Meet Your 2019 ICT Visionaries

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In our uber-competitive industry, it’s easy to get bowled over by who’s first and who’s best.  It’s also important to realize that despite the dramatic pace of change across the ICT industry, some fundamentals remain — in terms of both technology and leadership.

That’s why our 2019 ICT Visionaries are all about pushing the technological envelope, while they authentically engage their team members.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) (https://hbr.org) agrees with this approach. In their most recent Leader’s Handbook, they interviewed 40 successful leaders from a variety of organizations (corporate, non-profit, startup), across different industries. In a nutshell, the HBR said that the best leaders deploy these 6 classic practices:

1. Uniting people around an exciting, aspirational vision.

2. Building a strategy for achieving the vision by making choices about what to do and what not to do.

3. Attracting and developing the best possible talent to implement the strategy.

4. Relentlessly focusing on results in the context of the strategy.

5. Creating ongoing innovation that will help reinvent the vision and strategy.

6. “Leading yourself”: knowing and growing yourself so that you can most effectively lead others
and carry out these practices.

As you read our 7 Visionaries responses to questions about network investments, copper-to-fiber migration strategies and natural disasters preparation — you’ll likely take away the same thing I did: authentic leaders treat both the physical network and the human network with the same respect.

Even more important, they realize that without the right focus on their team members, the wireless
and wireline networks will NOT transform.

Here are the topics and questions ISE asked the ICT Visionaries to consider.

The Race to Massive 5G
North America will take an early lead in 5G deployments with all 4 national service providers expecting to commercially launch from Q4 2018-Q3 2019. Ovum forecasts 336,000 5G connections in North America by the end of 2019, representing 47% of total global 5G connections.
Will the US win the race to mass deployment of 5G?  Why or why not?

Jeff Chapman, EVP, Operations, NorthState Communications: If we are looking at 2019 or 2020, I don’t feel the U.S. will win the race to mass deployment of 5G. The main reason is I think we will fall victim to our own rules and regulations that will ultimately delay the process of 5G deployment. For example, small cell attachments to existing facilities or buildings is a major task. Every facility/building owner handles these request in a different way and it’s not a uniformed process. That means a 5G service provider must juggle multiple processes which creates inconsistent timelines with deployments and ultimately will result in delays. It’s no secret that the U.S. and China are both pushing for the top spot in 5G deployment, but China may be the winner on this one.

Ashley Travers, Director of Network Engineering & Construction, Verizon: For 3 years, Verizon has led the way developing and deploying 5G, accelerating 5G innovation. In 2015, we created the 5G Technology Forum, bringing together key partners like Ericsson, Qualcomm, Intel, and Samsung — to move the entire 5G ecosystem forward. 5G Technology Forum’s technical work resulted in the release of the 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard in December, 2017 — 12-24 months ahead of most expectations.

And in 2018, Verizon achieved a series of technological “firsts” with our 5G technology partners, including:

• First in the world to deploy a commercial 5G network when we launched our 5G Home in Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Indianapolis in October.

• First data transmission over commercial 5G NR network equipment to a prototype smartphone device in Minneapolis with Ericsson and Qualcomm in September.

• First 5G data transmission on a smartphone, using the Motorola moto z3 paired with a 5G moto mod, creating the world’s first 5G-upgradeable smartphone, in November.

By companies like our partners involved in the 5G Tech Forum continuing this pace of innovation in combination with the forward-thinking work of the FCC through their national guidelines for small cell deployments and freeing up additional spectrum, the United States will be in a very competitive position to compete on a global scale.

Investment for the Future
What are your company’s investment priorities for 2019?

Lisa Truppa, Assistant Vice President – Technology, AT&T: In 2019, we plan to focus on deploying standards-based mobile 5G in additional markets around the country, expanding our fiber footprint and satisfying our DIRECTV merger commitment and building out our FirstNet network for first responders.

