TIA, USTA Split on Supercomm

Supercomm, the largest telecommunications trade show in North America, slipped away quietly yesterday, but its demise may be in name only.

The United States Telecom Association (USTA) and Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the organizations that jointly present and sponsor Supercomm, reached the end of a five-year contract and the two sides concluded they couldn't extend their contract under its current conditions. Neither side would elaborate on the contract details, but it's safe to say that Supercomm 2005 will be its swan song.

The TIA is a trade association representing the entire communications and information technology industry. The USTA represents telecom service providers and suppliers and its main membership are facilities-based incumbent carriers.

Yesterday, when detailing its future conference plans, the USTA announced that "after 2005, it does not intend to jointly sponsor an exhibition with TIA." With that statement, Supercomm, as we know it, dies, since neither the TIA nor the USTA can unilaterally operate a show under the "Supercomm" name.

But, from Supercomm's ashes will come not one, but two telecom-related conferences with gigantic exhibition halls.

Once free of its Supercomm duties, the USTA will likely put even more muscle into promoting and growing TELECOM, its annual meeting and exhibition. The exhibit hall planned for the TELECOM '04 show, kicking off in Las Vegas next week, is about 40,000 square feet, with 235 exhibitors to date, and is roughly 75 percent larger than last year’s show, the USTA says.

In fact, the USTA anticipates that its TELECOM '06 conference will be so large that it will move from the Venetian to the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, and the room block for the event's attendees will extend across four Las Vegas-area hotels.

By comparison, the first Supercomm, held in 1988, had 15,000 registrants and 150,000 square feet of exhibition space. In 2003, the show drew 25,357 attendees, 538 exhibiting companies, and (barely) used 279,000 square feet of exhibition space in Atlanta’s cavernous Georgia World Congress Center.

Interestingly, the TIA -- the group that served as Supercomm's managing partner -- won't sit idly by and watch the USTA lay claim to telecom trade show budgets all by itself.

Instead, the TIA is planning to present "the same type of event" as Supercomm to be held in the same place (McCormick Place, Chicago) in 2006, according to TIA president Matthew Flanigan. "Having one big event, like Supercomm, is extremely important to the TIA and its membership," Flanigan says.

Flanigan says that the TIA will announce the name of the new show that will succeed Supercomm later this week.

Meanwhile, both the USTA and TIA have one last show to put on as a team: Supercomm 2005. And, like Elvis, the last iteration of the show known as Supercomm will probably be the largest yet.

"Supercomm 2005 will be bigger and better than Supercomm 2004," says Flanigan.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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