ANAHEIM — Wednesday's Broadband Wireless World Forum keynoters kicked in with their predictions about the economic recovery, telling attendees to hang in there because there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Dan Hesse, CEO of free space optics equipment manufacturer Terabeam Inc., rhetorically asked the audience if 2002 could be any worse than 2001, noting that the number of viable CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) had dropped from 40 to 20 over the past few years.

He said the common refrain he's heard lately is, "'05 to survive," but Hesse said he thought that was a bit extreme. While the number of viable CLECs may drop by half again, he expects a turnaround for the nascent industry by the middle of 2003.

Hesse was echoed by Tom Andrus, vice president of Earthlink, who said the quote he heard to describe the economy was, "2000 was the year everyone thought they lost money…2001 was the year they actually did."

The antidote, says Andrus, is to follow the advice of Sam Walton, founder of WalMart, who said that when you're confused about what to do, go back to the store. For the telecom industry, said Andrus, that means going back to your customers, who have all the answers…and all the money.

As for broadband in particular, Andrus said Earthlink's experience and market studies have shown that it when it came to high-speed access, it wasn't, in fact, about speed or "how much faster than dial-up you are." Instead, consumers want convenience, reliability and good customer service.

Meanwhile, on the show floor, Navini Networks is showcasing its "zero-install," high-speed Internet non-line-of-sight access technology. The company's products, the Ripwave 2400 and Ripwave 2600, include a base station, antenna and CPE that operate in the 2.4 GHz ISM and 2.6 GHz MMDS spectrum.

Aperto Networks says that Conterra Communications will deploy Aperto's PacketWave multiservice platform in five southeast U.S. markets. The PacketWave platform supports a 5 GHz fixed wireless footprint to serve small- and medium-sized businesses. Conterra's service areas will include Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C; and Augusta, Ga.

Meanwhile, NextNet Wireless and Evertek Inc. received a Wemmie Award from the Wireless Communications Association in the category of Advanced Next Generation NLOS (non-line-of-site) Broadband Wireless Access Deployments. NextNet's Expedience system was commercially deployed by Evertek in December 2001, making it the first U.S. carrier to provide next-generation NLOS broadband wireless access over MMDS frequencies.