Jeff Chapman, EVP, Operations, NorthState Communications: We are focused on two major investments in 2019, fiber deployment and network infrastructure. Fiber deployment is essential as businesses transform the way they operate. Service providers must deliver high capacity bandwidth for services such as Cloud computing, IoT and Virtualization. The same can be said for our personal lives. With the use of video streaming, online gaming and smart home devices rising, the bandwidth demands are driving Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployments offering gigabit speeds to residential customers. Businesses and residential demands continue to increase and fiber deployment will remain a priority. Our second priority is network infrastructure and this year we are making a large investment in our optical transport platform. Technology changes rapidly and we are deploying a more robust infrastructure to deliver new products and services while enhancing the customer experience.

Ashley Travers, Director of Network Engineering & Construction, Verizon: Same as always: continue to enhance the best networks for our customers. We will continue to invest in our 5G network, enhancing our 4G LTE Advanced network, expanding our large footprint of small cells and fiber, and continuing network virtualization, all of which are essential to continuing to deploy our Intelligent Edge Network.

Ben Goth, Vice President of Network Services, TDS Telecom: TDS Telecom is committed to delivering the best products and services to delight our customers. In order to do this successfully, we must provide customers with access to the most reliable and capable networks if we’re to truly satisfy their growing needs. TDS’ priorities for 2019 are centered on driving fiber deeper into the network and, with every step of the investment path, we must move toward simplification while also building the framework supporting SDN and NFV. In 2019, we will also continue to leverage state broadband and A-CAM funds to expand and improve our networks so we can deliver better, more reliable service to our customers, especially those who reside in rural communities.

Wireline/Wireless Integration Realities
Though service providers are blending their network teams, we all know there’s a lot of wireline network evolution that must occur to make 5G mass deployment a reality.
What are some of the most important changes that must occur?

Scot Bohaychyk, Manager, Product Marketing, Clearfield: Network convergence and streamlining fiber deployments will be critical to success. Converting fiber networks into multiple use highways for consumer services, business services, and wireless infrastructure is at the heart of many operator’s fiber strategies. Stacking multiple 10-Gig wavelengths onto fibers is more affordable now than ever before using technologies like NGPON2. But getting these to work in harsh environments with carrier class performance is key.  The Clearfield WaveSmart® line of optical component products offer ruggedized splitter and combiner elements for harsh environments. The pace of deployment will only increase as the wireless operators rollout fronthaul, midhaul, and backhaul buildouts. This will drive the need for wireline networks and equipment manufacturers to embrace the plug-and-play component approach.

Ben Goth, Vice President of Network Services, TDS Telecom: The wireline industry is critical for the success of wireless 5G mass deployment. The days of building separate networks and systems to support similar deployments have gone by the wayside — they were both inefficient and unscalable. In fact, the wireline industry must continue its evolution to enable the delivery of high bandwidth, low latency, and highly reliable connections for the 5G network. The implementation for 5G must be a natural extension of the network, in order to fully support all other customers and drive efficiency in operation and support. This will allow the delivery of services in much shorter intervals that are scalable to support the 5G deployment.

Leadership
Considered a core pillar in Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ reading list, Jim Collins’ Good to Great looks at companies that transform good — or even mediocre — ideas into enduring powerhouses. Much of that relates to who their leader is. Collins describes the best ones as Level 5 Leaders. What sets them apart from “ego-driven Level 4 Leaders,” says Collins, is their ability to inspire others to adopt a vision.

“Ego-driven Level 4 leaders are really good at inspiring people to follow them. Level 5 people inspire others to follow a cause. And therein is all the difference,” said Collins in a video series. “The deep, inner lesson of Level 5 is the idea of service: of leading in service to a cause. We are talking here about ambition … a channel out, away from yourself, into a cause, into an enterprise, into a purpose, into something that is bigger and more important than we are.”

Share your thoughts about this statement and the tenets you have about being a leader.

Lisa Truppa, Assistant Vice President – Technology, AT&T: Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” A great leader is not based solely on intelligence. Rather, he/she finds a way to bring out the team’s strengths. That way, the team’s talent is exponential to their skills as individuals. One way to elicit these strengths is what Jim Collins highlights in the Level 4 vs. Level 5 leader. By unifying the group for a higher purpose, leaders can elevate their accomplishments and establish a ‘this is bigger than me’ environment. This mentality is prevalent in college and professional sports — players go to extraordinary lengths to perform. The goal is actually not about winning, but about not disappointing team members.

