The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association and the Organization for the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies teamed up once again to deliver the fourth annual IP Possibilities Conference & Expo
. With a sold out exhibit hall and nearly 550 attendees, it was the largest IP Possibilities to date. The conference aimed to deliver a comprehensive forum specifically for rural telecom executives to engage in the broadband debate. The theme of the show was centered on the question, "What does the future of IP-based technology hold for you in 2010?"
The energy at the show was higher than usual, noted one attendee, while another said, "It's a different kind of show - less of the rah-rah, but totally appropriate for the audience. This is the crowd that has delivered telephony service in areas where others weren't willing - they are methodical, reliable and concerned (about their customers and the industry). They're not as hype-compliant as visitors to Interop or CES might be."
"There was a good 'vibe' at the show," according to Kevin McGuire, vice president, business & technology, NTCA."Vendors were very happy with the traffic and the quality of leads. Attendees spoke highly of the educational content and networking opportunities." One attendee summed up his experience this way: "Solid experience - real people, real challenges, real business."
The buzz at the show was around the proposed broadband regulatory changes and how that will impact the universal service fund (USF) and intercarrier competition. As one journalist put it: "With new details recently announced about the Obama administration's National Broadband Plan, the role of rural broadband providers likely will become more critical and fall under greater scrutiny."
"There was very real energy around finding innovative solutions that can help [rural telcos] compete, regardless of government assistance," said one attendee.
It was fitting that the FCC's newly appointed deputy chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, Carol Mattey, delivered the show's keynote address, where she outlined the president's plan. She addressed questions surrounding inter-carrier compensation, the Universal Service Fund, and the improvement of penetration rates within rural locations.
This was followed with a panel session of members discussing concerns they have about the plan, including the transition from USF to the Connect America Fund requiring movement from Rate of Return regulation to price cap.
Exhibitors reported seeing a lot more attendees come by their booths this year with the purpose of buying. According to Nitin Gupta, Cisco's business development manager, and Michael Shannon, product manager, attendees were far more interested in moving forward with projects this year compared to last year.
There were 57 exhibitors, including Metaswitch Networks, Occam Networks, Nokia Siemens Networks, Calix, Cisco, Ericsson, Solarus and Mariner.
Some of the biggest news coming out of the show was Mariner's participation in Cisco's IPTV workshop, titled "Turning Your IP Network into a Service Delivery Platform." Mariner products that were demonstrated at the show included the xVu suite of IPTV service-monitoring tools.
Conference sessions were divided among three key tracks that mirror the stages of deployment:
- "Build It": Build your IP network.
- "Fill It": Fill your IP network with applications.
- "Bill It": Make money on your network and applications.
The show was held within the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. "The skylight ballroom was a bit 'elevator challenged' (not many and a bit slow), and there were some pillars that impacted line of sight for some, but overall, a good heartland location for a good show," noted one conference attendee. Another complaint was the lack of Wi-Fi access at the show, according to speaker Jay Cuthrell of Cuthrell Consulting
IP Possibilities is a good show for those involved in delivering broadband services in rural areas or companies who support those that do. The exhibit hall had good traffic, and the conference sessions provided a strong venue for learning and evaluating technologies and regulations.