21 October 2003 Geneva, Switzerland Lightwave Europe -- At the close of ITU Telecom World 2003, which took place from 12 to 18 October, the organiser claimed the event was "the most important meeting place for the global communications industry."
With the industry only now showing signs of recovery, said the ITU, 911 exhibitors representing 51 countries were present with over 375 industry's CEOs and 148 government ministers and regulators participating in the event.
"[Telecom] World 2003 has been about getting down-to-business, restoring confidence and building growth," said Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU). "Exhibitors have told us it has been particularly effective both as a business networking hub and for brokering deals and meeting key decision-makers."
In addition, CEOs, government regulators and telecommunications ministers participated in the concurrent forum. This included six days of presentations and debate on critical industry issues ranging from broadband and mobility, to new business models and new sources of revenue.
The ITU said that in many of the sessions, there was passionate discussion on how new technologies can best be harnessed to bring connectivity to more than 1 million villages in the world that are yet to connect to the information society.
Some participants from developing countries expressed concern that they feared their efforts to bridge the digital divide could be hindered if advances in technology were too rapid and they were unable to keep pace.
While the number of exhibitors and visitors was down from the previous event (in 1999) that took place at the height of the dot.com bubble, the ITU maintained that "qualified traffic and high business value have been identified as dominant features of the 2003 event."
And despite the absence of many big players, the ITU described the turnout as "very good" as "the industry can go nowhere but up". Several exhibitors praised the maximum size guidelines put in place for stands, which they said "make it a more level playing field."
Every cloud has a silver lining
"The reduction in attendance this year has favoured personal interaction between participants and led to more of a focus on high-level networking and business contacts," said Jean-Claude Delcroix, Research Director, Telecommunications Research EMEA at Gartner. "What we saw was a stronger emphasis on the market implementation of business models and technologies rather than innovation".
This was a theme echoed by Skip Cox, President of Exhibit Surveys, quoted in the on-site daily newspaper: "People have been using the event for very closely focused networking and in my opinion, that's the future of the exhibitions business."
Strong market shifts were reflected as many new, smaller entrants used the show as a global showcase alongside many industry heavyweights. Exhibitors used the show as a platform to announce more than 150 new products and contract wins valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as a number of joint ventures.
Among the major contract announcements were those from BT valued at EUR 100 million with "3" in Ireland to build and operate its 3G radio access network, ACE*COMM's multi-million dollar contract with Giza Systems to provide a country-wide data collection solution for Telecom Egypt, and Nortel Networks' supply agreement estimated at USD30 million over three years with Israel's Pelephone, to expand its 3G Wireless Data Network.
Other contract deals included Quarry Technologies providing carrier-class security service routers to Dacom Corporation, one of Korea's leading service providers; the European Commission's investment of EUR 3.8 billion over the next four years in key areas including microelectronics, nanotechnology, and e-health; and FLAG Telecom who announced a USD207 million amalgamation deal with Reliance Gateway Net Private Ltd.
Announcements of partnership agreements included that of Microsoft creating mobile Web services standards with Vodafone, Boingo Wireless announcement of a deal with PicoPoint, an Amsterdam-based global Wi-Fi hot spot enabler, HP's announcement with Alcatel of advanced business services to the SMB market, Samsung Electronics' agreement with Orca Interactive, Optibase and Kasenna to provide triple-play solution for video over xDSL services, and many more.
Business value was a common theme too in feedback from exhibitors. "As our business is global, ITU TELECOM WORLD provides a unique forum for us to meet senior representatives of national governments, our customers, partners, industry colleagues and the world's press. We will be back in 2006," said Patrick Gallagher, CEO of FLAG Telecom.
"Having less attendance but more a targeted audience is important," ventured Carolyn Jolin of Canada's SR Telecom, a world leader in fixed wireless access solutions for voice, data and Internet applications. "It is all about the right people. We always talk to engineers but here we access the decision-makers ï¿½ CEOs and high level executives from our target markets".
"ITU TELECOM WORLD 2003 is another milestone for this company," said Frank Dunn, President and CEO of Nortel Networks. "It has been a platform for introducing our vision for the industry and our strategy for meeting customers' practical needs. It has been a positive event for Nortel Networks".
The show reflected the fast-changing nature of the telecommunications industry, with a strong presence from Asia. More than 145 of the 911 exhibitors represented the Asia-Pacific region, including large companies such as NTT DoCoMo, Sony and NEC showcasing their latest technology, while Panasonic, Sanyo and Samsung featured consumer products just coming to market.
Two of the show's largest stands were those of Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, both Chinese companies - and not surprising given that China has now become the world's largest telecommunications market (measured by number of subscribers).
"As China's largest telecommunications vendor, the show was a good opportunity for us to merge into the international telecommunications industry and a positive step forward in our goal of becoming a global company," said Richard Lee, Manager of Corporate Communications at Huawei Technologies.
New market entrants demonstrated a strong presence at the show, with one out of every two exhibitors showcasing its products and services at a TELECOM WORLD event for the first time. Most of these companies were small and medium-sized businesses, approximately 70 percent of which exhibited in the 26 pavilions hosted by governments and telecommunication associations.
"The show was a great way for us to display the strength and diversity of our products, particularly for countries in need of low cost solutions for the development of communications in rural areas," said Vijoy Kumar, Deputy Director-General, Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, and Director of the India Pavilion." The event was a great success and a useful platform for us to engage in face-to-face meetings with high-level members of various governments and the private sector."
Exhibitors participating in the Event showcased products and services on Fixed and Wireless Broadband (fibre, ADSL, WLAN), Next-generation convergence networks, Voice over IP (including voice over ADSL), mobile data solutions and high-speed 2.5 and 3G wireless systems.
In contrast with 1999's Telecom World event, there was less focus on technology for technology's sake, said the ITU, and much more focus on technology in action in real-life business environments ï¿½ business communications and solutions targeting improved productivity and new revenue streams.