Sizing up the 25 most powerful people in the U.S. telecom industry

Sean BuckleyAs the telecom industry evolves into one where service providers offer a series of wireless and wireline services, FierceTelecom and FierceWireless teamed up to present The 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless and Wireline 2013 to reflect the changing nature of this market vertical.

On the wireline side, FierceTelecom chronicled what I call the "transformational" CEO. CenturyLink's (NYSE: CTL) Glen Post, Frontier's (Nasdaq: FTR) Maggie Wilderotter, and Windstream's (Nasdaq: WIN) Jeff Gardner all fall into this category.

Although each of these executives lead very different companies, they all realized that offering regulated telephone service and some data wasn't a sustainable growth model. This required them to make large acquisitions that not only broadened their network reach and business and residential service portfolios.

Post, CenturyLink's CEO and president, took the most ambitious path, acquiring three major service providers: Embarq, Qwest, and Savvis. These acquisitions immediately established the carrier as an international business services player, giving it the ability to offer next-gen cloud and Ethernet services.  

Frontier CEO and Chairman Wilderotter took on the unenviable task of acquiring Verizon's largely abandoned rural lines in 14 states in 2009. Wilderotter has focused on not only repairing those damaged lines, but making them palatable to residential and business customers in delivering broadband to a number of rural communities for the first time.

Not content to follow the crowd, Gardner, president and CEO of Windstream, stands out by establishing the telecom industry's largest hybrid CLEC/ILEC. Through acquisitions of Paetec and Hosted Solutions, Windstream has established itself as the fourth largest enterprise service provider in the United States.

What's also interesting to note about these leaders is that despite their companies' wireline-centric focus, they support the wireless industry by providing next-generation fiber and Ethernet-based wireless backhaul to all of the major wireless operators.

At the same time, it's hard to overlook how AT&T (NYSE: T) CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Chairman, CEO and President Lowell McAdam are driving new growth in the wireline broadband arena.

While wireless is a big focus for AT&T and Verizon, Stephenson and McAdam have built sizeable consumer wireline broadband businesses. AT&T hit a major milestone by reaching 10 million U-verse subscribers during the third quarter, and through its $14 billion Project VIP initiative will extend broadband to about 57 million locations by 2015. Verizon may have halted new FiOS deployments, but where it is available the telco added 173,000 FiOS Internet subscribers in Q3 2013.

Besides the service provider and vendor communities, it will be interesting to see how new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will influence the telecom industry. Wheeler may be only getting started in his role, but the former CTIA leader will immediately have to grapple with special access reform and the upcoming broadcast spectrum auction.

I encourage you look at our The 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless and Wireline 2013 report and provide us with feedback in the comments section.--Sean

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