Fiber Connect 2022 to show both FTTH and attendee growth

July 8, 2022
The Fiber Broadband Association expects the 2022 Fiber Connect event to reflect the buoyancy of the overall fiber-to-the-home space.

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) was fortunate last year to be among the show organizers that managed to hold their event live during the COVID-19 pandemic’s second year. That said, Fiber Connect 2021 in Nashville still suffered some COVID-related limitations; a staff shortage at the Gaylord Opryland forced the FBA to cap attendance at just under 2140, for example.

Fiber Connect 2022 will be at the same location June 12-15 but with the guardrails lowered, according to FBA President and CEO Gary Bolton. Thus, attendees will find more speakers, more sessions, more exhibitors – and more open restaurants – under the theme “If Capacity is Unlimited, the Possibilities are Limitless.”

Responsible growth

With the government’s broadband funding efforts as a catalyst, U.S. interest in fiber broadband networks may be at an all-time high. It’s therefore unsurprising that FBA is expecting more participation at the show. That said, the FBA only plans to accommodate about 3000 attendees this year. “We want to grow responsibly,” Bolton said, indicating that the show organizers may merely raise last year’s attendance cap rather than accommodate everyone and anyone who might want to attend.

Those who do manage to make it into the Gaylord Opryland the week of the show will see significantly more content – Bolton expects approximately 70 sessions and more than 265 speakers – starting with an expanded roster of workshops on Sunday, June 12. That roster includes:

  • Broadband Starter Kit Workshop
  • Fiber Playbook for State Broadband Officers
  • Fiber Panels for Cable Operators
  • The Future of Fiber Technologies BASe Workshop, produced by the Broadband Forum

Sunday also will feature the first of four OpTIC Train the Trainer sessions that will use the FBA’s OpTIC initiative as a foundation; the subsequent three days of the event will each contain such a session.

The conference proper begins on Monday, June 13, and runs through the late morning on Wednesday, June 15. Not surprisingly, Bolton asserted the keynote sessions are “must see” events. They include panels as well as individual presentations designed in aggregate to address fiber broadband requirements, benefits, funding, and enablement strategies.

For example, each day’s panels focus on different themes. Monday is government day, starting with “Federal Focus: Bridging the Digital Divide” followed by “State of the States: Ensuring Fiber Reaches Everyone.” Tuesday the spotlight will shift to the benefits of fiber broadband, via “Everywhere Fiber Connects” (which will focus on how ubiquitous fiber networking will change everyday life and spark innovation) and “Fiber and the Social Good” (in which panelists will discuss how fiber broadband can affect society for the better). And Wednesday magnifies discussion of the benefits for or requirements of specific constituencies. The day features keynote panels aimed at utilities (“The Utility of Fiber: Looking Beyond the Smart Grid”) and municipalities (“Municipal Fiber: How Communities Use Fiber to Thrive”) that sandwich further explication of fiber broadband benefits (“Fiber Broadband: Economic Enablement at Light Speed”). An “Industry Leaders Roundtable” will bring together broadband association heavyweights to discuss trends in the space as well.

The individual keynotes also will represent different themes or constituencies each day:

  • Monday will see presentations from a pair of companies that have influenced broadband services requirements, Meta and TiVO.
  • Tuesday’s keynoter, Kathryn de Wit, project director, Broadband Access Initiative, Pew Charitable Trust, will keep with that day’s theme of broadband benefits with her talk on “Building the Fiber Future, Today.”
  • On Wednesday, Christopher Ali, associate professor, Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, will enhance the day’s special community theme with his presentation on “Farm Fresh Broadband.”

Complementing the keynotes’ focus on major themes, the “Breakout Education Sessions” that will be held June 13-14 will take a close look at some of the nuts and bolts of fiber broadband. Session tracks include “Operator Best Practices,” “Deployment: View from the Field,” “Industry Perspective,” “Case Study Central: Lighting Up a Brighter Future,” “Innovation: Taking Fiber Further,” “Public Private Partnerships,” “Analyst Take,” and “Fiber Drivers: The Applications Driving Multi-Gig.”

While the show has a reputation for being particularly useful for smaller operators, Bolton said that this year’s program was designed to ensure that other types of service providers, including large-scale operators (who dominate the “Everywhere Fiber Connects” keynote panel, for example) and cable MSOs, felt welcome under the show’s tent.

Big doings on the show floor

Meanwhile, there will be plenty of action on the show floor. Bolton says he expects to see more than 170 exhibitors participate, an increase from 145 in 2021. In the middle of the exhibit floor attendees will find the now traditional Fiber Zone, which this year includes a Fiber Theater and Proof of Concept (PoC) area in addition to the FBA’s booth.

The inaugural series of PoC presentations will highlight collaboration among FBA members to develop innovative use cases for fiber broadband that benefit subscribers, their communities, and their places of work. In a call for applications, the FBA identified the following as potential use cases:

  • Smart Home
  • Smart City
  • Public Safety and First Responder
  • Precision Agriculture
  • K-12 Education and Virtual Learning
  • Higher Education and Campus Life
  • Remote Worker
  • Smart Grid
  • Telehealth and Smart Hospitals
  • Industrial IoT Applications.

That applications call resulted in the selection of six PoCs. They include single-vendor presentations from Nokia, Calix, DZS, and Benton Technologies, as well as a pair of collaborations. The first PoC partnership comprises Ciena, Benu Networks, and Plume, while the second includes COS Systems, Calix, and Lit Communities. Each presenter or team will create a video describing the PoC that exhibit hall attendees will be able to view. The selected PoCs also will be evaluated by a panel of industry analysts for potential award recognition. The awards will highlight “Most Innovative PoC,” “Best Community Impact,” and “Game Changer.”

Doing business

Clearly, education will play a central role in Fiber Connect 2022. However, Bolton envisions the get-together as a place to do business as well. “We’ll see more transactions and deals at the show,” he predicts. Such transactions could include more than operators placing orders with vendors; the growing number of public/private partnerships for community broadband may expand thanks to the ability of municipal leaders and broadband services providers to mingle in the show hallways, he believes.

So whether attendees arrive looking to expand their knowledge or their bottom lines (or both), Bolton expects this year’s Fiber Connect will provide the proper forum. And with the Gaylord Opryland and surrounding facilities operating closer to normal, attendees also will have a better chance to achieve their networking goals over meals.

STEPHEN HARDY is editorial director of Lightwave.

About the Author

Stephen Hardy | Editorial Director and Associate Publisher, Lightwave

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report, part of the Lighting & Technology Group at Endeavor Business Media. Stephen is responsible for establishing and executing editorial strategy across the both brands’ websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products. He has covered the fiber-optics space for more than 20 years, and communications and technology for more than 35 years. During his tenure, Lightwave has received awards from Folio: and the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) for editorial excellence. Prior to joining Lightwave in 1997, Stephen worked for Telecommunications magazine and the Journal of Electronic Defense.

Stephen has moderated panels at numerous events, including the Optica Executive Forum, ECOC, and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. He also is program director for the Lightwave Innovation Reviews and the Diamond Technology Reviews.

He has written numerous articles in all aspects of optical communications and fiber-optic networks, including fiber to the home (FTTH), PON, optical components, DWDM, fiber cables, packet optical transport, optical transceivers, lasers, fiber optic testing, and more.

You can connect with Stephen on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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