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Seen at CeBIT

HINTERLAND, Germany – CeBIT 2003 – Something very interesting nearly happened at CeBIT this year.

Nearly. But not quite.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that all the Sturm und Drang now afflicting the telecom industry would take the sheen off CeBIT's sausage, leading to long Teutonic faces and soiled lederhosen all 'round.

Nevertheless, among the usual promises of end-to-end, out-of-the-box, "leveraged" solutions, there was the occasional gem that shook us from our torpor. Here are some of our favorite sights, sounds, and bizarre observations from the 27 halls of Hannover (in no particular order):

  • Visiting metro optical network vendor PacketLight Networks in Hall 13 to talk about its support for mesh and ring topologies. And then meeting Dr. Michael Mesh (no kiddin!), co-founder and CTO. "We used to have someone here called Mr Ringel," says Dr Mesh, "but he left. That doesn't mean we've stopped supporting rings, though," quips the good doctor.

  • Finding that, due to cost-cutting, the staff at the Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) booth had to buy their own soft drinks during the day to keep themselves hydrated. But they are very understanding, and genuinely accept this as a worthwhile measure to keep the Canadian ship afloat. Folk on another stand hear that the Nortel staff were charged 60 cents for each drink.

  • Checking out the Arescom Inc. stand in Hall 13. Close enough to Arsecom to make us go back (see 50 Worst Company Names).

  • Not being able to find companies from the same industry segments grouped together as much as in the past. Why? Because so many companies have changed their strategies since they booked their stand space? Could be. Whatever the reason, it's harder for everyone to scope out the competition this year.

  • Two members of the Current Analysis team salivating over some ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL) routers. "I haven't seen one of those in the flesh before," says one to the other. Party on, you magnificent bastards!

  • The price to access the official show 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) hotspot network: €200 for the duration of the CeBIT event (eight days). That didn't make us laugh. (Or buy.)

  • A high-speed Ethernet link offered to journalists to cover a specific speech made prior to the show. But when the journalists hooked up, they couldn't access the Internet at all. Why? Because this wasn't a super-dooper connection to the outside world – it was a high-speed link to one solitary printer. About as useful as a chocolate teapot.

  • mmO2 plc's CEO Peter Erskine telling a press conference why 3G is a sure-fire winner. "The enhanced spectrum and associated technology is too extraordinary, the technical opportunities too life enhancing, for this technology not to succeed," he said, before floating off on a glowing ethereal cloud of mellow 3G karma.

    Next year's CeBIT will not be in Hannover. Instead it will be staged at an industrial estate near Chipping Sodbury in the south of England. But that's just a rumor we made up.

    And so Auf Wiedersehen (and good riddance) to CeBIT for another year. Only another 360 or so days until the next one!

    — Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading, and Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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