Reliance Feud Kills MTN Deal, and Reliance Snaps Up Vanco.)
Ambani has lit a fire under the global data services market, and has the ambition and wherewithal to help reshape the enterprise communications sector -- on his terms.
Top IPO/M&A Candidate: This award went to the private company that most clearly has the management, products, and financial stability to launch a successful IPO or be acquired on its own terms within the next 12 months.
Swedish metro optical equipment vendor Transmode is one of the hottest properties left in the increasingly important carrier Ethernet space, and it seems likely the company might already be trading on the public markets if it wasn't for the current global economic turbulence.
It is still growing, has good prospects, and is already, in the words of CEO Karl ThedĂ©en, "practicing at being a public company." Word on the street, though, is that a takeover offer its backers won't be able to resist might come along before the markets are ready for an IPOs. (See Transmode Bucks Growth Trend.)
Best New Service: Awarded to the service provider or Internet firm that has most successfully deployed a market-leading, revenue-generating service based on next-generation communications technology.
Sprint Nextel's XOHM Mobile WiMax
Potentially a controversial choice as the service is so new, but it's a groundbreaker, especially in terms of the package Sprint Nextel Corp. is offering its WiMax customers, who won't be tied into long contracts.
As Unstrung put it, the Oct. 8 launch "marked a business model transformation for the wireless industry and innovation in the way mobile services are accessed and enjoyed." (See XOHM Throws a Party and XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day.)
And hey, doesn't Sprint deserve a break?
Best New Product: Awarded to the company that has developed a market-leading product that, through engineering and technical excellence, best enables the deployment of profitable next-generation telecommunications services.
ECI Telecom's SR9700 Series CESR
This was a tough category to call and the debate raged between the judges, but ECI Telecom Ltd. swung it with its first carrier Ethernet switch router (CESR) launch because it has gained instant market traction and, according to those in the know, ECI made good use of its Laurel Networks assets to build a product that hits the right notes in the Ethernet transport world. (See ECI Makes Ethernet Headway and ECI Intros Carrier Ethernet Portfolio.)
Next Page: More Leading Lights Winners