Telecom groups put aside differences, launch new event

AT&T’s Stephenson, Cisco’s Chambers to headline this month’s show

Supercomm, the top telecom show in the United States during the industry's boom in the 1990s and early 2000s, is being reborn as NXTcomm.

The inaugural event, buoyed by a telecom industry re-energized by new developments in areas such as convergence and wireless, will bring together service providers and equipment makers the week of June 16. Industry leaders such as new AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Cisco CEO John Chambers and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will be among the show's headliners.

NXTcomm is equally owned by the US Telecom Association (USTA) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The groups previously worked together on Supercomm, but went their own ways after the 18th edition of the event in 2005.

TIA was the managing partner of Supercomm and "had different philosophies [than USTA] on where to take the show," says Wayne Crawford, NXTcomm's executive director.

TIA, whose members include equipment vendors, went on to launch a new show called GlobalComm; the USTA, whose members include service providers, last year organized a show of its own called TelecomNext.

But separate events proved not to be better. Late last year the groups reunited to create NXTcomm, an independent company that's incorporated as an LLC. The board is equally made up of members from each group. In January, the group hired Crawford, from outside both groups.

TIA nor USTA alone is in charge of NXTcomm, Crawford says. "It's more of an arms length relationship. I head up the staff and I report to the board."

NXTcomm numbers

NXTcomm organizers expect 22,000 attendees, but Crawford says it's "tracking a bit behind that quite frankly, though it's tough to tell before the show. But we're optimistic."

Crawford didn't say exactly how many attendees were registered, but he did say that NXTcomm is doing better than TelecomNext, which had about 10,000 attendees. GlobalComm had about 18,000, he says.

"They each had moderate success alone," Crawford says. "But the attending and exhibiting communities dictated to both associations that they need to get back together."

Regarding exhibitors, he says: "We've done better than expected with about 500 on the show floor in about 200,000 square feet of space." That's 60 more companies than exhibited at Globalcomm, he says.

One of the strongest themes at the conference will be convergence, Crawford says. "It's driving infinite growth in the telecom community not just in the US, but throughout the world."

IPTV, IP Multimedia Subsystem and WiMAX are the dominate session topics across 13 tracks, which are operating like conferences within the NXTcomm conference. Some of the 13 include the Fierce Markets WiMax Strategies conference, the Stifel Nicolaus Investor Conference and the ATIS TechThink Technology Conference.

Next for NXTcomm

Even before this month's show takes place, Crawford is looking to 2008. "We've done a fair amount of planning for the 2008 show, which will be in Vegas [June 16-18]."

NXTcomm will be back in Chicago in 2009, but after that is unclear.

"Ideally we would like to be booked five to 10 years in advance," Crawford says. "But we inherited a situation. We're doing a lot of things from scratch."

Next year in Las Vegas NXTcomm will be collocated with InfoCom, a larger event geared toward the professional audiovisual community, Crawford says. "There are some synergies there. The benefit is shared infrastructure costs, but the primary reason is industry synergies as more and more companies are integrating their AV and IT functions."

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Denise Pappalardo

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