Most organizers are no longer that concerned with voice service, because so many attendees carry cellphones.

For a 15-year-old building, the Santa Clara Convention Center keeps itself in pretty great shape. The latest bit of reconstructive surgery took place in May 2000, when the facility, in cooperation with its on-site vendor, Las Vegas — based SmartCity Networks, installed a new Lucent phone switch, all-new Cisco data switches and routers, and introduced two new services: webcasting and a cluster of on-site e-mail/Internet stations, known to us civilians as a cyber café.

“You can save a little money by going through our new Lucent phone switch,” says Julia Slocombe, on-site operations manager for SmartCity Networks. “You have to dial 9 to get out, but the service is great. You can do things like restrict calls with it, but most importantly you can get your itemized phone bill the day your event closes. We also offer dedicated lines. They cost a little more.” These are strictly voice and modem service. In fact, says Slocombe, most organizers are no longer that concerned with voice service, because so many attendees carry cellphones.

For data, SmartCity has installed fiber connecting the communication closets, the 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and the meeting rooms. The network is configurable for local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), or virtual private networks (VPN). The ability to create virtual LANs means there are no distance or location problems. “You can do things anywhere in the building with no connectivity issues,” says Slocombe. She says most clients are still using 10BaseT Ethernet service, although 100BaseT fast Ethernet service is available. All connections to the backbone are Category 5.

Two T1 lines are in service all the time. “We can lease additional lines (including T3) if you need them,” she says. “Our infrastructure makes it possible to network from a booth to a hotel, to a home office, or virtually anywhere in the world.”

The SmartCity Connection

With SmartCity Networks as the Santa Clara center's sole connectivity provider, conference organizers get more than just the latest hardware.

“Part of my job is to look at the event calendar and call the organizers anywhere from three to six months ahead of time to ask what they're going to need in terms of telecommunications, data connectivity, or such features as a cyber café, which we can set up,” says Slocombe. “If you want it, we're going to get it for you.” And, by virtue of its proximity to Silicon Valley, the folks at Santa Clara can pretty truthfully say they've seen it all when it comes to high-tech installations.

For example, at the time she spoke with TM, Slocombe had just closed SuperNet 2001, a new event focused on the deployment of broadband networking infrastructure that drew about 2,000 attendees.

All This and Golf, Too

The convention center also has in-house event consultants who can help with everything from convention coordination to spouse programs, speakers, entertainment, theme parties, group excursions, and golf and tennis tournaments. (Paramount's Great America Theme Park and a 72-hole championship golf course are across the street.)

In addition to the pillarless exhibit hall space, the 262,000-square-foot Santa Clara Convention Center has 25 meeting rooms and a 607-seat theater with sophisticated AV services.

Attached to the convention center is the 505-room Westin Santa Clara, which has 49,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. On the other side of the hotel from the convention center is the 17,850-square-foot Network Meeting Center.