In wireline, the list of players keeps expanding

with Sean Buckley

Sam Bookman and Sean Buckley, FierceTelecomIt's a well-known fact that energy in the universe doesn't disappear; it simply moves on to somewhere or something else. Yes, this concept does have much to do with the wireline segment of the telecommunications industry, if one thinks about the number of times that providers of traditional, plain old telephone service (POTS) have been written off by some as being on its deathbed, on the way out, soon to be replaced by other, hotter technologies.

In some respects, that's what is happening to the wireline segment of the telecommunications industry. Ma and Pa's old telephone service entered its passé mode some time ago, and newer technologies like 3G/4G wireless voice and data and wireline and wireless-based VoIP have taken hold of the mainstream. What's interesting is that many of the companies participating in the growth of wireless and IP-based communications are the same organizations that naysayers doomed to the junkyard of irrelevance: the Tier 1 and 2 carriers providing wireline service. Many of these providers have made, or are making, the transition to IP-based networks as well as supplying backhaul to wireless operators.

That is one of the standout factors in our newly posted Most Powerful People in Wireline: the ability to transition from a steadily decreasing traditional wireline service to newer communications technologies. For the Tier 1 providers on the list, the transition was obvious and probably much less painful to go through than for other, smaller operators. But some of those operators--most notably, CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL)--have been able to step into the next generation as well.

Which leads to some faults with the list. Perhaps the biggest problem is that, in today's rapidly changing market, the list is too short. Only 15 powerful people: and yet there are many more telco leaders out there influencing change and innovation.

Then the list itself. Commenters definitely made their opinions known, and their selections are worthy of note. Where was Carlos Slim, head of Telmex and America Movil and currently the world's richest man (and perhaps the most interesting), in the lineup? What about ACN President & co-founder Greg Provenzano? And where were the Canadian telcos like Bell Canada (NYSE: BCE) and Telus (Toronto: T.TO)?

All good points: The wireline world is certainly not centered in the United States any longer, as different regions begin to specialize in particular segments of the industry--Asia-Pacific's hold on equipment manufacturing, for instance--and emerging markets begin to make themselves heard. So here, in no particular order, are a few individuals whose influence on wireline is notable--and, in future installments of our Most Powerful People in Wireline list, worth consideration:

  • Carlos Slim, Chairman and CEO of Telmex and America Movil
  • Dr. John Cioffi, Chairman, CEO and co-founder of ASSIA--"Without him, wireline broadband would be nowhere," one of our commenters noted.
  • Matt Bross, CTO, Huawei Technologies
  • John Stankey, President and CEO, AT&T Business Solutions
  • Susan Miller, President of ATIS--Driving telecom policy, particularly in the IPTV arena. Recently named by Billing & OSS World as one of the top 25 most influential telecom executives, as well as one of FierceTelecom's 2010 top Women in Wireline.

And perhaps last but not least, and definitely worthy of an honorable mention or a place in a hall of fame somewhere: Alexander Graham Bell, without whom, one of our commenters pointed out, "none of these others would exist." A debatable but good point. Although he's not around to influence wireline today, it would be very interesting if he were around just to get his perspective on how the industry has transitioned in recent years.

We received a lot of great feedback on our Most Powerful People in Wireline 2011 report. The opinions voiced indicate that wireline remains a strong force in the telecommunications world, and that's heartening on a lot of fronts. We're looking forward to the coming year and and our next series of reports on wireline influencers. All we can say is, you ain't seen nothing yet.--Sam and Sean