There are some notable absentees at the Israel Telecom 2006 exhibition compared to previous years as the event places a stronger emphasis on technologies coming out of Israel rather than marketing services. "There are fewer gadgets on display this year as we have focused on technology and especially on giving start-ups the opportunity to present themselves," said Uri Olenik, chairman of Telecom Israel 2006. Members of the public used to being wooed at the event by the marketing gimmicks of companies like Bezeq, HOT, Partner, Cellcom and Pelephone - as one might expect from an exhibition bearing the name that it does - may be disappointed since they are not participating in the event. Instead, one can find the bigger players in the world of Israeli telecom equipment production with the likes of Audiocodes, ECI Telecom, Radvision, Polycom Israel and Alvarion among the 150 companies displaying their latest products and services in the main pavilion. For many, however, the real excitement is through the Matimop Innovation Pavilion where Israel's newest start-up companies are showing the results of their strong research and development activities and looking for potential partners among the thousands of visitors - local and foreign - passing through the three-day event. Presenting anything from voice recognition capabilities from Cellmax Systems to the satellite systems enabling airborne broadband connectivity of Starling Advanced Communications or Outsmart's technology providing convergence between mobile or fixed-line services via the Internet, the Matimop tent may prove to be the event's real test of success. As a result, and given the strong international presence, Matimop director-general Yair Amitai said he expects numerous joint projects to come out of the conference. If that occurs, Telecom 2006 may end up giving the industry a final push for the year as telecommunications exports are forecast to show substantial growth by December. Israel Exports Institute president Yehiel Asia said exports from the telecommunications industry were expected to grow 14% over 2005 to $3.3 billion in 2006. The biggest growth, he noted, would be in telecom equipment, which should rise 25% to $720m. for the year. Asia reported there were approximately 600 telecommunications companies active in Israel this year, of which approximately 300 were involved in exports. The Telecom 2006 event runs through Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Trade Fairs and Convention Center. - A.K.