BT and IBM have pulled out of the Telecoms 99 show, the once every four years networking equivalent of the Olympics.
The withdrawal of both companies from the giant telecommunications event, held this year in Geneva between 10 and 17 October, has upset the show's organisers, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
BT said it would not exhibit at the conference because it had "reached its target global customers through other activities". IBM told the ITU that its withdrawl was part of a wider company strategy regarding its participation at trade shows.
ITU regarded BT's decision to pull out as a disappointment, but it referred to the IBM withdrawal as "a bit of a shock".
The ITU felt there had always been internal disagreement within BT about whether the show should be supported or not. Although BT's spend at Telecoms 95 - the last exhibition - was #2.5m, the expense of attending the event was not said to be the deciding factor.
Both companies are still sending delegates, including IBM's chief executive Lou Gerstner, and IBM is still sponsoring the show.
While the ITU insists that the companies' absence won't affect Telecoms 99 because the places had immediately been filled by organisations on the waiting list, it was concerned about future events. The organisation has scheduled a host of future shows which it feels will have to compete with "other events in Europe that are becoming more prominent".
The 858 exhibitors which have already signed up to Telecoms 99 include networking equipment companies and telecom carriers and equipment makers, as well as national telecoms public sector organisations. The 1995 show attracted 1,066 exhibitors but the ITU said that even more space has been sold this year.
The ITU has booked industry heavyweights, including Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner and Sun boss Scott McNealy. The motto for this year's show is 'Join the World'.
For more stories see 17 March issue of Network News UK
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