High Expo

One hundred vendors exhibited
at the Fall 2004 CompTel/ASCENT trade show in Orlando, which was rescheduled from its original dates in mid-September following a hurricane threat to host city Miami. In an apparent vote of confidence for the association and the competitive telecom industry, attendance reached more than 2,000 despite the change of venue and timing, which crossed both Halloween and Election Day.

“The thing I found incredible about this conference - despite rescheduling it in a month and that everyone showed up - is the buzz,” said H. Russell Frisby Jr., CompTel/ASCENT CEO, in his opening remarks. “The industry is strong. Customers are being served. We have a future.”

CompTel/ASCENT Chairman Sherm Henderson, CEO of Lightyear, also pointed in his opening remarks to the number of vendors in the exhibit as a sign of the industry’s endurance. The CompTel/ASCENT Expo opened Sunday night in the Spirit of All Hallow’s Eve, with nearly every stand doling out treats for the attendees. There also were a few ‘tricks’ on hand with ALLTEL’s racing simulator and EUR Systems’ putting contest.

CompTel/ASCENT CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr. conducts the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. “One thing about this industry is we have had tough times, but we always cut through them,” he says, adding a directive to waiting attendees: “Go make some money.”

Broadwing used the event for its big coming out party following its acquisition 18 months ago by Corvis Corp. Excel Switching also is back exhibiting at CompTel/ASCENT for the first time since it was spun out of Lucent Technologies Inc. James Kovaly, system engineering manager with Cisco Systems Inc., said Cisco took a hiatus from the CompTel/ASCENT convention due to deteriorating market conditions, but returned to the show in February. Bolstered by demand and sales as a result of leads generated in Anaheim, Cisco doubled the size of its booth for the fall show.

Broadwing CEO Dr. David R. Huber with CompTel/ASCENT CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr.

Kovaly said Cisco is responding to a lot of requests for proposals ranging in value from $50,000 to $25 million in the Southeast for such IP voice equipment as softswitches, network management systems and routing infrastructure. The amount of RFPs, Kovaly said, is 10 times what it was last year in his territory, the Southeast.

There were a cluster of attendees at Z-Tel Technologies Inc. The Tampa, Fla.-based company is swiftly evolving its business to adapt to changing federal regulations. Z-Tel is moving towards operating its own local network, representing less reliance on the networks controlled by Verizon Communications Inc. and the other regional phone companies.

From left to right: Progress Telecom President and CEO Ron Mudry; WilTel Communications President and CEO Jeff Storey; Mpower Communications Corp. Chairman and CEO Rolla Huff; and CompTel/ASCENT CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr.

For example, Z-Tel is planning to implement softswitch equipment and broadband gear in New York, its largest city, to provide phone service and highspeed Internet access to homes and businesses through its direct channel and wholesale distribution, said Z-TEL COO Frank Grillo. He said Z-Tel plans to offer consumers a minimum download speed of 1.5mbps.

The future is so bright, they gotta wear shades at the SNET DG booth.

Still, Z-Tel and other CLECs have not abandoned their reliance on the Bell networks. The company announced an agreement with QwestCommunications International Inc. The pact will allow Z-Tel to provide phone and broadband services over Qwest’s network until July 2008.

With wholesale phone regulations having been rejected by a federal appeals court, the FCC is in the process of writing new rules that are expected to make it more expensive for Z-Tel and other CLECs to provide local service over the regional networks controlled by BellSouth Corp., Qwest, SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon.

Pop singer Taylor Dayne performed Sunday night for a packed house at the CompTel/ASCENT Convention & Exposition. The concert was sponsored by Grande Networks and Progress Telecom. Concertgoers also enjoyed food and beverages courtesy of FPL FiberNet and Switch and Data.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said he wants the commission to vote on new rules in December. The trend to move more phone traffic over the Internet is clearly driven by changing FCC rules, said Cody Calhoun, director of VAR channel development with Level 3 Communications Inc.

Rick Lenhart, director of segment marketing with Level 3, said the company is receiving a significant amount of interest at the show for its wholesale voice products.

Certainly, the hot topic on the floor was VoIP. “The technology, the equipment, the hardware, the software and transport - that’s why everybody is here,” says Gerald Wilczek, COO for Heritage Communications Corp.

John Bruckbauer (foreground), director of wholesale services with US Signal, and Barry Raterink, president of US Signal, compete in ALLTEL’s racing simulator.

Admitting bias, IP-based carrier Volo Communications Executive Vice President Ron Harden, former co-chairman of CompTel/ ASCENT, said VoIP’s popularity is “not because of the low price points, but because of the enhanced services it offers that are not available in the TDM world.”

Speaking during the CEO Forum, Rolla Huff, chairman and CEO of Mpower Communications Corp., said the economics behind VoIP are what make the technology compelling, but he cautioned that customers are ultimately looking for value and quality - not the four-letter acronym that has the industry buzzing. “I don’t think everybody should fool themselves into thinking there are customers waiting in line to buy VoIP,” he said.

