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The most influential people in telecommunications

16 Dec 2011
FYI, this story is more than a year old

We’ve been counting down all week, now here are the 10 people judged by our panel to have the biggest influence in the telecommunications industry.

30. Conor English – CEO, Federated Farmers

English maintains his position in this year’s Top 40 as the demand side of telecommunications comes into sharper focus, particularly in the regions. Federated Farmers is yet to play the substantive role that it needs to in driving innovation underpinned by telecommunications and digital technology and the judges are looking for some big moves to coalesce this massive sector.

Placement 2010: 29

29. Dr Murray Horn – chair, National Health Board

No nonsense and sharp as a tack, Horn’s review of the Health sector has seen him entrusted with implementing a joined up sector. This sector is key to the UFB as both a demand-side cornerstone and, more importantly, a source of the economic benefit upside sought by Government from the UFB. Horn will need to muster all his experience and nous to galvanise sector participants into leveraging new capability in support of the wider health system efficiency drive.

Placement 2010: New for 2011

28. Bill English – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance 

With the money now allocated, the fiscal aspects of English’s influence are largely a done deal however he is part of the troika with Key and Joyce and remains a political powerhouse. In Budget 2010, English allocated a further $200 million of capital funding to the Government’s ongoing investment in Ultra Fast Broadband infrastructure through Crown Fibre Holdings. This comes as a top-up to the $248 million allocated last year.

Placement 2010: 14

27: Scott Bartlett – CEO, Orcon

Bartlett appealed to last year’s Top 40 judges as "epitomising that young, funky, ‘let’s take over the world’ youth culture” that intuitively will resonate with the demand-side segments that are at the heart of broad-based consumer uptake of ultra-fast fibre-based communications services. Orcon’s direction as a Retail Service Provider will materially shape that layer.

Placement 2010: 26

26: Murray Milner – principal consultant, Milner Consulting Ltd

Former Telecom CTO Dr Milner still works extensively with central government, local government and enterprises on ICT strategy and infrastructure development. Milner continues to influence technology decisions that are still on the table around the UFB infrastructure.

Placement 2010: 18

25: Graeme Osborne – chair, New Zealand Health Information Board

Osborne is responsible for driving implementation of the country’s Health IT Strategy, considered the low-hanging fruit for the economic development aims that are driving the Government’s intervention in the industry via the UFB initiative.

Placement 2010: New for 2011

24: Rohan McMahon – strategy director, Crown Fibre Holdings

McMahon’s role within the broader CFH team is to drive initiatives with industry that see the new ultra-fast broadband adopted and used, particularly by the sectors dubbed ‘priority users’ in the UFB lexicon. It is time for this effort to step up.

Placement 2010: 24

23: Bruce Parkes – deputy secretary, Energy and Communications Branch, Ministry of Economic Development

The role and influence of MED in establishing the shape of the industry structures and seeing them bed down should not be underestimated, and you can bet Parkes will stamp his mark on the outcomes.

Placement 2010: 30

22: Simon Allen – chairman, Crown Fibre Holdings

Largely invisible during the UFB Procurement phase, Allen’s influence will surely have had a hand in the deal done with Telecom that sees Chorus with 70% of the UFB pie. With the procurement phase over and the deals struck, Allen’s influence wanes, however his experience and nous will be important as the oversight and governance of the UFB Parties, including the role and behaviour of CFH itself, beds down.

Placement 2010: 4

21: Geoff Hunt – CEO, Kordia

A challenging year for Kordia has seen Hunt out of the limelight as the state-owned carrier looks to progress initiatives on a number of fronts, particularly leveraging partnerships. His influence, acknowledged leadership qualities and industry experience will be a material contributor to the shake-down of the emerging Retail Service Provider space. Look for Kordia to spring some surprises as the SOE establishes its place in the new order.

Placement 2010: 19

20. Chris Dyhrberg – general manager UFB Deployment, Chorus

After playing a key role with his CEO Mark Ratcliffe on securing a big chunk of the UFB for Telecom, the quiet and unassuming Dyhrberg finds himself in the hot seat with responsibility for the deployment of some 70% of the country's new fibre-optic infrastructure.

The rollout programme will be logistically daunting in its own right; however Dyhrberg will also be faced with the challenge of optimising the build including working out how to leverage partnerships and third party capabilities if the UFB is to be a success for Chorus (see today’s story for an example of how he’s getting on).

