We are back. This 15th International Telecommunications Week (ITW) is back in Washington – well, just over the Maryland border from Washington DC, where we started in 2008. We’re only 9½ miles (15 km) this week , if you prefer) as the crow flies from the Washington Hilton, where we hosted the first event (pictured).
It was the first week of June, chosen to coincide with an event just up the street at the Marriott Wardman Park. The Global Telecoms Meeting (GTM) has been organized by Intelsat as a user meeting since the days when satellites became the workhorses of international communications.
But a number of the world’s leading carriers, including AT&T and Verizon in the US, and BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Sparkle in Europe, wanted a more fiber-focused event. Their leaders approached the then owners Abilityalready organizing global telecom events, with the idea of offering another type of meeting.
With the support of Euromoney, the publishing and events group which was in the process of buying Ability, the owners rose to the challenge and set up the first ITW, with only a few weeks notice. He booked the Washington Hilton for the week.
Fortunately, the Hilton had delayed renovations that were due to take place that week, so the entire hotel was available. It was an extremely successful event, with barely a sign that the Ability the London team had it in place in just a few weeks.
All the greats were there: I still have a bright red Sparkle tote bag from opening night. There was even a big press conference, announcing the launch of i3forum.
Later, senior executives from the largest carriers, facilitated by Ability, formed the Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF), which has taken important initiatives to benefit the industry, under the leadership of Marc Halbfinger of PCCW Global and Laurinda Pang of Lumen. The GLF announces Pang’s successor this week.
However, booking an entire hotel for a week or more for a totally new event is a big commitment and, to be honest, as a public company Euromoney was a little skeptical.
Was this a one-time exercise to get Intelsat to expand the reach of GTM, which had been operating successfully for 34 years, and perhaps offer better prices in the future? Would all supporters return to the GTM from 2009?
Thus, two members of Euromoney’s executive committee, the head of mergers and acquisitions and the person who ran telecoms publications, who had both been involved in the Ability Okay, asked me to go to Washington to sniff. Not as a journalist – I was editor of Euromoney Global telecommunications company – but to have quiet conversations.
The response I got from everyone I spoke to at that first ITW was that it was a resounding success. They would most definitely be at ITW the following year, and the years after. They were enthusiastic about the event and the service they had received from the organizers and the team.
Ros Irving, now Head of All Euromoney Events, and Ross Webster, now Sales Manager for Telecom Events at Abilitythe parent company of, were two of those initially.
Ability had set up a free shuttle between GTM and ITW, and said anyone with a GTM pass could come for free: a total of 3,407 joined us at ITW.
Many I spoke to on that first ITW had made the trip in reverse. GTM, they told me, was like a ghost town. At the end of that week, Intelsat announced that it would shut down GTM and sponsor the following year’s ITW.
To underscore this point, ITW 2009 was on former GTM territory, at Marriott Wardman Park. ITW remained in Washington until it moved to two adjacent hotels in Chicago in 2012, where attendance fell from 5,386 in the first year to around 7,000.
There was a live event in 2019, in Atlanta, the home of the very first Ability conference in the early days of the magazine. And then Covid-19 hit us.
After an all-virtual event in 2020, there was a mixed event, based here in National Harbor, Maryland, in 2021. Now we’re back in full force.
And what about the old rooms? The Marriott Wardman Park closed in 2020 and is now on the market, awaiting redevelopment. The Washington Hilton was remodeled right after ITW moved and works perfectly.
Most people will tell you the place is famous because it was where John Hinkley tried to kill President Ronald Reagan, but it’s also where our business started: it’s where the first conference International Conference on Computer Communications took place 50 years ago in October. This is where the world discovered Arpanetthe direct ancestor of the Internet, with over-the-air networking via a dedicated telephone line installed by AT&T.