Industry Leaders Gather In-Person at the 71st Annual IWCS Cable & Connectivity Industry Forum
IWCS welcomed attendees to the 71st annual Cable & Connectivity Industry Forum, the premier event for new technologies in cable and connectivity products, processes, and applications, in Providence Rhode Island on October 10–13, 2022. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the event was conducted virtually in 2020 and 2021, but the high attendance and energetic networking in Providence illustrated the industry’s excitement for the ability to finally network again in-person.
More than 860 guests representing 23 countries gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center for four full days of networking and learning. Attendees shared and absorbed cutting-edge research, technologies, and products that are helping our industry advance nearly all aspects of our connected global society. As IWCS CEO David Kiddoo exclaimed during his welcome remarks, “The cable & connectivity industry is mission-critical to the future of our connected society”. Similar sentiments about the importance of our industry were echoed by James Filice during Thursday’s panel discussion, “The industry is small and well-connected with vast opportunities”, said Filice. “We get to see the impact of our work on a daily basis throughout the world.”
The event kicked off on Monday with seven Professional Development Courses on the topics of materials, optical fiber, copper, and extrusion. The courses were well-attended by students and professionals who wrote copious notes and asked the experienced instructors engaging questions.
Tuesday’s Executive Session, a perennial highlight, was so popular the ballroom quickly became standing-room-only and additional chairs had to be added to accommodate all the attendees. John Gross of The Copper Journal provided an overview of the copper demand and legal, social, and environmental factors impacting the copper cable market. Switching gears, Michael Render of The Fiber Broadband Association took the stage to present a five-year outlook on fiber optic broadband deployment and how the increased fiber-to-the-home demand is driving telecom providers to act quickly. IWCS welcomed back Robert Fry of Robert Fry Economics, who discussed current conditions in the global economy and the outlook for future growth. Earlier this year, Robert was awarded the macroeconomics Outlook Award from the National Association for Business Economics. Next up, Luca Ruozi and Brian Risch of Prysmian Group shared an update on the renewable energy market and how offshore wind farms are rising from the transition to cleaner energy sources. Concluding this compelling session, Rashmi Varma of Innovate 5G Inc. spoke of rapidly evolving advancements in 5G and its importance to human- and machine-subscribers in our modern connected society. Rashmi wrapped up the Executive Session with an invitation for attendees to think differently about network architecture and push to improve wireless communication.
After a coffee and networking break sponsored by Fiber Optic Center and LLFlex, attendees gathered in the grand ballroom for the Plenary Luncheon which was followed by opening remarks, recognition, and 2021 technical paper awards presented by IWCS representatives David Kiddoo, CEO; Scott Wasserman, Chairman of the Board, and Charles Glew, 2022 Symposium Committee Chair. Andrea Caldini of Verizon shared a Keynote presentation titled, “Technology Drivers for Deployment and Full Potential Utilization of 5G” and held attendees’ attention by discussing the accelerating rate of change for telecommunications and how Verizon is taking strong leadership in 5G developments, building on the foundation established by Verizon for 3G and 4G networks.
After the Keynote, attendees fled to the Supplier Exhibition™, which was filled with more than 80 exhibitors who, prior to the event, were uncertain of the anticipated turnout. However, the exhibitors in Providence were blown away by the amount of industry professionals who attended the in-person event and engaged with the products on display at their exhibition booths. Amjad Abu-Ali of Geon Performance Solutions described the Supplier Exhibition as “a family reunion of sorts”. This year’s “reunion” included a mix of those new to the industry, as well as many with decades of experience. In fact, 37% of attendees reported this is the first time they have experienced the IWCS Forum while others have attended the annual event more than 40 times! Supplier Spotlight Presentations allowed 14 exhibitors to share their company’s newest developments with the audience on Tuesday afternoon. The Supplier Exhibition™ remained open on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A welcome reception, complete with music, libations, and food concluded Tuesday’s program. Once again, attendees displayed their excitement to catch up with one another by sharing drinks, laughter, and fun.
The Technical Symposium, cornerstone of the event, featured 62 technical research papers during author presentations and poster displays. The papers were categorized into unique sessions featuring topics of: Materials, Advances in Optical Connectivity, Special Applications in Optical Fiber, Cable Design, Fiber Cable Manufacturing, Optical Fiber Reliability, Installation & Tools, Codes & Standards, High-Density Cable, Copper Cale, and Multimode Fiber / Data Center. As always, audience members had the opportunity to ask the presenting authors engaging questions about their research at the end of each presentation.
New this year, IWCS included focused panel discussions as additional event components. Wednesday’s panel discussion included six female representatives from the cable, connectivity, telecom, chemicals, and materials industries who discussed what it is like to work in historically male-dominated STEM roles and what they do to help empower young women to join the industry. Sponsored by Dow and moderated by Dr. Bianca Hydutsky of Chemours, this panel discussion provided panelists with a platform for a dynamic conversation regarding important topics such as closing the gender gap and pay equity. The panel included Cheryl Stewart of Quabbin Wire & Cable Co., Ana Cruz and Kikie Kunplin of Belden, Dr. Corina Neumeister of Nabaltec AG, and Sue Welsh of Wire & Cable Manufacturers’ Alliance, Inc (WCMA). During the question-and-answer period, an audience member exclaimed, “We’re seeing positive changes in the industry and this panel discussion is proof of the progress that is being made.” IWCS is proud to encourage the upward trajectory of female representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers, roles which are critical to the cable & connectivity industry.
The second panel discussion took place on Thursday and was focused on common challenges starting a career in the cable & connectivity industry, trends in recruitment and talent retention, and career-building tips. The panel discussion was made possible by Cable Components Group, Gem Gravure, and Wire & Cable Manufacturers’ Alliance, Inc (WCMA). Moderated by Charles Glew of Cable Components Group and Ed Fenton of WCMA, the lively discussion enabled panelists Tom Artinian of Hitachi Cable America, Sharika Chowdhury of UL Solutions, James Filice of Marmon Aerospace and Defense, and Rob Schmidt of RSCC Wire & Cable to speak about their initial onboarding experiences and tips for fostering development and growth in this niche industry. The importance of mentorship was a common theme throughout the discussion. “College doesn’t teach you wire and cable”, said Schmidt. “People are willing to help. Find a mentor”, he continued. The industry is full of broad opportunities with meaningful work that can be seen in nearly all aspects of the world and this panel discussion encouraged companies to invest in developing their employees.
IWCS deeply appreciates the support from its annual sponsors, Board of Directors, Symposium Committee, exhibitors, authors, presenters, and attendees who are critical to the success of the Cable & Connectivity Industry Forum. The next IWCS Forum will take place Sunday, September 17 – Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida USA. Visit iwcs.org/2023 for more information.