New for 2011

19. John Bone – head of strategy and wholesale, TelstraClear

Widely regarded as a smart operator and voice of reason within the Australian giant’s enigmatic New Zealand challenger, Bone’s strategy team will be working overtime as they look to establish a place in the new market structure. TelstraClear has a breadth and depth of attributes that position it well to play a substantive role in the market going forward, but securing a role as a key player will require imagination and boldness. Bone’s responsibility is to drive that.

New for 2011

18. Steve Rieger – GM wholesale and new business development, Vodafone New Zealand

The energetic and positive Rieger is credited with being a driving force in pulling together Vodafone’s partnership with Telecom to deploy the Rural Broadband Initiative infrastructure, thereby ensuring that the bulk of the new industry levee that will be paid substantially by the two industry heavyweights will end up funding an asset.

Rieger’s smarts and ability to see potential connections will be material in the positioning of Vodafone in the retail service provider space.

Placement 2010: 36

17. Arthur Chao Zhang – CEO, Huawei New Zealand

Huawei continues to make strong running in the New Zealand telecommunications scene. Not content with securing selection of its technology for the Layer 2 FTTP build, Huawei is now looking at how it can apply its undoubted muscle, including investment dollars, to other areas of the deployment and operations.

Among the vendor community, Huawei looks to be the mover and shaker.

Placement 2010: 32

16. David Stone – CEO, Telecommunications Carriers Forum

A forthright, knowledgeable and well-connected industry player, Stone appears to have found a home at the helm of the TCF that suits his attributes well.

There are significant cross-industry issues to be resolved as the post-UFB industry structure solidifies, and Stone’s no-nonsense style of diplomacy will be called on to drive outcomes from the diverse stakeholder group that is the heavyweights of the telecommunications industry.

New for 2011

15. Mark Rushworth – CEO, Pacific Fibre

Rushworth slips slightly in this year’s rankings, however it is fair to say that much rests on the success of the Pacific Fibre venture that he heads. A smart operator with a reputation for getting results, Rushworth will need all his nous to achieve results with Pacific Fibre over the next 12 months. Successfully getting the new international cable venture off the ground would be a material contributor to the industry and the wider New Zealand economy – unless the Chinese get there first.

Placement 2010: 10

14. Wayne Boyd – former chairman, Telecom

Boyd retains a spot high in the top 40 rankings owing to his work securing shareholder approval of the telco’s demerger from Chorus. Boyd would also have had a massive backroom influence on Telecom securing 70% of the UFB contract; his resignation will be a big loss for the board.

Placement 2010: 9

13. Graham Mitchell – CEO, Crown Fibre Holdings

With the procurement phase now behind him and his team, Mitchell’s responsibilities turn to implementing the governance model around the Crown partnerships, and oversight of the contractual obligations of the contracted parties. The most visible of these will be the deployment timelines, from which there will be few places to hide. The industry also watches with interest as Mitchell works to lead a CFH that discharges its responsibilities as the instrument of policy whilst staying lean as a means to an end.

Placement 2010: 8

12. Maxine Elliott – CEO, Ultra-Fast Fibre Limited

CEO of the LFC with the biggest catchment outside of Chorus, Elliott has taken on this big challenge after heading up Vector Communications through the UFB procurement phase. UFL, led by Waikato Energy Limited (WEL), is the least experienced in the business of telecommunications services provision, and the moves made under Elliott’s watch, including in collaboration with other parties such as Enable, to build lean, scalable operational capability will influence how the interface with retail service providers shapes up.

New for 2011

11. John Fellet – CEO, Sky

Whilst no overt moves were made in the past 12 months, Fellet moves up the rankings due to the inevitable influence the emergence of content will play in the post-UFB market. Fellet is a savvy operator who will oversee the development of a strong commercial strategy that will impact on the industry and consumers alike.

Placement 2010: 15

10. Ross Patterson – Telecommunications Commissioner

The unflappable Dr Patterson’s powerful influence on NZ’s telecommunications sector does not abate with the letting of the UFB contracts and the structural separation of Telecom. Telecom’s recent settlement for over $31 million following a breach of its undertakings bears witness to the teeth of the Office of the Commissioner. Dr Patterson will continue to have an oversight role for the foreseeable future; expect him to remain single-mindedly focused on maintaining a healthy, competitive environment for the benefit of end-users.

Placement 2010: 12

9. John Key – Prime Minister of New Zealand

Although not as prominent as earlier in the UFB policy rollout, Key remains an important cog in the industry machinery. His level of engagement with the public of New Zealand means his opinions will always be important. As the focus of the UFB initiative moves from technical procurement to demand, uptake and economic benefit realisation, look for Key to be vocal on the opportunity for technology-enabled growth through the second term of his National government.

