Electronic Design

Supercom 2005: Something For Everyone

Supercomm 2005 was huge. Nearly 30,000 visitors and more than 600 exhibitors attended the June show in Chicago, sponsored by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). These folks represent the main telecom system and equipment providers to companies that supply chips and other components.

Several themes recurred throughout the show: the decline in the traditional telephone business and the rapidly increasing adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol; forthcoming IP video distribution; IP by carrier-grade Ethernet in the metro-area network and the wide-area network; broadband connections, especially the newer DSL versions; passive optical networks; and broadband wireless newcomer WiMAX.

In addition to the "free" sessions and keynotes, the International Engineering Consortium (IEC) put on many excellent in-depth, up-to-date paid educational sessions. The IEC is a major source of information and education in communications. The group also has great, free online tutorials. Check it out at www.iec.org.

During "The Other 4 Billion: Telecom in Emerging Nations," the TIA pointed out that only 2.5 billion of our 6.5 billion total world population now benefit from telephones, wireless, and other forms of electronic communications. In most third-world developing countries, telecom penetration reaches less than 50% of the population. There is real market opportunity in providing communications services to that huge population.

New FCC chair Kevin Martin listed two key FCC priorities. First, the FCC wants to level the current differences between how telecom carriers and cable TV suppliers are treated. Next, it wants to stimulate broadband-service deployment. The wireless spectrum, or lack thereof, continues to be a problem the FCC will address with the National Telecommunications and Information Agency.

FCC commissioner Kathleen Abernathy and California Public Utilities commissioner Susan Kennedy called for a rewrite of the telecom laws to support the industry's rapid social, technological, and economic changes. The FCC also wants to encourage competition and investment to make more and better communications services available at affordable rates.

The PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) pavilion showcased the wares of over 100 vendors working on Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) equipment targeting next-generation networking systems.

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), which is driving the IPTV standard, demonstrated the world's first carrier-grade Ethernet. Also, the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) demonstrated a dynamic setup of Ethernet services over a global optical network. Eight carriers and 34 vendors linked Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

The WiMAX Forum was there as well, representing its 220 members. Broadband Wireless Access is going to be a big deal, and WiMAX is getting its equipment certification program in gear to ensure that the myriad WiMAX products can talk to each other.

Supercomm won't be around next year. Instead, a similar show called Globalcomm2006 will debut June 5-8 in Chicago. It no doubt will be bigger than ever. One thing's for sure, though. I'm going to need a better pair of shoes.


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