Comptel: Signs of things to come?

At the Comptel event in Orlando this week, there were the obvious signs of last-minute cutbacks and cancellations. The show floor was smaller and scattered throughout were empty booths, and booths that had expanded at the last minute to fill an empty space.

 To be sure, unlike at other events that include exhibits, Comptel’s business goes on equally in meeting rooms and in its deal center, as on the show floor. The wholesale service providers I talked to all said their meeting rooms were booked and few people, if any, had pulled out at the last minute.

But the halls were buzzing with talk of the global economic crisis and no one was pretending it didn’t matter.  While saying they hadn’t seen signs of business cutbacks yet, a number of industry leaders admitted a slowdown may be inevitable.

So how does the industry prepare for rocky times? One obvious answer is to be flexible in working with business customers, many of whom may be relectant to get locked into new long-term deals or may want to renegotiate existing contracts to reflect changes or cutbacks within their business.

The bad times could represent an opportunity for savvy service providers to develop cost-effective managed services that bring productivity to small to mid-sized businesses without requiring massive capital outlay or hiring new and expensive IT personnel.  The keys here are proper pricing and ease-of-use.

Telecom services aren’t going to become less valuable to busineses during a slowdown. Iif anything, they could become more valuable, if the telecom industry rises to the challenge and helps its customers find ways to reduce business travel expense and commuting, and more effectively use Web-based applications and other new tools to make employees more productive.

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