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A Look Inside TIA 2011

Vendors and carriers carefully planned their participation in TIA 2011.  They evidently want to minimize their investments in this new entry on the trade show calendar until they better understand just what the event will cover and whom it will attract. After attending this year, LightCounting expects the show, which will return to Dallas again in 2012, to focus on regulatory and service issues in carrier networks rather than network hardware.

The debut of TIA 2011: Inside the Network

LightCounting attended TIA 2011: Inside the Network on May 17–20 in Dallas, Texas. This was the debut of the TIA’s new annual addition to the calendar of communications industry shows and conferences. It is intended to be the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA) flagship event, and this year, it combined an exhibition, educational sessions, standards meetings, and the TIA’s annual Spring Policy Summit.  TIA’s inaugural gathering of suppliers, network operators and service providers boasted 2,200 preregistered attendees, and its intimate feel seemed to support easy networking among them. The event was held in AT&T’s backyard, but the recent announcement of AT&T’s intention to acquire T-Mobile may have impacted attendance—rumor has it that AT&T discouraged employees from attending (just as it did at the March CTIA show) to avoid an inadvertent release of information on the progress of the acquisition. 

Many attendees compared the show to the much larger SuperComm events, which the TIA and United States Telecom Association (USTA) jointly sponsored for many years. In 2001, SuperComm attracted record attendance of 52,000. But attendance fell to 26,000 in 2004 as the industry struggled to recover from the telecom downturn. By 2009, when the last SuperComm show took place, attendance had dropped to about 7,000.   

SuperComm and OFC used to be the two big North American events for the communications industry. Today, industry consolidation has left fewer suppliers to support a large event, and the dominant carriers don’t need a trade show to get information from vendors. Over the last few years smaller, more targeted trade shows have pulled vendors and their customers away from the large events. For example, the high-growth mobile technology component of the market has its own trade shows; the CTIA presents two shows in the United States every year that have caught the interest of vendors and customers in the mobile market. While Interop, the largest US trade show for the IT market continues to draw service providers and vendors.

TIA 2011: Searching for an identity on the show calendar

The TIA is a global trade organization that supports standards development and policy initiatives on industry regulation, tax incentives, and wireless spectrum. It has about 300 active member companies.

TIA 2011 provided presentations on a broad span of issues related to converged networks, mobile backhaul, over-the-top (OTT) services, sustainability and environmental issues, security management, M2M and connected devices, and the smart grid. The overall theme to the presentations might be summarized as “IT has won the technology battle; now the issue is how can carriers extract value from their networks.” A number of presentations noted that carriers need to take advantage of the fact that they alone have real-time data on subscribers and the network—commercial cloud providers do not. A defined area of the exhibit floor was reserved for an Innovation Showcase, where the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley featured technology from an assortment of small vendors.

Little hardware was visible in exhibitor booths. Huawei and Ciena were obvious exceptions: they brought their demonstration trailers loaded with wireless, optical, and carrier Ethernet equipment. Further, vendors did not use the event to announce new technology. In fact, Fujitsu Network Communications announced its 100G line cards the week before rather than waiting to make the announcement at the show. Instead of an event to show off hardware platforms, TIA’s conference seems to be attractive as a forum to address financial, regulatory, and operational issues in modern carrier networks.

Keynotes from top executives addressed carriers new role in services

TIA attracted top executives from leading carrier and vendor companies, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Verizon CTO Tony Melone. Randall predicted chaos over the next 4 to 5 years, because applications and services today can come from anywhere and bring unpredictable new network demands. He said it was AT&T’s role to manage that chaos and was looking for government tax and regulatory policy support to justify the multibillion-dollar investments necessary for the capacity increases to support new services. He also said AT&T is burning through spectrum, and although Congress and the FCC are working toward making new spectrum available, AT&T can’t wait the expected 6 or 7 years for the completion of that process. Not surprisingly, Mr. Stephenson said approval of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would bring an immediate lift in effective capacity as well as $8 billion in capex to build out AT&T’s network, and it brings a broadband solution to rural America in the process.

Tony Melone’s Keynote addressed Verizon’s recent acquisition of TerreMark, a cloud services provider. Tony talked about the trend to separate services from the network and how the TerreMark acquisition would help accelerate Verizon’s move in that direction. Verizon already offers cloud services like FlexView to its FiOS video-on-demand customers; FlexView allows subscribers to watch content anywhere on any IP device. In addition, the Verizon Digital Media Services offering helps content providers reach subscribers over Verizon’s cloud.

OneChip shows off monolithic PIC technology for PON transceivers

OneChip was the only optical transceiver vendor exhibiting and speaking at TIA 2011. OneChip is an Ottawa-based startup founded in 2005. It produces optical transceivers that are based on photonic integrated circuits (PICs) using monolithic Indium Phosphide (InP) technology. OneChip’s PICs provide all the optical functions required in an ONU used in a FTTH PON. With continued strong pressure on ONU pricing, OneChip claims its PIC technology can provide 20% cost savings over discrete free-space optical assemblies or planar lightwave circuit assemblies. The company is targeting EPON, GPON, Active Ethernet, XGPON, and other business and consumer markets for optical transceivers.