Daniel Ashton, Senior Engineer – ICEP, GROC, CenturyLink: I agree good leadership must be about inspiring people to follow a cause. Network reliability is crucial to retaining customers and as an Electrical Protection Engineer, I strive to communicate the need for high standards in installation and maintenance of all network elements and I’m inspired by leaders who follow those same standards. I also try to impress the work ethic of doing the job right the first time regardless of what the job may be.

Kim Shepherd, CEO, SkyLine / SkyBest: Service is at the heart of what we do and who we are.  Our company’s strategic focus, service-driven culture, legacy of community investment and cooperative structure of being member-owned gives SkyLine the flexibility to move forward proactively with innovation, growth and expansion while also pursuing ways to extend fiber broadband to unserved areas.  There is clearly a parallel between SkyLine’s current efforts and its original mission of connecting rural communities to telephone service nearly 70 years ago when others couldn’t or wouldn’t provide service. As CEO, I ascribe to being both transparent with and accessible to our employees, embrace a ‘we’re all in this together’ approach, use technology to further connect with them via a weekly blog, and encourage them to be engaged and as happy as possible.

Ben Goth, Vice President of Network Services, TDS Telecom: The idea of leading in service to a cause is one that all leaders should strive to achieve. Being able to help the organization see the greater purpose, so employees become invested in the success of the company while understanding how their contributions support a bigger cause is challenging but has immense rewards. It’s important to understand what people within the organization value and then provide them the opportunity to attain the value they desire while also being aligned with the company goals. Making sure employees feel valued — and that their contributions are appreciated — increases their engagement. When employees are highly engaged, they achieve great results and feel good about their successes, which leads to greater on-the-job satisfaction.

Copper-to-Fiber Migration
What fiber-related and copper-to-fiber migration strategies will be most potent in 2019?

Daniel Ashton, Senior Engineer – ICEP, GROC, CenturyLink: I feel the real challenge is capacity. This is easier to enhance in urban areas and for long-haul networks but more difficult when serving rural communities/areas. I feel more work should be done to enhance the existing copper network in rural areas where placing optical fiber cable is generally cost prohibitive. G.fast, for example, is a viable choice for offering those faster speeds where they are needed, particularly within MDUs.

Scot Bohaychyk, Manager, Product Marketing, Clearfield: Game over. Fiber is king in 2019. There seems to be no real sense in trying to milk more from the copper networks now that fiber has matured. As the fiber marries wireless for 5G networks, ease of installation will become a must for fiber networks. At Clearfield, customers making the move from copper to fiber have told us that they like the ability to handle fiber drops the same way they have handled copper so removing the mystique by protecting the fiber while making it “feel” like a traditional copper cable provides peace of mind for the installer. With Clearfield FieldShield® fiber, technicians can push or pull drops into place for service activation. And using plug-and-play allows quick installs that provide repeatable, high-quality terminations.

Jeff Chapman, EVP, Operations, NorthState Communications: It’s hard to say what drives a Company’s copper-to-fiber migration strategy. There are many variables in that equation, but one thing is certain. Copper-to-fiber migration isn’t easy or inexpensive. We all know high bandwidth demands can’t be satisfied utilizing traditional copper plant and service options are limited. Fiber provides a much better method of delivery along with the ability to layer on multiple services utilizing GPON. Maintenance costs of copper plant far exceed fiber maintenance costs and that is a key financial factor in most migration strategies.   

Kim Shepherd, CEO, SkyLine / SkyBest: Thanks to our company’s visionary leadership, we have successfully made the transition from copper to a FTTP network and completed that initiative when many telecommunications companies were just beginning. Achieving this milestone earned SkyLine National Gig-capable and Smart Rural Community designations from NTCA — the Rural Broadband Association and has enabled the company to showcase Smart technologies with its Smart Home retail location and to add new services including digital TV, automation and surveillance, and both VoIP and hosted phone systems/services. Our network will continue to provide our customers the latest in telecommunications and service emerging technologies requiring a high-performance fiber backbone.

