GTB announces 50 innovators to watch for 2017

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GTB Editor
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The digital world is becoming increasingly more software-defined and, with the proliferation of connected devices amid surging consumer demand for ultra-reliable and low-latency content, innovation is key to quenching this thirst

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Whether it’s new technology or innovative strategies, GTB’s 151st issue lists some of the key innovators, in alphabetical order by company, who are helping to lead the way in telecoms.


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Georg Mayer, CT Chairman, 3GPP


Mayer, who is senior standards manager at Huawei, was re-elected as chairman in March 2017. Mayer is leading 3rd Generation Partnership Project's plans for standardisation beyond the air interface, and their prioritisation of work across four main requirement groups: enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT, critical communications, and network operations. He is looking at the evolution of core networks for 5G.

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Simon Hu, President, Alibaba Cloud

Hu has a pivotal innovative role as the Alibaba subsidiary plays a leading role in the race for internet cloud storage and computing services covering IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and big data. He has been president since November 2014 and is leading the company on its bold cloud computing plans, which includes expanding its global footprint with new data centres around the world.  Some analysts predict Alibaba will increase cloud revenue from $1 billion in 2016 to $10 billion b.y 2020.

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Dr Werner Vogels, CTO and VP, Amazon

Vogels is one of the architects behind Amazon's approach to cloud computing, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Vogels is continuously on the road to promote cloud computing and AWS and its benefits to the industry. Morgan Stanley predicts it will have $35 billion in cloud revenue by 2020.

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Dr Eyal Felstaine, CTO, head of the technology office, Amdocs

Felstaine is in charge of finding and developing new growth engines for the company, which includes cyber security, NFV/SDN, blockchain and other fields of disruptive research. Felstaine is responsible for shaping Amdocs’ product vision, strategy, and long-term roadmap for network cloud service orchestration and NG-OSS. An innovator and entrepreneur by nature, Eyal has co-founded and held CXO positions in several successful start-ups. 

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Jonathan Ive, Chief design officer, Apple
When you get a knighthood because of your contributions to technology, you know you’re on the right track. That every mobile handset looks similar to an iPhone is a testament to just how iconic – and innovative – Sir Jonny Ive’s original iPhone was when it was launched a decade ago. With sales slumping last year, most analysts expect a significant overhaul in design and functionality for this year’s landmark iteration of the world’s most famous smartphone. Ive and his team will be responsible for that.
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Nigel Bayliff, CEO, Aqua Comms

Bayliff is a trained engineer making an impact in this industry, building Aqua Comms’ next generation subsea cable with a company which throws a considerable punch for its low profile. Bayliff does a lot with fewer resources than most. The company is owner and operator of CeltixConnect. Aqua Comms also created AEConnect, one of the first transatlantic cables built in the last 12 years. Aqua Comms will be selling its new cable as a carrier’s carrier. “They trust us as a privately operated venture to be different from the rest – long-haul by design and long-haul by nature,” Bayliff says.

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Mike Muller, CTO & founder, ARM

Muller was one of the founding members of ARM, one of the world's leading semiconductor intellectual property supplier and as such is at the heart of the development of digital electronic products. He was appointed chief technology officer in October 2000. SoftBank’s £24.3 billion takeover sees Muller paid £22.7 million for the 1.34 million shares he and his family own. At MWC 2017, Softbank's CEO Masayoshi Son outlined his super-intelligent AI vision, which will see Muller truly drive this innovation.

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John Donovan, Chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations, AT&T

Donovan has been busy the last few years, as the US operator looks to position itself as the leading technology operator when the 5G revolution starts. Not only has AT&T switched off its 2G network at the start of 2017, it is also in the process of a major overhaul as it virtualises the majority of its network. Last year, it surpassed its goal of virtualising more than 30% of its network. 

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Michelle Bourque, VP, marketing and access strategy planning, business markets, Bell Canada

Bourque leads a team of product and marketing professionals and is accountable for growing the wireline and cloud services portfolios for business markets as well as the wholesale markets in Canada and internationally.

