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Final ASCENT Show Spurs New Optimism

Posted: 1/2004

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Pardners in the telecom industry
came together in Dallas for the final conference and expo under the ASCENT
banner. The association, which represents small and midsize carriers including
resellers, merged with the Competitive Telecommunications Association (CompTel)
in mid-September. Participants in the 2003 Fall Conference & Networking
Center expressed optimism and high expectations for the telecom industry and the
new CompTel/ASCENT Alliance.

In his speech, keynote speaker Greg Rohde said, This is the
first telecom merger in recent years thats going to do something to enhance
competition. That observation seemed reflected in attendance, as the trade
show attracted at least 1,100 people. Theres definitely more optimism in
the air, more momentum, said James Jordan of Grande Networks, an exhibitor at the
event. People are more upbeat; theyre pushing more products and
getting back into the growth mode. They have focus.

Other participants agreed. TMI thinks the merger is a real
positive move for this side of the industry, said Jennifer Durst-Jarrell of
Technologies Management Inc. (TMI). I think its nice for the last ASCENT
show to go out on such a positive note. The vibe here is very positive in terms
of the merger and the industry.

Peter Karoczkai with InfoHighway called the merger great.
He said it looks like the worst times are behind us and predicted an
upswing, especially as the combined CompTel/ASCENT Alliance debut event in
Anaheim in February nears.

Alliance executives CEO Russell Frisby and COO Walt Blackwell,
making their opening remarks in tandem, noted the challenges and benefits of the
merger, echoing much of what was heard on the exhibit floor. Blackwell said the
group represents one voice, one purpose to advance competition while
Frisby concluded: This is the right merger at the right time with the right
team.

Frisby said the combination will have a unified effect on the
regulatory front both state and federal, giving members the edge to survive
in the face of the tremendous battle he expects for 2004.

Richard Burk, Alliance co-chair and the president of nii
Communications Inc., said, The reality is there is one competitive industry
out there. That we came together gives us a lot more power. He added, The
robustness of competitors is demonstrated by their success in the most difficult
market.

Sherman Henderson, past ASCENT chairman and current president
and CEO of Lightyear, remarked, when people look back on the competitive telecom
industry, it would be called the comeback kid of the 2000s.

Keynote speaker Rohde, former head of the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration and a former assistant
secretary of commerce for communications and information, said despite its
regulated status, telecom competition is driven by technological change.

He added these changes are outpacing regulatory thinking. As
an example, he pointed to the recent FCC decision preserving UNE-P. While not
minimizing the importance of the ruling to present competitive business models,
he said, over the long term, what may be a more significant boon for competition
is the Nov. 13 FCC decision adding 255 MHz of spectrum in the 5.470-5.725GHz
band for unlicensed devices. Rohde said the move, which increases the unlicensed
spectrum available by nearly 80 percent, will create more opportunities for
competitive models.

He cited the introduction of broadband wireless known as Wi-Fi
as one of the disruptive changes in technology that affect not only the industry
but also society. Others on this list would include the engine, which changed
the transportation industry and peoples ability and speed of travel.
Similarly, in communications, the telegraph, the Internet and the World Wide Web
have changed the way we communicate and how we do business. The next evolution, he said, is going to be grid computing,
which essentially enables the combination of computing power across locations.

In this industry, there are a lot of pioneers embracing
technology and causing disruption for the incumbents, he said. The challenge for innovators and incumbents alike when faced
with the challenge of disruptive change is what to take from the past and what
to shed.

Links
CompTel/ASCENT Alliance www.comptelascent.org
Grande Networks www.grandecom.com
InfoHighway www.infohighway.com
Lightyear www.lightyearcom.com
nii Communications Inc. www.niicommunications.com
Technologies Management Inc. www.tminc.com

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