Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'm back on dry land once again, opportunity awaits me like a rat in a drain...

(This is a three part post)

Part One - Yes folks, our long national nightmare is over. Yesterday I received an offer of employment from Earthlink’s municipal WIFI segment to be their Sr. Purchasing Manager. I cannot be happier with this prospect. When I was told that Sprint would be closing my distribution center a year or so ago, I began coming to terms with the fact that my next job may not be in the wireless world. This was a big thing for me since I have been working in wireless for almost 15 years now. I have played a hand in building out thousands of cell sites all over this country and others for five different companies, including Argentina’s first cellular network. I’ve been there for countless inaugural network turn ups large and small, bringing wireless telephony to those who hadn’t had access to it before. It’s quite a fulfilling legacy really. With all the current consolidation going on, including my former company Sprint and my beloved Nextel, I left my old job in the beginning of December ambivalent about the idea of working for any of the big four operators. With perhaps the exception of T-Mobile, the others have grown into younger siblings of the “old” Bell operators, no creative thinking going on, just strict adherence to Bellcore standards, blah, blah, blah…

Exactly the opposite of what my 13 years at Nextel was. Nextel was a perfect example of what a company can do when freed from the confines of the old rules. I went to work for Nextel (then Dial Call here in the South) a year after Morgan O’Brien raised his initial capital. It was a rough road in the beginning. In 1994 after Craig McCaw and his family pledged $100 million and hired a new executive leadership team consisting of Daniel F. Akerson (of MCI) and Timothy Donahue (of AT&T Wireless), we few South region employees were invited to an all hands meeting hosted by this new dynamic duo. Dan Akerson minced no words and opened the meeting with, “Folks, I stand before you today to inform you that this company is three months from bankruptcy…”. That certainly got out attention. He then went on to spell out our plan to not only turn the company around with a total re-launch of our product, but how we were going to have customers “running away” from the other wireless providers to get on our network and use our differentiated services in a cou0ple of short years. That my friends is EXACTLY what we did. Prior to the Sprint buyout, Nextel enjoyed the highest rated customers (from a credit perspective), the best customer longevity by a long shot, and highest revenue per user by a country mile. Nextel proved, as the last pure play wireless venture out there, that it’s not always about subscriber numbers, but the quality of your subscriber base.

The Sprint merge seemed to be a good match when first announced. So far, from a former Nextelian’s perspective, it’s been a unmitigated disaster. I wish no ill will on them and sincerely hope they can turn it around. They’re going to need the Nextel entrepreneurial spirit to do it though, and if they pass on this in favor of the old tired Bellcore standard that seems to be prevailing there, I think their headed for some long days.

Which brings me back to today. A month or two ago, I began looking into the muni WIFI thing as a result of the articles on the segment in my trade rags. Low and behold, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a recruiter asking me if I thought any of my former employees would be interested in coming to work for Earthlink (I had buyers reporting to me and this was what they were looking for). I told the young lady that I’d ask around, but also asked if they perhaps might have a need for someone like me. The rest is history. The muni WIFI business is so young and is moving so fast it’s staggering. The potential is boundless. There’s much I have to learn, but needless to say, the primary goal right now is to get RF in the air and get paying customers on the network. The future? Well, off the top of my head, content delivery; data, internet, and TV. Beyond that of course is the prospect of wireless VOIP. I told the VP I interviewed with that whether or not I was working for Earthlink, when the first call is connected over a WIFI network all the chips will be back on the table, and the big behemoth wireless operators better be ready to compete. It feels a lot like my first day at Nextel.

I’m hoping to delay my start date to travel to NYC with the family before my first day, but I really can’t wait to dig into the high risk/high reward world of municipal WIFI. It’s going to an interesting ride.

Part Two - All this on the eve of my 43rd birthday!!!

Part Three – Finally, it is worthy of note that this is Intravenus De Milo’s one year blogger anniversary. It was a year ago today that all my blogging friends had had enough of my long winded comments to their posts and told me to get my own damn blog so that they could ignore me without guilt. I have truly fallen in love with the form and even feel guilty when I don’t post. It has been a great ride and I have to thank my good friends Jackson and his brother Fred for turning me onto it, and the many others I’ve come to know through their blogrolls who inspired me. These include, but are not limited to; Tom Watson, John Cole, Jeff Jarvis, Jason Chervokas, Bob Lefsetz and all the comment communities whose intimidating intellect and sometimes sharp tongues got me off the couch and helped me dust up my woefully inadequate writing skills to do this thing. 177 posts and literally hundreds and hundreds of comments. I never thought I had it in me. Thanks guys.


At 5:18 PM, March 24, 2007, Blogger Tom Watson said...

Congrats Tony - on both milestones!

At 3:33 PM, March 25, 2007, Blogger Jackson said...

Shit - all the other stuff, the new job, the ever important matter of the Keith Mix, I totally forgot your birthday - Happy Birthday!

Got T.P. and the HBs 'Hard Promises' on the turntable in your honor.

At 12:09 PM, March 26, 2007, Blogger Tony Alva said...

Check it out, Sprint wouldn't allow me to link to their crummy logo. Great decision by a committee of fifty people in Kansas City I'll bet since shit like embedding links into blogs nobody reads is more important than stopping the hemmoraging of 300,000 customers a quarter.

At 5:19 PM, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pat, Congratulations on the job & the birthday!

mark wheeler

At 7:22 AM, April 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on getting back into the game and Happy Birthday.

Two words...Free WIFI. Make the dream happen.

That is all.


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