Placement 2010: 5

8. Steve Fuller – CEO, Enable Networks

The big mover in this year’s rankings, Fuller has worked tirelessly to secure Enable’s place as a Crown partner providing fibre infrastructure for Christchurch and Rangiora. The Enable operation, already well-established in the city, responded heroically to the earthquake disaster and the award of the UFB contract must in some part, and justifiably, reflect that. Fuller is a savvy operator with a pragmatic style and his influence will be an important counterpoint to the natural largesse of Telecom in the establishment of the service layers that will bind the wholesale industry together.

Placement 2010: 28

7. Simon MacKenzie – Group CEO, Vector

Despite losing out to Telecom in the race to be government’s partner to deliver the UFB infrastructure to Auckland, Vector still features as a major industry player. With significant infrastructure, supporting operation, partnerships and customers, the question on the industry’s lips is how will Vector choose to go forward? MacKenzie will oversee the development of this strategy and, with his background in the telecommunications arena, will undoubtedly make a material impact on the way the industry structure unfolds.

Placement 2010: 6

6. Eric Hertz – CEO, 2degrees Mobile New Zealand

Retaining a spot in the top 10, Hertz’s 2degrees Mobile continues to make strong inroads in the mobile market. With both Telecom and Vodafone focused on the broader industry changes, 2degrees could further shake up the mobility space, but this will require strong leadership and keen commercial and marketing acumen.

Placement 2010: 7

5. Chris Quin – CEO, Gen-i

Moving up again after last year’s big jump, Quin has cemented his place in the top 5 with a tireless effort in support of the demerger and a visible leadership stance in Telecom’s mobilisation at the time of the Christchurch disaster. Quin’s leadership will be further tested as the company positions to take advantage of its scale and brand to take the retail service provider market by storm in the post-UFB market. The 'leaning down' of Gen-i that will be required will challenge Quin and his team.

Placement 2010: 16

4. Russell Stanners – CEO, Vodafone New Zealand

With the opening up of the wholesale infrastructure market in the context of a structurally split market, Vodafone looms as a formidable emerging force in the provision of full service telecommunications. Focused, aggressive and not one to miss an opportunity, Stanners will be essential to driving the company up the maturity curve and positioning Vodafone to participate strongly in the post-UFB market.

Placement 2010: 3

3. ? – CEO, Telecom

With structural separation now effectively a done deal, the end of Reynolds’ term at the helm of Telecom has already been announced. The likeable Scotsman has left an indelible mark on the industry, having fronted on a range of difficult issues with professionalism and an uncharacteristic (for Telecom) absence of arrogance. Reynolds’ last task, shepherding Telecom into full structural separation, will make a material contribution to the future shape of the industry. The main questions are how long will he remain in office, and who will replace him?

Placement 2010: 2

2. Mark Ratcliffe – CEO, Chorus

The affable Ratcliffe has again come up trumps being (predictably) awarded the top job at the new improved separated Chorus. Having secured 70% of the UFB build including the pivotal Auckland the challenge is now for Chorus to make a commercial success of the venture. Against a backdrop of enduring industry suspicion, much will hinge on the ability of the company to embrace long-term planning and collaborative relationship building as a means to maximise asset leverage and optimise the build. Ratcliffe’s easy style will be an important factor in making this happen.

Placement 2010: 11

1. Steven Joyce/Amy Adams – Minister for Communications and Information Technology

As our judges evaluated these rankings in October, it was clear the role of ICT Minister would continue to be the most influential on the industry as a whole. The deals may be done, but it will still take intelligence and skill to keep the UFB build on track, as well as to drive stimulation and uptake as more locations are connected.

With National cruising to a comfortable second term, our judges predicted Steven Joyce would retain the portfolio given his success with the UFB project. Turns out he was so successful he was stripped of the portfolio so he could take up Economic Development and Science and Innovation, making him a kind of ‘Minister for making things better’.

The new ICT Minister, Amy Adams, is ranked comparatively low in Cabinet, at number 20. This makes it especially important for her to stand up and let her leaders know that there is more to come from the tech sector, and with government support ICT can and will be the fundamental driver of economic growth in this country.

So, that’s it for 2011. Feel free to check out 40-31, 30-21 and 20-11, and post your thoughts in the comments below – who is too high, who is too low, and who have we missed altogether?

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