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Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO of global voice and data business, Bharti Airtel

Heading up the B2B operations at Bharti Airtel, Chitkara is helping to drive vast innovation with voice, data, video, network integration, managed services and digital media. Chitkara has been credited with building Airtel’s brand in the global arena, taking Airtel's network to reach more than 50 countries through submarine and terrestrial media. He has also helped India become an important transit hub of data and voice business.

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Howard Watson, CEO of technology service and operations, BT


Howard Watson is the man who has been tasked with integrating EE’s network and operations into BT following last year’s £12.5 billion acquisition. Last year he became BT’s new head of technology, replacing Clive Selley, who became CEO of Openreach. Watson is the man credited with the launch of BT Sport in 2013, and also oversaw BT’s information technology division in Bangalore. His next task is to create what BT has claimed will be a hybrid network, combining wireless roaming, WiFi, data and voice services. All that while dealing with Ofcom’s decision to split Openreach from BT, and whatever impact that has.

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Alison Vincent, CTO, Cisco
Vincent is the ambassador and trusted advisor for Cisco Technology to customers, start-ups, government, partners, press and analysts. She is the focal point for innovation and future thought leadership and the company and is a founding member of the women in cyber security within Cisco globally. 
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Rajiv Datta, CTO, Colt Technology Services

Datta was appointed CTO on 1 January 2016. He is responsible for the development of Colt’s network technology strategy and is leading the creation of its next-generation of products and services, including the evolution of its SDN-based network capability, and the delivery of its digital customer experience. 
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Stephen Scott, CEO, Deep Blue Cable

The Caribbean subsea cable landscape is about to be re-shaped and Stephen Scott, CEO, Deep Blue Cable is at the heart of it. Scott has extensive experience in telecoms and related industries including stints with Global Marine Systems, PSiNet Europe and Sentrum Data Centres. Scott is driving Deep Blue Cable’s development of a subsea fibre-optic system which will provide unrivalled connectivity across the Caribbean islands and to the United States.

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Claudia Nemat, Member of the Board of management technology and innovation, Deutsche Telekom
The role of Nemat, previously head of Europe and technology, has since the beginning of 2017 been expanded to cover technology and innovation, including network, innovation and IT functions in the group. She recently announced a collaboration with China Unicom on NB-IoT services, a move that will see the two companies share a platform for M2M services. 
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Jerzy Szlosarek, CEO, Epsilon

One of the most dynamic segments in the market today is that of interconnection and cloud connectivity.  Automation is key, and Epsilon is helping to shift traditional telco mindsets to a DevOps approach. Szlosarek recently announced the launch of Infiny On-Demand connectivity platform. “We have reduced the complexity of global networking to a mobile app and web-based portal, delivering networking as a utility in the form of a fully adaptable API," said Szlosarek.

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Ulf Ewaldsson, SVP, chief strategy and technology officer, Ericsson

In September 2016, Ericsson appointed Ewaldsson as SVP, chief strategy and technology officer, and head of group function strategy and technology. He is responsible for the development of future technologies as well as the company’s overall strategy. Ewaldsson is the chairman of Ericsson’s Research Board, a board member of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, TM Forum and Assa Abloy. 

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Luis Jorge Romero, Director general, ETSI

ETSI, a European standards organisation, is the home of the NFV specification group and Romero has overseen the growth and success of this important initiative. Since his election as ETSI director general back in 2011, Romero has been further developing ETSI to provide a global reach to its members. He has led the development of the oneM2M global standards initiative for M2M communications and the Internet of Things.


