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Fifty-six companies from the communications/networking sector rank among the 500 fastest-growing firms in North America, according to the latest Technology Fast 500 list from consultancy Deloitte. And the results are intriguing because they keenly reflect the evolution of the telecom space – to wit, industry standouts include fiber providers, CLECs, IP equipment makers and the wireless space.

Of the hundreds of businesses featured, satellite operator Hughes Communications snagged the No. 1 spot. That’s because the Maryland-based provider’s sales jumped 164,079 percent between 2005 and 2009, the time frame Deloitte used to judge the newest Technology Fast 500 nominees.

“Hughes has always been about innovation – from pioneering satellite networks in the mid-80s and expanding the enterprise and government markets across the globe, to developing and operating … the world’s first broadband satellite router-in-the-sky, to delivering high-speed Internet by satellite services to over half a million North American households and small businesses,” Hughes President and CEO Pradman Kaul said in a prepared statement.

“The best is yet to come,” he added.

That seems to be the case for other winners, too, given soaring global need for fixed and wireless data, cheaper business communications services, mobile handsets and access, and IP infrastructure.

For example, Procera Networks – one of the few smaller companies to issue a press release touting its Deloitte ranking – came in at No. 19 for its 7,794-percent growth over four years. Procera develops deep packet inspection platforms for traffic awareness and credited its high placement on the Deloitte list to demand from Tier 1 mobile and broadband operator customers, as well as higher education institutions. Such increases only stand to mount.

CLEC 8×8 said its 464-percent revenue increase attests to the savings business users reap from VoIP phone access and other cloud communications products.

Other notables include gear-makers GENBAND, Broadsoft, Acme Packet, Meru Networks and ShoreTel, and CLECs PAETEC, MegaPath and Cbeyond. In terms of fiber, FiberLight and FiberTower lit up the Fast 500, while interconnection experts IntelePeer and Neutral Tandem received kudos as well. The wireless niche was represented by Research In Motion – a surprising addition since the BlackBerry maker has struggled to keep pace with smartphone rivals – and operators ERF Wireless and MetroPCS.

Deloitte, which specializes in audits and accounting, each year compiles the Technology Fast 500 report, basing results on percentage fiscal year revenue growth. Eligible firms must own proprietary intellectual property or technology; have current-year revenue of at least $5 million; have been in business for at least five years; and be headquartered in North America.