Call it a first for Philly: When the Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers gather in Philadelphia next week for its annual Cable-Tec Expo, it will be the first time the convention has been staged in the Northeast region.
Given that Philadelphia is within five hours drive of 40% of its members, the SCTE hopes location will drive a strong turnout.
"A lot of people are calling this the 'planes, trains and automobiles Expo,' because the forms of transportation people are using to get here are all over the place," SCTE CEO John Clark said.
So far, there are about 340 exhibitors, on track with last year's 350 with expected last-minute booth additions. Attendance at this point is running slightly behind the 10,000 attendees at last year's Expo in San Antonio, but with late additions "we think there is a good chance to approach that this year," Clark said.
"One of the interesting things is — and it goes to show you there are opportunities as well as challenges — we will have 61 new exhibitors, which is a very high number," Clark noted. "A lot of them are smaller start-up companies, but it still shows a strong interest in telecommunications."
It also doesn't hurt that Philadelphia is now the hometown of the nation's largest MSO, a factor that played into convincing Comcast Corp. president Brian Roberts to deliver the Expo's opening keynote.
Clark said that was more a matter of "pure blind luck" — Philadelphia was chosen for the 2003 Expo nearly four years ago, long before Comcast's mega-merger with AT&T Broadband made it the nation's largest MSO.
The events also will capitalize on the Philadelphia locale. Philadelphia Mayor John Street will open the show floor, the kick-off Expo Evening will be staged at the Ben Franklin Institute and the Expo awards luncheon will feature a keynote by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
The focus of the Expo is bottom-line technology, with the emphasis on saving money, increasing operational efficiency and building sales. The latter may seem somewhat out of place for an engineering organization, but Clark said that reflects the changing role of engineers as drivers for cable service offerings.
"I would say that it has been an evolution, but certainly it is stronger than ever today," Clark said. "Often, technology is the key to increasing sales, so the engineering people are certainly part of not only the efficiency team, but also the sales-building team."
This year, SCTE also will be expanding its Operation Español efforts, offering three sessions simulcast in Spanish.