ITU - Telecom World 2003 reflects a battered industry

Don't be surprised to find several large vendors and fixed network operators absent from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-sponsored Telecom World conference and exhibition opening Oct. 12 in Geneva. The global technology downturn over the past few years forced many big-name companies to review their marketing investments and scratch the pricey ITU event from their budgets.

Alcatel SA, Lucent Technologies Inc., Nokia Corp., Motorola Inc. and Siemens AG are a few of the manufacturing heavyweights missing at this year's ITU event, which traditionally takes place every four years here in the Swiss city.

Gone are the flashy multi-story, million dollar stands, replaced by much smaller, 500-square foot booths. Gone, too, is the excitement of an industry that -- during the previous show in 1999 -- was reaching its zenith at the peak of the Internet bubble.

"We had to make some spending adjustments and decided that the Geneva show, which is pretty expensive, is one that we could replace with smaller, more frequent regional shows," said Siemens spokesman Thomas Schepp.

Although some global telecom industry key players will not be at the Palexpo conference and exhibition center when the doors open Sunday, several other hardware and software vendors, fixed and mobile operators and service companies will be around to tout their products and services. Indeed, the sector may be badly bruised from one of its worst recessions ever, but it's far from dead.

Some of the biggest names in the communications industry will be on board, using Telecom World to launch new products and services. NEC Corp. plans to announce new technology for packet-based mobile networks, while Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are also expected to make key announcements in the wireless space.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. will be showcasing its 3G (third-generation) network and I-mode technology, with executives, like President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Keiji Tachikawa, on board to talk future 4G (fourth-generation) technologies.

Other high-profile CEOs are also scheduled to give keynote speeches. To name a few: Arun Sarin of Vodafone Group PLC, HP's Carly Fiorina and John Chambers of Cisco Systems Inc., as well as Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates.

These speeches come on top of a long list of presentations and roundtable discussions with industry experts. To a great extent, talk is what the quadrennial ITU telecom event is all about, reflecting its roots as a forum to bring together the world's telecom industry to discuss policy, strategy and technology

The ITU is expecting around 920 exhibitors at this year's event, compared with 1,047 in 1999, according to ITU spokesman Markus Schoefert. Around 50 percent of them, he said, are new to the show, and many of these are in the wireless sector, which will be a major focus of the show.

Suppliers of broadband equipment and services form another large group.

Not only will broadband wireless LAN technology be a focus of the show, it will also be a service available to visitors and exhibitors.

Swisscom AG, the official supplier of telecom services to Telecom World, has installed 50 hotspots in the exhibition halls. Information about pricing was not immediately available.

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