Although one industry analyst publicly predicted the demise of Internet service providers through the next five years, the tone at ISPCon '97 in San Francisco, one of the largest ISP gatherings, was far from a death march.
In fact, several industry leaders kicked off the event by encouraging a room full of service providers to get ready for what is expected to be a hotbed of opportunity.
According to Jack Rickard, publisher of Boardwatch magazine and founder of ISPCon, the ISP demise story that some are telling is a managed message.
"It sounds like a PR message from the big companies saying `go away and die, pretty please,'" Rickard says.
Therefore, despite widespread scepticism, Rickard says he doesn't expect the estimated 4,133 ISPs in the US to just wither away, nor does he see evidence of mass consolidations during the next few years.
Rose Ann Giordano, vice president of Digital Equipment's ISP Business division, agrees. The continued development of the Internet will allow service providers to offer more value-added services and specialise in market area, such as access, content, or value-added services, she says.
With that in mind, many companies came to the event ready to show off their latest developments.
Among them, Bay Networks talked up its efforts in the 56Kbit/s modem arena, emphasising its plan to support all competing technologies, including x2 in November, K56flex/Plus in December, and the International Telecommunications Union's standard, whenever it is released.
Additionally, in the high-speed access space, Paradyne had several products on view, including the HotWire 8800 Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) and 8600 stackable DSLAM.
Paradyne also showcased its new 7612 SNMP-managed data service unit (DSU), which incorporates an internal Ethernet LAN adapter, and the 7110 SNMP FT1/T1 DSU.
Developments also came from Data General, with a preview of its SiteStak zero-administration Web server, and MediaGate, with its introduction of the EdgeCommunication series. The series includes Remote Access/Edge servers, which provide hybrid digital and analog call handling in addition to mass media capabilities.
More on ISPCon '97 is at http://www.boardwatch.com.
Service Providers in the United States and Canada
Number of ISPs
Spring 1996 1,447
Fall 1996 3,068
March/April 1997 3,640
August 1997 4,133
Average ISP gross revenue
National backbone providers (including MCI, Sprint, UUNet, Agis, BBN)
May 1996 9
April 1997 27
August 1997 36
Source: Boardwatch magazine