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February 10, 2010

SUPERCOMM 2010 Gets Flushed Down the “Cloaca Oeconomia”

Back in the day, when Yours Truly was working for the great telecom guru and dealmaker Harry Newton, his Computer Telephony Expos would pull in 20,000 to 25,000 attendees per show. There were only a couple of events that could match or overshadow it: one was VoiceCon and the other, with its 60,000+ attendees, was SUPERCOMM, a show worthy enough to have its name spelled out in capital letters. SUPERCOMM was jointly owned by two trade associations: the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), which serves the big telcos, and the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom, or USTA), which represents broadband service providers and their suppliers.

SUPERCOMM made its debut in 1988 and soon became a tremendous success as a showcase where equipment suppliers could extol and sell their wares to phone companies. The show often had unofficial themes such as 1994’s, "one person, one number communications."  Attendance mostly consisted of association members, including the aforementioned Telecom Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs) and Local Exchange Carriers (LECs). In an effort to add end users and international attendees to the mix, in March 1995 SUPERCOMM began collocating with an event (expo and conference) sponsored by The International Communication Association (ICA) in Anaheim, California. The ICA had provided a top-notch educational program at its 1994 meeting (a result of its eminent standing in promoting the advancement of professional and scientific knowledge in the fields of voice, video and data communications) but its attendance was down compared to 1993—indeed, SUPERCOMM’s attendance was five times larger— with the ICA’s woes mostly stemming from competition from for-profit shows. SUPERCOMM was also feeling some heat from the NetWorld+Interop show at the time, which had “coincidentally” scheduled its May 1994 event directly across from SUPERCOMM, but then moved its 1995 show to Las Vegas during March 28-30, a week after the time slot when SUPERCOMM was slated to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center (March 19-23, 1995).

SUPERCOM and the ICA (which some had thought was in a “do or die” situation) hoped that a “synergy” would be generated to enable the typical end user—SUPERCOMM’s “customer's customer”—to not only look at what products and services they needed today, but what they would need down the road.

The 500-exhibitor SUPERCOMM did remain something of a proverbial goldmine until its two contentious owners decided to part ways in 2005. Both the TIA and USTelecom then held their own lackluster expos, following a sort of self-immolating “divide and self-destruct” strategy. The TIA launched their Globalcomm show in 2006, and USTelecom countered by holding TELECOM ’05 (held at the Las Vegas Venetian Resort & Casino in October 2005) and then re-configuring it as TelecomNEXT 2006, a show that drew decision makers and great speakers, but a paltry number of attendees.

Profit, like absence, must truly make the heart grow fonder, for the two organizations resolved to put their differences aside and once again jointly stage a show. Unfortunately, they didn’t call it SUPERCOMM. Instead, it was called NXTcomm, which made it appear to be a “new” unproven show with not a hint of the successful persona of SUPERCOMM. NXTcomm’s were held in 2007 and 2008, to no great effect. Finally, the owners decided to once again call their show SUPERCOMM, reviving the most successful expo & conference brand in the telecom world.

The resulting, reconstituted SUPERCOMM 2009 was held in Chicago and was managed by ExpoComm Events, a company jointly owned by E.J. Krause & Associates and Reed Exhibitions. A sparse 6,000 people attended this show, roaming about a floor comprised of 120,000 gross square feet of exhibit space.

SUPERCOMM 2010 had been scheduled for Oct. 26-28 at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, but obviously that won’t be happening…

The little note on the site was succinct, to the point of being totally abrupt:

EXPOCOMM Events LLC has elected not to renew the contract to manage a SUPERCOMM event in 2010 after careful review and counsel with co-owning SUPERCOMM associations, TIA and USTelecom.

The SUPERCOMM co-owning associations have also decided against producing a SUPERCOMM event in 2010.

Over at the website of the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom), there was a bit more of an explanation:

WASHINGTON D.C. – Convention planner EXPOCOMM told USTelecom and TIA it will not manage the SUPERCOMM® trade show in 2010, due to financial projections for the show this year. As a result, the two associations jointly decided to cancel the event that was tentatively set for this fall. USTelecom and TIA said they have enjoyed working together on the show, and look forward to future collaborative efforts.

The TIA’s website page devoted to the subject ( hadn’t yet made a similar announcement as of February 2, 2010.

In thinking about the downturn in the American economy today and its effects on formerly robust American institutions such as SUPERCOMM, my thoughts wildly wandered off as I began to ponder the Cloaca Maxima (or “Greatest Sewer”) constructed to carry the vast volume of ancient Rome’s effluent to the nearby River Tiber.

Coincidentally, some people think that struggling companies in today’s American economy are currently “in an economic sewer,” but Yours Truly thinks they’re actually below the sewer, figuratively speaking, much the way ancient Rome’s infamous subterranean Mamertine prison, also referred to as the Tullianum or Carcere Mamertino, was situated in a putrid, dank space beneath the Cloacal Maximus. Just as St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned there, so too has SUPERCOMM and various major organizations been immured in a dungeon beneath today’s  “Cloaca Oeconomia”.

Farewell, SUPERCOMM. Let’s hope you’ll be miraculously pardoned / revived in 2011.

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