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Stephen Grubb, Global optical network architect, Facebook
Facebook recently announced that the company and Nokia have collaborated and completed subsea cable field trials of new optical digital signal processing technologies over a 5,500km trans-Atlantic subsea link between New York and Ireland. Grubb is one of those innovators helping Facebook increase the pace of innovation and adoption of next-generation optical technologies. This field trial with Nokia demonstrates that the scalable optical technology of PCS together with narrow linewidth laser sources can achieve capacities extremely close to the Shannon limit. 
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Stephen Stokols, CEO, FreedomPop
For an MVNO, Freedompop has taken a very innovative approach to building a customer base. Suggest offering mobile services for free to most other CEOs, and they’d baulk, but former BT exec Stephen Stokols has taken the freemium model found on mobile apps and built an operator around it. That means offering core services – calls, texts, and small amounts of data – for free, making money from selling additional, and premium services. It has worked well enough that other telcos are now partnering with Freedompop as a managed service – the Three/Wind JV in Italy is the first big name to note, but Stokols promises there is more to come.
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David Walsh, President, CEO and chairman, Genband
Walsh joined the Genband board on the merger of NextPoint with Genband in 2008. He assumed the position of Genband chairman in 2010 following the acquisition of the Nortel carrier VoIP and application solutions business, with OEP providing the investment capital.
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Frederik Pferdt, Chief innovation evangelist, Google
Pferdt is head of innovation and creativity programmes at Google. Despite his role being internally-focused at Google, we had to include him in our list of innovators as he has been key to innovating the culture at a company with over 70,000 staff.
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Meg Whitman, Pesident and CEO, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise


Whitman served as president and chief executive officer for Hewlett-Packard Company from 2011 until 2015, as well as chairman of the board from 2014 until 2015, leading the company’s turnaround and subsequent separation into two companies – Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. Whitman is also the chairman of the board of HP.
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Yang Chaobin, President of 5G product line, Huawei

Chaobin first joined Huawei in 1998 working on UMTS signal processing algorithms. In 2000, he was promoted as head of Huawei Wireless Research where he contributed to the evolution of WCDMA/HSPA/LTE. From 2008 until 2011 he served as head of Huawei’s LTE product line and Huawei’s R&D centre in Sweden. Chaobin is the founder of Huawei’s Mobile Innovation Centre, which invented the industry pioneering SingleRAN solution. Since 2012, his responsibilities include strategy, planning and marketing for radio access and core network products. 

Yang Chaobin, President of 5G product line, Huawei
Rob High, IBM Fellow, VP and CTO, IBM Watson, IBM


High has overall responsibility to drive Watson technical strategy and thought leadership. As a key member of the Watson Leadership team, High works collaboratively with the Watson engineering, research, and development teams across IBM. 

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Ben Hirsch , CMO, IDT Telecom


Hirsch has been at IDT since March 2011 and is responsible for global marketing activities across both the consumer and business divisions of IDT Telecom. 
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Caroline Chan, VP and general manager 5G infrastructure division, Intel

Chan is responsible for driving Intel's global network infrastructure strategy and deliverables for 5G. She leads this organisation to identify and develop use cases that incorporate IoT, innovation in wireless technologies, and deployment models like mobile edge computing, alternative spectrums that enable new service providers and enterprise networks. 
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Kireeti Kompella, CTO of development & innovation, Juniper Networks

Kompella is SVP and CTO for the Juniper development & innovation team. Before taking on his current role, he served as CTO, SDN at Juniper Networks. Previously, Kompella was CTO at Contrail Systems, acquired by Juniper in December 2012. Before joining Contrail, he was CTO and chief architect, Junos at Juniper Networks. At heart, Kompella is still an engineer and a coder and loves talking to ASIC folks. He is helping to drive innovation in packet transport, large-scale MPLS, VPNs, VPLS, and Layer 1 to Layer 3 networking. 
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Kathrin Buvac, Chief strategy officer, Nokia

Buvac was appointed chief strategy officer in January 2016 and is a member of the Nokia group leadership team. As the company’s chief strategist, she has helped to shape Nokia’s vision and strategy, working with senior leaders, customers and analysts worldwide. She also leads the company’s overall efforts in the internet of things. She is responsible for market forecasting, competitor intelligence, portfolio watch, and business development. 
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Seizo Onoe, CTO and EVP, NTT DoCoMo

Onoe was named executive general manager of the R&D innovation division at NTT DoCoMo in July 2014, while continuing to serve as executive vice president, a member of the board of directors and chief technology officer since June 2012. He is leading innovative plans to deploy a 5G NR commercial system by 2020. NTT DoCoMo is set to start 5G interoperability tests and trials in Japan in the first half of 2018. 
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Greg Wyler, Founder and executive chairman, OneWeb