Although VoIP presents a low-cost way to enter the voice business, Ron Mudry, president and CEO of Progress Telecom, adds there is an X factor. “What’s going to happen to the pricing?” he asked.

The golf tournaments first-place winners Brian Cafferty, Vero Systems; Mark Leafstedt, Total Call International; Jim Walter, 702 Communi-cations; and Danny Ing, Total Call.

A price war in consumer VoIP is forcing leading market competitors to cut prices and increase services, as the major players jockey for customers and market strength. In early October, both AT&T Corp. and consumer VoIP upstart Vonage Holdings Corp. cut the prices on their basic consumer packages, bringing the prices for their ‘unlimited’ packages less than $30 per month.

Adapting to such change was the theme of remarks by both the association’s CEO, H. Russell Frisby Jr.; Chairman Sherm Henderson, who is also president and CEO of Lightyear; and its keynote speaker, Broadwing CEO Dr. David R. Huber. Frisby, quoting a Bob Dylan song, said “the times, they are a changin’.”

“No truer words have been said about the telecom industry,” he said, noting that changing times call for a changing strategy. In the ’80s, he recalls, CompTel’s members were first to take on the long-distance monopoly. In the ’90s, they invested in local facilities. And, in the early part of the new millennium, they have developed “broadband expertise and cutting- edge applications like VoIP and new technology like broadband over power line.”

Second-place winners Volo Communications’ Lew Brownfield and Ron Harden; Drew Walker, ITC^DeltaCom; and Sterling Winn, Volo Communications

“While the decades and the technology may change, fundamental concern remains the same: making sure competition works,” Frisby said. He added that along these lines competitive telecom companies must have access to underlying network facilities at reasonable rates.

Referring to the FCC’s anticipated permanent rules governing unbundled network elements, Frisby said regulators have a second chance to support competition, create jobs and deliver consumer benefits. “That can be their legacy.”

CompTel/ASCENT Chairman Henderson said telecom is entering a new era that he compares to the transition from black-and-white TV to color - driven by our children. “In order to get there, we must forget the frustration and the anger and stop the complaining and griping of the last two to three years. We have to stop being bitter.”

Mike Miller, Xspedius Fiber Group; David Kelley, PPL Telcom; CompTel/ASCENT CEO Russell Frisby; and CustomCall Data Systems Frank Peregrine

In addition to the right attitude, he said the industry needs to execute and deliver. “We need everyone in this room to get us there,” he said.

Dr. Huber is perhaps a quintessential example of an entrepreneur that has adapted to change. His company evolved from an optical technology vendor to a service provider. “I like change; I get excited about the opportunity to change things,” he said. “There are not too many [service providers] in this room that started out life as equipment manufacturers.”

Huber offers one example of the competitors’ abilities to change, holding an advantage over incumbents - they struggle with moving from a cost-plus business model. “You can get them to trade capex for opex,” he said, explaining that their operations remain less than optimal. Unfortunately, that has trickled down to competitors in the wholesale prices they pay, he noted. “Inefficiency should not be subsidized,” he argued - a sentiment that drew applause from the crowd.

From left to right: Peter Cassidy, vice president – select accounts, MCI; Janet Matulia, president, France Telecom Long Distance USA; Dan Powdermaker, senior vice president – worldwide sales, iBasis; Dr. Judy Reed Smith, CEO, ATLANTIC-ACM; Luisa Foyo, vice president – Caribbean and Latin America region, AT&T Wholesale; and Chris Hunt, manager – carrier sales, Teleglobe.

ATLANTIC-ACM Honors Wholesale Carrier Performance

Five global wholesalers were acknowledged for their performance in a ceremony yesterday marking ATLANTIC-ACM’s 2004 Global Wholesale Carrier Excellence Awards.

The awards, which were presented by ATLANTIC-ACM CEO Dr. Judy Reed Smith in advance of a panel on global wholesale opportunities, were based on results from the 2004 edition of ATLANTIC-ACM’s Global Wholesale Carrier Report Card, which evaluates the performance of wholesale carriers from ratings by its resale customers.

iBasis Inc. took the honors in three categories: billing, provisioning and customer service. AT&T Corp. won for its network quality and availability. MCI tied with France Telecom for products and with ITXC (now Teleglobe) for pricing.


702 Communications
AT&T Alascom
AT&T Corp.
BellSouth Corp.
Broadwing Communications LLC
Cisco Systems Inc.
Consumer Cellular
Corvis Corp.
EUR Systems
Excel Switching Corp.
France Telecom
Heritage Communications Corp.
iBasis Inc.
Iowa Network Services Inc.
Level 3 Communications Inc.
Lightyear Network Solutions LLC
Lucent Technologies Inc.
Mpower Communications Corp.
Nscope LLC
Progress Telecom
Qwest Communications International Inc.
SBC Communications Inc.
SRP Telecom
Total Call International Inc.
Verizon Communications Inc.
Vero Systems Inc.
Volo Communications
Vonage Holdings Corp.
Z-Tel Communications Inc.

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