The global telecom industry witnessed the advent of phone lines in the 19th-century. Today, telecommunication companies are servicing nearly 8 billion mobile broadband accounts worldwide.
Who are the technology leaders driving change in the industry?
Technically, the movement started with Alexander Graham Bell in 1879. Elisha Gray also submitted a telephone patent the same year.
Fast forward to 1973, when Motorola introduced the first cell phone. The first smartphones, sold by IBM, followed in 1992, but they didn’t take off until 15 years later when Apple introduced its iconic iPhone.
Today’s Telecom CEOs are reimagining the customer experience through AI, IoT, cybersecurity, the cloud, and 5G looming on the horizon.
Let’s get to know the telecom thought leaders disrupting the industry.
- The Leaders of AT&T
AT&T is literally a household name. Established in 1983, The telecom giant is worth over $265 billion. The company has 182 million subscribers, crowning it the most valuable telecom brand worldwide.
AT&T actually started as a subsidiary of the Bell Telephone Company, started by Alexander Graham Bell himself. AT&T was tasked with creating the first long-distance phone lines. It’s still leading the charge as the world’s top smartphone data provider.
Today, AT&T is under the leadership of John Stankey, since taking the reigns from Randall Stephenson. After Stephenson left in 2020, Stankey oversaw AT&T’s headline-grabbing acquisition of Time Warner and Direct TV.
Stankey’s new role caused a lot of chatter because of his close ties to Hollywood. He was previously the CEO of WarnerMedia. Now, he’s leading AT&T’s rise in Tinseltown with the company’s recent merger with Discovery.
The AT&T and Discover merger is producing a new media company, a trend to watch as AT&T acquires more entertainment brands.
- The CEOs Behind Verizon
The next set of leaders represent another familiar name in telecommunications.
Verizon wireless is the result of one of the biggest mergers in telecom history. Launched in 2000, Verizon has amassed more than 120 million subscribers by 2021. The company also owns familiar names, Yahoo and AOL.
The company introduced its first tablet in 2010, bought Intel Media in 2014, and recently introduced the first commercial 5G network in the U.S.
Verizon is currently head by Hans Vestberg, the company’s former chief financial officer. Vesterberg has made headlines for his productivity tips, mergers, and Verizon’s solution to pandemic job losses.
In an effort to avoid layoffs, CNN reported that Vesterbeg retrained 20,000 employees for new roles. Verizon also committed to training 50,000 more workers for in-demand skills.
Vesterberg’s plan also brings up an important point about automation. As automation fades certain jobs out, people will need new skill sets to compete on the job market. The company has already spent over $215 million on employee development programs.
Vesterberg took over for previous CEO Lowell McAdam. The move made clear that Verizon was gearing up to deliver 5G. This power play was in stark contrast to Verizon’s competitor, AT&T, which hired Stankey to build inroads into the entertainment industry.
- Apple’s Takeover of Telecom
You know Apple as the innovative electronics company, producing such legends as the iMac, iPhone, and iPad. However, its invention of the iPhone thrust Apple into a very unique position.
Computer heavyweight Apple Inc. officially launched in 1976, with Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs at the helm.
Jobs was a living legend among inventors and consumers. Apple’s groundbreaking Macintosh computers in the 90s lead to the company’s eye-popping line of iMacs in the early 2000s. Apple had its next big moments in the 2000s with the iPod and iPhone.
Eventually, iPhones would replace iPods and ishuffles as the top MP3 player.
After its release of the iPhone in 2007, Apple Inc. was suddenly the darling of telecommunication giants, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.
AT&T came out on top and became the phone’s exclusive data carrier for years.
Current CEO, Tim Cook, took over after Jobs’ death in 2011. Believe it or not, Apple was teetering on bankruptcy, despite its innovations and popularity. Cook is credited with making the company profitable again, avoiding bankruptcy.
Cook is particularly interested in privacy and discusses the subject at many forums. In light of recent big tech data breaches, privacy and security are two of the hottest topics in silicon valley.
With its presence in the telecom industry, look for more trends and discussions in telecom security itself. Wi-fi revolutionized telecom, but also created new security challenges for providers.
