COMPTEL Exhibitors Adapt to New Competitive Environment

Dozens of exhibitors and 2,200 attendees converged on the world’s largest Marriott Hotel this week to champion a new era in the competitive carrier community — an era of rebirth characterized by mergers and acquisitions, and the introduction of new technologies. Up to 2,500 people were expected to participate in the Fall 2006 COMPTEL PLUS Convention & Expo by Wednesday.

“There has been a lot of consolidation but we have a full show floor nonetheless, which is a positive sign for the industry,” said Earl Comstock, COMPTEL’s president and CEO. “The industry is energetic and vibrant, and it really comes across in the show floor.”

Similarly, COMPTEL Chairman Sherm Henderson said in his opening remarks yesterday that the competitive industry is adapting to a new environment, evidenced by the new and evolving businesses on the COMPTEL PLUS exhibit floor.

As one example, Henderson cited Adaption Technologies (Booth 608), a new exhibitor at the event and a new entrant in the competitive market. The company, which boasts former founder and CEO of WilTel Roy Wilkens as its “honorary” chairman, is about four months old and has developed a platform for delivering hosted PBX services under private label to service providers, such as CLECs, ISPs and cablecos, seeking to get into the VoIP business.

“We are coming back,” Henderson said. “We are a changing, adapting industry and association.”

He added the “entrepreneurial spirit” continues among the COMPTEL members. “There are a lot more gray hairs, but there are a whole lot of young companies. … Also, there are a number of financial institutions here that we haven’t seen in a few years.”

He said he is encouraged to see support coming back to the competitive carrier industry. More than 110 CEOs attended yesterday’s CEO Council meeting — another good indicator of an engaged competitive industry, he noted.

“The big question is who has the solution for the last mile,” he said, claiming there are some alternatives to cable and telco infrastructure being offered on the show floor.

Indeed, a number of bypass landline providers are among the exhibitors. In addition, there are fixed wireless service providers, such as Nextlink (Wireless Inc. Booth 1102), that are providing wholesale access alternatives. Even Henderson’s own company, Lightyear Network Solutions (Booth 318), is exhibiting FirstSpeed, its new BPL offer, set to roll out to wholesale customers in select markets, such as Akron, Ohio, in November.

Underscoring new energy in the competitive telecom world, activity was rampant in the expo hall on Monday morning. “We only need to find one or two large customers to get a return on the show,” said Keith Hopwood, vice president of marketing for Phihong USA Corp., which makes equipment such as midspans and endspans. “If those pan out, it will be a great show for us.”

Dan Lowden, vice president of business development and marketing for Wayport, a Wi-Fi provider, said the show was “phenomenal” for his company. “We’re making a lot of great contacts. We see a strong need for the services Wayport brings,” he said.

Vertek, too, was “getting good traffic,” said Mauricio Rosales, director of engineering and provisioning. “It’s targeting the right audience — that makes it easier to deliver a message.”

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