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Natural Disasters and Network Preparedness
Natural disasters devastated communities around the world in 2018, killing thousands of people and inflicting billions of dollars in damage. In September 2018, at least 1,900 people died in Indonesia after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami with waves as high as 20 feet. The following month, Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to hit the United States in 50 years, devastated North and South Carolina and killed dozens of people. Some of the worst fires in US history hit California shortly afterward, melting cars, reducing bodies to bone, and wiping out an entire town. Much of the record-breaking devastation was caused by elevated temperatures on land and at sea. In a warming world, climate scientists say these disasters will only continue to become more severe.
While we have strong disaster recovery plans in place for the wireline and wireless networks, what are we missing related to protecting the network from these disasters? What could we do better? 

Lisa Truppa, Assistant Vice President – Technology, AT&T: When disaster strikes, AT&T is committed to keeping our customers and first responders connected. Our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) technology is state-of-the-art and we have a team that thinks and trains for “disaster recovery” annually. We conduct full-scale exercises year-round to test our equipment and global capabilities. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead this team and was impressed by what we do to plan for the unexpected.

AT&T regularly prepares and responds to natural and man-made disasters. Our business continuity planning process is predicated on continuous improvement — incorporating improvements from previous events into future responses. Since 1991, AT&T has invested more than $650 million domestically and $15 million internationally in its NDR facilities and team.

The company is moving towards an IP-based network and the NDR program is innovating to keep pace. The NDR fleet includes 16 trailers dedicated to the recovery of core, high-capacity routers that send and receive all network traffic from one network office to the next. These trailers are able to handle large amounts of network traffic — from a city of smartphone users to high-volume data transfers between businesses.

Daniel Ashton, Senior Engineer – ICEP, GROC, CenturyLink: Although communication companies have disaster plans in place, I feel it would be more cost effective to build more robust facilities to withstand natural disasters than to repeatedly replace them after a disaster occurs. It often comes down to placement. A case in point: I have been involved in multiple forest fire restorations where I find buried facilities were largely undamaged compared to those that are aerial. Placing those facilities underground greatly reduced both cost and time for restoring service.

Scot Bohaychyk, Manager, Product Marketing, Clearfield: For the most part, the industry as a whole has done a pretty good job of protecting network assets for anticipated events. However, when that disaster curveball is thrown and the network is damaged, ease of restoration is something that moves to the forefront. Networks will inevitably be damaged. 5G will mean even more components than ever will be in Mother Nature’s crosshairs. Reducing downtime by simplifying the restoration process using pluggable fiber components and assemblies will have the greatest impact on minimizing downtime. Unplug the damaged components, plug in the new components and move on to the next one.

Kim Shepherd, CEO, SkyLine / SkyBest: SkyLine has invested heavily in building a state-of-the-art network, and the reliability of that network has been critical as new technologies emerged. We regularly review and update our Disaster Preparedness procedures, and with our recent transition from a copper-based network to a FTTP network, we put in place geo-redundant sites and diverse fiber connections. SkyLine’s core network offers 5 divergent paths to Tier 1 Internet backhaul locations that ride on an intelligent, self-healing, fully-monitored fiber-optic ring.  SkyLine has implemented rules that result in automatically cleared troubles throughout the network. We work in concert with our sister cooperatives, dispatching crews where needed.  My advice is to review and update response plans on a regular basis, at least every 6 months. Ensure that ALL parties involved have a full understanding of the plan and know their roles and, to the extent possible, practice the plan.

Ashley Travers, Director of Network Engineering & Construction, Verizon: It’s in our Verizon DNA to run to a crisis, because we know how critical communications are in times of emergencies, like hurricanes and wildfires. We have a proven track record of planning year-round, and moving as quickly as possible to assess damage after severe weather. We have a comprehensive backup power strategy and massive refueling plan to keep our network working. One thing that we are working on after last year’s round of hurricanes is educating restoration personnel and citizens on the importance of being careful when working around wires to not cut fiber that is critical to our network.

To learn more about our Visionaries, please visit https://www.isemag.com/special-sections/.

Look for additional insights in the July issue.

Thank You to our 2019 ICT Visionaries.

 

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