Wyler founded OneWeb with the mission of enabling internet access for everyone. Before OneWeb, in 2007 he founded O3b Networks, which raised approximately $1.3 billion to design and build a satellite constellation to provide fibre quality backhaul for telecom operators in the most remote markets around the world. OneWeb is set to merge with Intelsat to bolster the entire satellite internet services. 
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Doug Suriano, Senior VP and general manager, Oracle Communications

Doug Suriano is responsible for managing strategic planning, product development, sales, service and support for Oracle Communications’ range of solutions, which span the unified communications, billing and revenue management, and cloud services markets. He joined Oracle Communications in 2013 as VP of products after it acquired network signalling and data management solutions provider Tekelec. This role saw him overseeing product development and product management for the signalling and policy management portfolio. 
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Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Senior EVP, innovation, marketing and technologies, Orange

Jégo-Laveissière has been senior executive vice-president in charge of the innovation, marketing and technology division since March 2014. Since joining the Orange Group in 1996, she has held a series of project and management positions. Orange is pushing ahead with its LTE-M strategy for IoT devices. “Futureproof, secured, and reliable connectivity is a key pillar of Orange’s IoT strategy. By working together with IoT partners, device manufacturers and innovators, we can accelerate the development of the LTE-M technology end-to-end chain, and therefore advance towards the future of the IoT," she said. 
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Will Charnock, CEO, PacketFabric

Charnock is leading a team at PacketFabric that is disrupting the traditional carrier model by enabling their customer's to enjoy nearly instant service provisioning, unmatched visibility and control of network resources, and cloud-like billing options. 
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Matthew Grob, EVP and CTO, Qualcomm Technologies

Grob is responsible for oversight of Qualcomm's technology path, coordination of R&D activities across the company, and development of next-generation wireless and adjacent technologies.  The company’s broad portfolio of research areas includes advanced cellular and unlicensed band technologies, satellite systems, semiconductor technology, computer vision, machine learning, and security technologies. He oversees Qualcomm corporate engineering services. 
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Pranav Mistry, Global vice president of research, Samsung
Born in 1981, Mistry is a renowned computer scientist and inventor. Despite being the youngest entry in our listing, his contribution to the fields such as wearable computing, augmented reality and gestural computing puts him in the elite list of pioneers and inventors that shape the future of the digital world. 
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Alex Jinsung Choi, CTO, EVP and head of corporate R&D division, SK Telecom

Choi joined SK Telecom in 2012 and is responsible for building the company’s technology roadmaps and strategies, aimed at securing leadership in the mobile market. His focus is on developing next-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, and autonomous vehicle. 
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Tan Tong Hai, CEO and executive director, StarHub

Hai was appointed CEO and executive director of StarHub in March 2013. He has over 20 years' experience in the IT, internet and e-commerce industries and has broad experience at top management levels, including at Singapore Computer Systems and PacNet. StarHub has launched an innovation, network monitoring centre in Singapore, aimed at boosting data analytics and cyber security capabilities. 
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Mary Clark, CMO, Syniverse

Clark was named CMO in early 2014 and leads Syniverse’s product marketing, corporate communications, branding, digital strategy, strategic events and industry relations. Previously, she served as senior VP of next-generation roaming services and standards, and, before that, senior VP of roaming. Within the mobile industry, she is an associate director for the Competitive Carriers Association and also serves on the CMO Council North America advisory board. 
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Vinod Kumar, Managing director and CEO, Tata Communications

Kumar has been at the forefront of Tata Communications’ transformation from a traditional connectivity services provider, largely in India, to a truly global services provider – offering a broad range of managed communication and collaboration services as well as IT infrastructure services, successfully transforming Tata Communications. 
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Enrique Blanco, Global CTO, Telefónica

