Optical/IP Networks

What's Next for TelecomNext?

Last week's TelecomNext, the new show organized by the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) , delivered on its promise to be different than Supercomm, the show it co-managed for years with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) . (See TIA, USTA Split on Supercomm.)

But now that the newness has worn off, what did attendees really think of the show? And what's next for TelecomNext?

Several attendees who spoke to Light Reading this week say TelecomNext's debut was a tale of two shows. The first two days of the show featured packed keynotes, interesting speakers, a busy exhibit floor, and an air of excitement. But the final two days were just the opposite, they say, with folks fleeing the scene and the exhibitor crowds thinning out. And the keynote speech halls, as confirmed by Light Reading, were definitely half empty.

Some exhibitors said the quality of attendee at TelecomNext was high. Service providers were there, and they could be found.

Now for the complaints: A common gripe among exhibitors, the show's paying customers, was that the show floor wasn't as exciting or highly populated as they were expecting, especially in light of the USTA's relentless promotion beforehand.

"On the one hand we had some great meetings with customers. But we also had a guy speak at the ATIS sessions to a crowd of about four," said one large equipment vendor who exhibited at the show. "From a PR perspective if was a non-event. It wasn't a place where we were going to launch anything new."

"In general, the conference was modestly attended and on a much smaller scale than predecessor Supercomm conferences," wrote JP.MorganChase analyst Ehud Gelblum, in a note to clients last week.

The lack of vendor excitement was also palpable. "We typically like to identify a theme and trends at each trade show, but this one lacked focus," wrote Simon Leopold, the telecom equipment analyst at Morgan Keegan & Company Inc. "Access upgrades and enterprise Ethernet remained at the forefront, but we think the messages from vendors emphasized delivering on past promises."

The big problem for many vendors remains how to support both TelecomNext, and the upcoming Globalcomm conference, which is run by the TIA, from the standpoint of a marketing budget. Some companies that are now slated to support both TelecomNext and Globalcomm say that one show might have to die in the coming years. ”We don’t think this industry can sustain two shows. We’d like to see it going back to one show,” Ed Gracyk, director of marketing and communications for Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) TV, told Light Reading last week. (See TelecomNext: Notebook Nuggets.)

But service providers who work closely with USTelecom in Washington, unsurprisingly, came away with a sunnier feeling.

"We're obviously happy with the way the show worked out and the USTA [now USTelecom] did a good job of putting it on," says Mark Marchand, a spokesman for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). Verizon, notably, had a stepped-up presence at the show with a booth on the exhibit floor, a CEO keynote speech, and a sponsorship of the media room. [Ed. note: Thanks for the pens!]

Analysts at the show took note of the high quality of attendees, but little else was remarkable, they say. "For once, I had a great time in Vegas, though I think that had little to do with TelecomNext," says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. "The traffic on the show floor was pretty light, but the meetings I had were good and lengthy. It's a nice manageable show, but I didn't hear many vendors say they were interested in supporting it over the long run."

Show organizers, however, say the TelecomNext debut hit all its marks. "We promised that TelecomNext would be a new kind of show for the converged communications and entertainment industries and this event far exceeded all expectations," says John Abel, USTelecom's senior VP of membership, marketing, and business development, in a note passed to Light Reading through USTelecom spokespeople.

Telecom gear vendors have started the inevitable comparisons between TelecomNext, Globalcomm, and last year's Supercomm. Some vendors say they'll weigh whether to support only one show instead of both. (See Globalcomm Wins 'Show Wars' Poll.) Every vendor that Light Reading asked said it was too early to tell which show would win out long term. [Disclosure: Light Reading and its parent, CMP, have a business relationship with TIA and Globalcomm -- see TIA, CMP Team on Globalcomm.]

Walter McCormick, USTelecom president, in his opening keynote called the event "the largest gathering of decision-makers ever to assemble in one place at one time." But show organizer data reveals that while TelecomNext had 215,000 net square feet of exhibit space and 275 exhibiting companies, the "largest gathering" clocked in at a few more than 10,000 registered attendees.

Still months away, Globalcomm says that it has 433 exhibiting companies signed up to occupy 175,600 net square feet of exhibit space. The show is about 87 percent sold out, its organizers say, and about 20,000 attendees are expected to turn up.

The conference organizers say about 30 percent of Globalcomm's pre-registered attendees are from service providers and about 11 percent of them are international delegates. No such breakdowns were available from TelecomNext.

By comparison, the final Supercomm show, which took place last summer, had nearly 28,000 attendees and featured 670 exhibiting companies on 309,000 net square feet of space, according to the TIA and Exhibit Surveys, an auditing firm.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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