Las Vegas - By all accounts, the 2016 Channel Partners Conference and Expo this past week was a hit with a growing number of vendors and attendees. A list of exhibitors from one year to the next says a lot about where the state of the industry is headed and how much things have changed in only a few short years.
What originally started off as the Phone+ Magazine Agent Trade Fair in 1997 has morphed from a gathering of agents, master agents and upstart long distance carriers and resellers to a much more matured group of Channel Partners and variety of data and information providers.
Without a doubt, the "cloud" has replaced the PSTN as the telecommunications medium of choice among agents as the number of non-voip voice providers still in business seems to have almost entirely evaporated. While the names of vendors and their services seem to have almost entirely changed over the years, the agent/master agent sales community fortunately still has a lot of the same faces as it did back in the early days of telecommunications deregulation.
While there is a considerable amount of new blood in the industry, the most successful agents and master agencies have been the ones to adapt to the times and been willing to reinvent themselves on an almost continuous basis. From long distance, to broadband to the Internet of Things, companies that have lived on the bleeding edge while avoiding services that turned out to largely be trends (think pre-paid calling cards) have continued to thrive while an almost endless list of one-time telecom powerhouses have faded (or merged) into oblivion (i.e. MCI, WorldCom, Telegroup, Excel, etc.).
Similarly, the Channel Partners Expo itself has managed to roll with the times and continue to keep itself relevant in an industry that at times seemed to be in absolute freefall. It has managed to survive through the collapse of the long distance industry, the local resale industry and the steady decline of most copper-delivered services. To say that the Channel Partners news website bares little resemblance to the original Phone+ Magazine (or the short-lived XChange Magazine) would be a vast understatement. Some of the advertisers and readers may still be the same, but today's headlines would be almost indecipherable to anyone reading it in 1990's.
While a lot has changed with the Expo since it's initial debut in 1997, a few core fundamentals seem to have stayed the same. The Expo is still the best conference for finding new vendors and service providers, it is still the universal, yearly meeting place between agents and their master agents and it still maintains a casual atmosphere for what at times can become an overly-corporate themed industry. And, of course, the show is still in Las Vegas.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary since the show's original 1997 debut. While most of the original exhibitors may no longer be with us, we expect to see more than a few familiar faces that have made this the most anticipated trade event in our industry year after year.