June 28, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
he talk on the South Side is on triple plays, but the venue is
McCormick Place, not U.S. Cellular Park.
The mood at SuperComm 2004, the global telecom trade show held here,
was decidedly upbeat. The telecom industry appears headed into investment
mode. The reason: Telephone companies and cable TV providers are vying for
a bigger share of high-end services.
Service providers are poised to grow their networks to provide
consumers with television, telephone and Internet data services over a
single broadband connection. That's the triple play. It's good news for
the equipment providers who gathered here. It's great news for consumers
who will have service providers like Comcast and SBC competing for their
business, offering new products.
SBC Communications CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. set the tone at SuperComm,
announcing program to bring fiber-optic cable and digital television to
the home. SBC could spend up to $6 billion on the initiative. FCC Chairman
Michael Powell stressed his commitment to a regulatory environment that
Cable television leader Don Logan, chairman of Time Warner's media and
communications group, said cable providers are in the last stages of an
$85 billion build-out of a network that will give customers "convenience,
control and the benefit of choice."
Expect a lot more competition for your video, voice and Internet data
services dollars in the months ahead.
Perspectives on Chicago from the tech glitterati visiting SuperComm:
Matthew Bross, group chief technology officer, British Telecom,
sees Chicago as a networking city. He lined up more meetings here in 24
hours than anywhere in the world. He's installing a new technology
infrastructure for BT that's the envy of the industry. Estimated spending:
$3 billion to $5 billion annually. What did he do for fun in Chicago? "The
first thing a Brit does when he comes to Chicago is have a steak," says
Bross, who dined at McCormick & Schmick's on East Chestnut.
Gianfranco Tomaino Beltrami, a managing director with Spain's
Telefonica, explores ways to encourage Europeans to adopt new
technologies. This cosmopolitan Venezuelan makes his home in Madrid. He is
struck by Chicago's architecture. "It was a real surprise," says Beltrami.
"One of the most beautiful cities in the world."
Ned Barnholt, CEO, Agilent Technologies, predicts wireless
communications will dominate. Would he move his corporate headquarters
from Palo Alto to Chicago? Barnholt quips, "The way our business is going
it needs to move to Asia. One thousand new wireless subscribers are added
every 15 minutes in China." Barnholt spent his evening barbecuing with his
Kathy Bagin, vice president, AT&T, is CEO David Dorman's
point person to launch VoIP. Taking a break from promoting her new
service, Bagin raves about dinner at Aria in the Fairmont Hotel and Frank
Gehry's bandshell, which she referred to as "that strange roof structure
in Millennium Park."
Tatsuro Murakami, project manager for Japan's NTT, designs the
future telecommunications network serving 60 million subscribers.
Tokyo-based Murakami took Metra to the Ravinia Festival to unwind. "I'm
crazy about classical music," says Murakami, who heard the Chicago
Computerworld's annual rankings of the best places to work in IT are
out, and Illinois is in. Our state placed 14 companies on the list, more
than any other. Topping the list (rank in parenthesis): CDW (6), Grant
Thornton (26), Allstate (39), Forsythe Technology (40), Household
International (46), United Stationers (53), Caterpillar (56), Northern
Trust (67), Discover Financial Services (68), CNA (85), Hewitt Associates
(86), VW Credit (88), International Truck & Engine (91) and Peoples
Bits & bytes
iBIO president David Miller and Illinois Department of Commerce
and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin led a delegation to
BIO 2004 in San Francisco. It's a tune-up for hosting the global BIO 2006
convention here. Also in California last week, Alexandra Graham,
co-founder of Chicago-based LaGray Chemical Co., presented at Springboard:
Silicon Valley 2004. The forum showcased two dozen top women entrepreneurs
to the Valley's leading venture investors. LaGray Chemical Co. aims to
provide drugs to the people of Africa to treat HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria.