Despite recent market woes, SuperComm still the place to be
By MEGHAN FULLER
SuperComm 2001, to be held Sunday, June 3, through Thursday, June 7, at the Georgia World Conference Center and Georgia Dome in Atlanta, has a lot to live up to. Last year's event drew 53,260 attendees, an increase of 24.4% over the previous year. International attendance jumped 31.4%, with 4,850 attendees from 134 countries. The exhibit hall occupied 467,100 sq ft and featured 756 exhibitors-209 of which were exhibiting at SuperComm for the first time. Given the anticipated slowdown in telecommunications spending this year, how will SuperComm 2001 stack up?
Jack Chalden, SuperComm general manager, admits he is "painfully aware of the challenges facing some of the industry's players," but he also believes that the economic slowdown will not necessarily translate into a weaker showing at SuperComm. "How I would characterize this period is that SuperComm has become such a show of significance, [industry players] are maintaining a presence," he says. "But I am equally sure they are approaching it with a greater degree of fiscal caution."
The size and anticipated attendance for SuperComm 2001 certainly appears to be healthy-at least on paper. While it's too soon to predict if there will be any slowdown in secondary expenditures, the show has already acquired 50,000 net sq. ft. in the Georgia Dome to accommodate the rising number of exhibitors, bringing the event's total square footage to more than 550,000.
A good portion of this space will feature specifically optical-related exhibits, discussions, demonstrations, and sessions. "While I haven't done an analysis of it specifically," admits Chalden, "I know that an increasing number of exhibitors, especially among our new exhibitors, come from the optical field, which is no surprise to anybody. It is a very significant part of the show."
Telecommunications magazine and market researcher Current Analysis will sponsor a 75-minute roundtable discussion, "Light Wars: Realities of Optical Networking," featuring both service providers and vendors. Hyped as an exploration of "what's real and what's hot air," the discussion will be moderated by Chris Nicoll, vice president of telecommunications infrastructure at Current Analysis. The session will be held Tuesday, June 5, at 4 pm.
Also of note is the Optical Internetworking Forum's (OIF) multivendor, multitechnology interoperability demonstration of its user-to-network interface (UNI) specification, to be held in booth #150D in the Georgia Dome. The de-monstration follows a qualifying event held at the University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Lab in March. The OIF will showcase a subset of the UNI 1.0 draft specification that includes connection control, and participants will demonstrate interoperability among optical crossconnects, wavelength routers, and edge devices.
The exhibition portion of SuperComm 2001 will feature over 800 companies in the broadband, wireless, optical, Internet Protocol (IP), virtual, and converged networking fields, says Chalden. More than 200 of these are exhibiting for the first time. As in the past, the show floor will be divided into technology zones to make navigation easier for attendees: the Information Technology Zone, Wireless Technology Zone, and Carrier/Service Provider Zone. Exhibit hours during the show week are Tuesday, 9 am-6 pm; Wednesday, 9 am-5 pm; and Thursday, 9 am-4 pm.
The conference portion of SuperComm 2001 will feature more than 200 sessions with more than 750 speakers and include both free and paid programming. A full day of free educational programming will be offered on Monday, June 4, covering a variety of topics in the wireless, optical, enterprise, broadband, and converged networking fields. Attendees are invited to choose up to three sessions out of the 15 offered.
There are several specifically optical sessions of note, including "Advances in Optics," 10-11:30 am. Chaired by Carole Sensale-Aiello, president of the OIF and vice president of network management at Iris Labs, the session focuses on the new and most promising developments in optical technology and features panelists from Cable & Wireless, Tellium Inc., Sprint, Metera Networks, and Hyperchip.
"Metro-Area Optical Networks" is the focus of another free industry update session that will examine the market drivers and the bandwidth-intensive multimedia communications envisioned for the metro network. Held 1-2:30 pm, the session will be chaired by Olov Schagerlund, founder and CEO of Dynarc, and include panelists from Nortel Networks, Sorrento Networks, and Metro-Optix.
Also on Monday is the Minority-, Women-, and Disabled Veteran-Owned, Business Enterprises (MWDVBE) Program, which offers a series of free workshops on such topics as "Attributes of a New Generation Diversity Partner" and "View from the Top: Service Provider + OEM Alliances = Diversity Business Solutions."
OTELNET and SnowShore Networks will sponsor the Telecommunications Industry Association Market Development Forum, a full day of free programming on Wednesday, June 6, 8:45 am to 5:15 pm. This year's subject is "How Developers and Systems Integrators Speed New Applications to Service Providers and Enterprises." The morning session will examine the development of new media applications, while the afternoon session will focus on delivering new media applications.
SuperComm 2001 will also feature several paid conferences, including the IEC Communications Forum, IEC Executive Forum, Global Market Forum, EntNet, ITU/TIA Emerging Markets Conference: Latin America, and Telecom Investor Forum.
Chalden is particularly enthusiastic about EntNet, a new enterprise-related conference sponsored by the IEEE and IEC. The conference is "aimed primarily at the large, complex enterprise players whose needs are best met in an environment like SuperComm, where literally all the technologies, both wireline and wireless, are present and can be compared, converged, and used in the development of their networks," he explains. EntNet will feature workshops, technical tutorials, panels, and paper sessions, covering such topics as virtual private networks, e-commerce networks, LAN and WAN technologies, converged voice and data technologies, and enterprise network design. The conference runs from Monday, June 4, through Wednesday, June 6.
While not new, the third annual Telecom Investor Forum will almost double in size at SuperComm 2001. "Over the years, we have literally seen thousands of financial professionals on the floor," says Chalden, "and we have served their needs in part by a program we call the Telecom Investor Forum. There, some of our more exciting new players present to the venture capital community or the analysts or the mergers/acquisition players in the industry. That's grown substantially." Last year's forum featured 45 companies; this year, more than 70 companies will be introduced to the venture capital community.
Chalden also pointed to the increasingly global dimension of SuperComm, highlighted by the Global Market For um, which will feature 16 workshops and plenary and keynote presentations. "You'll see not only even more international players, both on the exhibitor and the attendee side, but also you'll see an increasing focus in most of our programming on the global nature of what's happening, specifically at our Global Market Forum," says Chalden. "In fact, our opening panel brings together some very significant senior players from primarily Europe to focus on what they see happening in both their region and the technologies they are developing." The forum will be held on Sunday, June 3, and Monday, June 4.
Despite recent prognostications about the health of the market, SuperComm does not appear to be suffering. In fact, it is doing well enough to prompt organizers to move the 2004, 2005, and 2006 shows to Chicago, where exhibit space and hotel capacity is greater. The McCormick Place Complex in downtown Chicago currently offers 2.2 million sq. ft. of exhibit space, with additional space for meetings and special functions.