Is telecom seeing signs of hope?

I arrived in Las Vegas yesterday to discover, to my pleasant shock, a long line of cabs waiting at the airport for customers. In my 20-plus years of visiting Vegas on business, I’ve arrived at all hours of the day and night and always started my visit by standing in a long cab line.

So this is the world turned upside down by the economic downturn.

But at the MetaSwitch Forum 2009, which brought me to Vegas in the first place, there’s a very different sense, one that is much more hopeful. While admitting that it’s tough to predict 2009 revenues and profits, MetaSwitch executives say they are already seeing something of an uptick.

For one thing, 635 people are attending this event, up from last year’s MetaSwitch Forum, which surprised event planners. “We initially thought we’d get 600, but in November, we started thinking maybe 500,” MetaSwitch Vice President of Marketing Andy Randall said. As time passed, however, the numbers continued to grow.

Those numbers are mirrored by what’s happening in the field, MetaSwitch CEO John Lazar said. January and February were dead months, he conceded, but now, MetaSwitch is seeing the kind of RFP activity that the company saw in previous years. “We are seeing a definite uptick,” Lazar said. Some companies had delayed projects to move from TDM to IP and some of those are now filling the pipe, he conceded, but there are also signs that telecom companies are realizing they need to get back to work, preparing themselves competitively.

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