Telefónica is about to undergo a massive virtualisation project that will see nearly all of its networks become NFV-enabled. The man responsible for this will be Telefónica global CTO Blanco, who has spent more than 25 years at the Spanish operator. He has a degree in physics from the University Complutense of Madrid and, later on, became a PhD in physics. 
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Brendan Ives, CEO, Telia X

The former CEO of Telia Carrier was appointed as the head of a new unit, Telia X, tasked with accelerating the group’s journey to become a new generation telco. Immediate focus areas include IoT, e-health, cloud and managing Telia Company’s investment portfolio. 
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Giuseppe Recchi , Executive chairman, TIM

Recchi has been executive chairman of Telecom Italia since April 2014. He says: "Telecom Italia has the ambition to drive the industrial progress of Italy because we are experiencing an extraordinary moment of incredible opportunities offered by technology. Millions of people will be able to communicate, and billions of bytes of data will be exchanged thanks to our infrastructures." 
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Michael Sievert, COO, T-Mobile US

T-Mobile US, the US arm of Deutsche Telekom, has had an impressive few years. Not only has it leapfrogged Sprint to become the third biggest mobile carrier in the US, it has also shaken up the market with innovative tariffs and unique branding. CEO John Legere deserves a lot of praise for overseeing the turnaround, but it has, in part, been led by the COO. Sievert has led the elimination of contracts and overage charges, the promotion of anytime upgrades, free music and video streaming included in rate plans, and free international usage, just to name a few. 
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Gediz Sezgin, Executive vice president network technologies, Turkcell

Sezgin joined Turkcell as a network engineer in 1995. In October 2015, he was appointed SVP of network technologies under the technology function. He started his career at Alcatel Teletaş in 1991. 2016 saw Turkcell open Turkey's largest data centre in Gebze, near Istanbul, which will transform Istanbul into a regional hub of data, and serve global internet companies as well as Turkish public and private sectors. 
Gediz Sezgin, Executive vice president network technologies, Turkcell
Roger Gurnani, EVP and chief information and technology architect, Verizon

Gurnani is responsible for developing and guiding Verizon’s technology strategy and investments.  His role includes network and technology planning, development of architecture and roadmaps, the continued evolution of digital platforms and oversight and direction for the CIO and CTO teams across Verizon. Before being named to his current position in January 2015, Gurnani was executive vice president and chief information officer for Verizon Communications, and he was one of the founding officers of Verizon Wireless. 
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Christopher Schlaeffer, Chief digital officer, VimpelCom

Schaeffer joined VimpelCom in January 2016, tasked with driving its transformation into an open digital model by supporting the development of new digital services for its customers, as well as leading the group’s commercial functions.  Schlaeffer was founder and CEO of two technology startups in Berlin and London. Before that, he served in a number of roles in Deutsche Telekom’s mobile division. 
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David Amzallag, Group head of network virtualisation, SDN and NFV, Vodafone

Amzallag was appointed to his current role in June 2015. His appointed confirmed Vodafone's intent to transform its network architecture to gain from the benefits that a more cloud-orientated network infrastructure brings today. He has responsibility for developing a next-generation technology and transformation strategy for all of Vodafone's operating units across multiple countries. 
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Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi, VC and group CEO, Zain Group

Al-Kharafi was appointed  vice-chairman of the Zain group board of directors in February 2014, having earlier joining the board in April 2011. In March 2017, following the ordinary annual general assembly, the newly elected board decided to combine the role of vice-chairman and group CEO and duly appointed Al-Kharafi with the additional role of Group CEO. Al-Kharafi holds office as chairman, VP, MD and board member in several businesses that form part of the Kharafi conglomerate, one of the largest privately owned, diversified groups based in Kuwait and operating across the GCC and MENA with more than 135 registered companies operating in more than 28 countries in various sectors. 
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Xiang Jiying, Chief 5G scientist, ZTE

ZTE began researching 5G in 2012 and has developed some pre-5G upgrades for LTE networks as of 2015. Xiang believes Massive MIMO has the most potential to deliver the right level of 5G eMBB spectrum efficiency improvement. He also helps ZTE's drive in implementing Massive MIMO on FDD-LTE. []