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July 28, 2015

Top 5 CEOs shaking up telecoms

Chiefs of EE, Ericsson, TalkTalk, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica make the list.

By Alexander Sword

Telecoms is an industry under pressure, even as telecoms networks come to define our lives to an ever greater extent. CBR rounds up the CEOs that are finding success in this challenging environment.

The CEOs on this list have understood in some way the pressures on their industry and attempted to find alternative revenue streams or protect their existing ones.

1. Olaf Swantee – EE

Olaf Swantee has been at the helm of the UK’s largest operator since 2011, in which the industry has had to respond to the onslaught of OTT applications such as WhatsApp eating into revenues.

Swantee smartly moved EE swiftly on 4G, ensuring that the company would be in a good place to benefit from the huge growth in data demand in the last few years.

The Dutch national holds a BA in economics and 17 years of experience in the IT industry in Europe and the United States, including spells at HP, Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation. Prior to becoming CEO, he headed up Orange’s Europe division.

2. Hans Vestberg – Ericsson

To already be looking at moving on from the world of 4G may seem a bit premature, but industry titans have their eyes set on 5G.

Under Hans Vestberg, Ericsson appears determined to establish itself within this space, announcing a string of major partnerships with local industry players including Turkcell, SK Telecom, Huawei, Softbank. It is also working on 5G standardisation in the EU.

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Vestberg is a Business Administration graduate. Joining Ericsson in 1988, he has since worked in management positions in markets as diverse as China, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

As an advocate of the Millennium Development Goals, he argues for mobility and broadband’s potential to tackle issues such as poverty, health and climate change.

3. César Alierta Izuel – Telefónica

One of the longest serving CEOs on the list, Alierta Izuel has ensured that Telefónica has capitalised on the growing furore around the Internet of Things. The company’s Thinking Things is a platform enabling people to create new products and services on the Internet of Things.

The Spanish businessman remains a controversial figure. He has argued that content providers, application developers and search engines should be charged by telecoms providers. Born in 1945, César Alierta holds a degree in law from the University of Zaragoza and an MBA from Columbia University in New York.

4. Dido Harding – TalkTalk

Harding became CEO of TalkTalk in 2010, as TalkTalk was splitting off from parent company Carphone Warehouse. She has grown TalkTalk in her tenure and it now boasts £1.795 billion in revenue and 4 million home broadband customers.

Under her leadership, the company has vocally challenged BT’s position in the market and recently called on Ofcom to split off Openreach.

Harding, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, has worked at McKinsey & Company, Woolworth’s, Tesco and Thomas Cook, and has been a member of the House of Lords since September 2014. As a life peer there she has championed child protection from adult material on the internet.

5. Timotheus Hoettges – Deutsche Telekom

Hoettges has been CEO of Deutsche Telekom since 2014 and has presided over a busy period in the German operator’s history. The company is aggressively expanding into areas such as cloud and cybersecurity.

In June Deutsche Telekom announced that it intends to double its €1 billion of revenue in cloud services from business customers by the end of 2018 and launched a joint cybersecurity initiative with Intel Security.

The Cologne graduate is aware of Hoettges worked in Deutsche Telekom’s fixed network and broadband businesses. His experience working on internet has informed his support for regulating web companies such as Google and Facebook; he argues that they offer communications services in the same way as telecoms do.

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