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The most influential people in telecommunications - 10 to 1

16 Dec 2011

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.

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?