Andy knows his wines, and we had a great dinner and talked about what we're seeing in the market, as well as what's happening at Supercomm. I've participated in a number of sessions, and seen the floor a few times. As expected, the traffic is strong, and it's pretty overwhelming with so many different tracks going on.
Time is short here at the show, but I wanted to post the big picture themes I'm seeing...
- IMS, IMS, IMS. Did I mention IMS? Just like Skype was on everybody's mind at VON Europe, IMS is the flavor of the moment at Supercomm. I attended briefings from Lucent and Sonus, and the vendors are all sharing their IMS stories. They all sound good, and both vendors and carriers are talking as if this is 100% the future. It's early yet, so it's hard to tell if this is for real, or if it's a stupendous sales job by the vendors. I think it's for real, and IMS seems to underscore just how much wireless has passed by wireline as the driver for the telcos.
- Video is really hot too, esp IPTV. This seems to be Microsoft's big entry point into IP, and IP TV is quite prominent here. The RBOC CEOs have been stating their plans here about getting into video, and it's clear they need to do this on a big stage so the MSOs don't miss the message.
- The Asian vendors are flexing their muscle here, esp ZTE and Huawei. When you enter the venue, you're bombarded with gigantic banner ads from the vendors we know and love - Cisco, Nortel, Lucent, Alcatel - can't miss these. But ZTE and Huawei aren't far behind, and you can't miss their booth displays. Both are on a fast track to break into the Western markets, and of course Huawei is already there with BT. Right now, they're building momentum with smaller wins, and the bigger ones are no doubt not that far away. I predict that next year - in whatever show that succeeds Supercomm - their exhibit spaces will be bigger than any of the big U.S. or European vendors.
- One more thought on IMS, and a subtle plug for Canada. The RBOCs have their work cut out as they don't have full ownership of their wireless arms. I've always found that a key difference with Canada, where the big ILECs - Bell and Telus - have 100% owned wireless operations. At the show it's really dawned on me how much harder it will be for the RBOCs to make IMS work for them as they try to integate with multiple networks - both wireline and wireless. Maybe once Bell and Telus figure this out, they can come and show the RBOCs. That would be interesting. And to think that SBC had a stake in Bell until recently. With the MSOs showing early signs of success with VoIP, the RBOCs certainly face some steep challenges ahead.