Meanwhile, Down in Atlanta …

While next month's Supercomm 2002 is likely to have the uneasy feel of a picnic at a funeral

While next months Supercomm 2002 is likely to have the uneasy feel of a picnic at a funeral, the annual telecom extravaganza remains a must for most equipment makers, both old and new.

About 800 suppliers are scheduled to show their stuff at the Georgia World Congress Center, even though they expect to find few, if any, new customers in a climate in which capital expenditure budgets continue to shrink. Many say the trek to Atlanta is worth the expense in terms of perception alone. "We think its important to say were still around, we have good customers and were doing well," says Dana Hartgraves, VP of marketing at Metro-Optix. "As a startup, people dont think youre doing well if you dont have a booth."

Tellium CEO Harry Carr says perception still plays a significant role in his companys decision to participate. "If you look at all the real players, they are all there," says Carr. "We think were a real player."

Others note that Supercomm is the years only show that attracts the entire telecom industry, including competitors, partners, analysts and the press. "You can get quite a bit done in a few days that would otherwise require a considerable amount of travel," says Steve Vogelsang, VP of marketing at startup Laurel Networks.

The exposure isnt cheap, however. One marketing official who asked not to be identified says a midsized booth costs about $80,000 to rent this year and considerably more to furnish.