- The Leaders Behind T-Mobile
T-Mobile is one of the youngest telecom brands on this list, and also the most fun. The company launched in 1999, but it really took off under the leadership of John Legere in 2012.
Legere is credited with turning the company around, notably with its no-contract plans. Unlike its rival, AT&T, T-Mobile stopped locking customers into contracts. Customers can pay month-to-month, without providing a social security number.
Before stepping down, Legere orchestrated a successful merger with Sprint.
Legere is also a fun, eccentric figure with a popular social media presence. During his tenure at T-Mobile, Legere created a cool, laid back “uncarrier,” vibe helping T-Mobile stand apart from the suit-and-tie feel of AT&T.
T-Mobile’s no-contract phone plans disrupted the industry. Now, most telecom carriers offer low-cost monthly plans, ideal for students, low-income earners, and freelancers.
Today, T-Mobile is currently run by Mike Sievert, the company’s former chief operations officer. This hire signaled T-Mobile’s interest in optimizing the customer experience.
Before taking over, Sievert pledged to continue T-Mobile’s “customer-focused” disruption in telecommunications. Prior to his appointment, Sievert successfully led T-Mobile’s customer support strategy for the company’s multiple brands.
This change is similar to Verizon’s hire of Vesterberg. Both companies understand the importance of customer experience moving forward, especially as more people start working from home. They’re anticipating greater customer demands and want to meet those demands head on.
Is AT&T making the right call with its investment in film and TV? Time will tell. However, if Verizon and T-Mobile continue to invest in customer experience, AT&T will surely fall behind in the CX department.
- Telecom Technology Leaders to Watch
The telecom CEO landscape is everchanging. Who are the next telecom rockstars shaking things up?
Rising stars are popping up in small telecommunications companies to multinational corporations.
One CEO to watch is Boost Mobile’s Stephen Stokols. Stokols originally founded the telecom company, FreedomPop.
Boost Mobile was acquired by Dish Network in July of 2020, generating nearly 10 million more prepaid mobile users for Dish.
Boost is also known for its convenient in-person locations. Stokols plans to expand the company’s digital presence, reaching customers in areas that don’t have Boost Mobile stores.
Another telecom CEO on the rise is Neil Masterson, the recent OneWeb CEO.
Located in New York City, OneWeb is a worldwide satellite broadband solution owned by Bharti Enterprises. OneWeb manages 650 satellites around the world, delivering lightning-fast internet to commercial enterprises and government agencies.
Google is also breaking into the telecom space with its Google Fi phone plan. It’s also leading the charge in the mobile virtual network carrier space. MVNOs deliver voice calls, mobile broadband, and SMS all in one.
It will be interesting to see how telecom heavyweights respond to Google’s big move into telecom.
What You Can Learn from Telecom CEOs
Do you want to launch your own telecom business?
All telecom brands start somewhere. You can even launch your brand out of your garage, like Steve Jobs!
Every top telecom company starts with a vision.
Take a page out of T-Mobile’s book. The company rebranded itself around Legere’s “uncarrier” vision. This bold vision attracted new customers who were previously distrusting of carriers with binding contracts.
Apple personifies the word “vision.” You could even develop new mobile products and a low-cost broadband service to match, attracting more customers.
Building a customer-focused brand will put you ahead of the pack.
For example, customers want more telecom choices. Offering several no-contract plans with varying data capacities cater to a wide range of customers.
Customer support is another must. Create a bulletproof customer service strategy from the start. Telecom customers need fast, reliable help since phone access is so critical. Most poor telecom reviews are a result of horrible customer service experiences.
Optimize your customer support strategy with AI and machine learning. Bots quickly retrieve knowledge base answers, providing instant help. If customers aren’t satisfied, a bot can automatically escalate the ticket to a human support agent.
Analyze customer support data to decrease these common telecom issues:
- Poor cell phone service and reception
- Data cap problems
- Long customer support wait times
- Frequent internet outages
- Weak internet signals
- Phone hardware issues
- Wireless router troubleshooting
- Phone contract discrepancies
You can also score customer strategies based on empathy scores, conversion rates, customer retention, and more.
Focusing on customer strategy will fill a void left by Telecom giants like AT&T.
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