OSP Expo tackles challenges of all-everything communications

How to integrate voice, video, and data in the outside plant, keeping pace with burgeoning wireless demand, and providing high-speed bandwidth in the "last mile" were among the issues tackled by attendees during OSP Expo `99 last November at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas.

Steve Smith

How to integrate voice, video, and data in the outside plant, keeping pace with burgeoning wireless demand, and providing high-speed bandwidth in the "last mile" were among the issues tackled by attendees during OSP Expo `99 last November at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas.

The annual conference and trade show produced record attendance, a high demand for exhibition space (including overflow into the convention center lobby), and new international interest.

Test equipment was the prominent new and pending product on this year`s trade show floor. Fluke Corp. (Everett, WA) presented its broad line of tools for testing Asynchronous Transfer Mode, frame relay, xDSL (digital subscriber line), and T1 technologies; Ameritec Corp. (Covina, CA) premiered its handheld T1/fractional-T1 digital tester; and Canoga Perkins (Chatsworth, CA) and Agilent Technologies (Westford, MA) displayed their time-domain reflectometer test and troubleshooting devices. Wilcom (Laconia, NH) attracted interest in its Model FR2 Fiber Ranger Optical Fault Locator, which is billed as a low-cost alternative for outside-plant and local-area-network (LAN) installation verification and troubleshooting.

Companies offering the total-system approach, both in distribution and in manufacturing and service, were other high-traffic areas. Among the all- in-one vendors were CDT Underground LLC (Tacoma, WA) with its complete underground package of materials, equipment, and consulting services, and Arnco Corp.`s (Elyria, OH) "The System," a single source for all cable-installation needs.

The all-everything issue, in fact, was pervasive at the conference. Noted Bob Stoffels, former editor of America`s Network, "We`re buying technologies because we don`t have the time to make them anymore. R&D often takes a year, and we can`t do that anymore because of competition." Fiber, copper, DSL, and wireless are the four key technologies to high-speed communications, Stoffels said. Of fiber: "There`s no end in sight, but it better be secured when you put it into the ground." Of wireless: "By 2003, there`ll be more wireless phones than wired. I call that `telepresence`--people want to be in touch with people any time, all the time."

Addressing the smaller telcos and competitive local-exchange carriers that are trying to keep pace with multimedia next-generation networks, Infinitec Corp. (Tulsa, OK) representative Barry Campbell quipped, "We didn`t build it and they came anyway." A combination of overlaid architecture, transmission element upgrades, and flexibility will be key to survival, but he urged listeners not to despair or feel as though they have to start over. "You don`t have to forklift your entire operation to offer these services," Campbell said.

Integrating emerging multimedia technologies into existing LANs has also caught the attention of BICSI (Tampa, FL), which announced its new LAN and Internetworking Applications Guide: How Network Software Impacts Network Design. The book`s four main chapters discuss advances in LAN and internetworking technologies, multimedia applications, groupware applications, and access (including Web, mobile, and remote).

But if you go by the book, just make sure you call yourself a designer--not an engineer--at least in Texas. Members of BICSI Region 4 pointed out that in the Lone Star state, you can`t have "engineer" in your telco company name unless a certified engineer is actually a principal of the company. Joked one member, "We`ve gone from `communications engineers` to `infrastructure specialists.` "

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