16. Hu Meena, President and CEO, C Spire Wireless - Most Powerful People in Wireless


Hu Menna, CEO, C Spire WirelessWhat makes him powerful: Hu Meena, president and CEO of C Spire Wireless, is probably one of the most outspoken critics of what many in the industry call the "wireless duopoly," namely the power that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) wield over the U.S. wireless market.

Meena can often be found rallying other operator members of the Competitive Carriers' Association (where Meena is a board member) to join him against AT&T and Verizon on such issues as data roaming and LTE device interoperability. In fact, C Spire last April filed a lawsuit accusing AT&T, Qualcomm and Motorola Mobility of manipulating the standards process by pushing the 3GPP toward creating Band Class 17, which excludes the Lower A Block licensees in the 700 MHz band. The lawsuit argues the action effectively prevents C Spire and other small operators from being able to obtain suitable devices and network roaming.

AT&T has filed to dismiss the case, saying that it created Band Class 17 to guard against interference from Channel 51 broadcast transmissions adjacent to Lower A Block spectrum. The FCC is currently exploring 700 MHz interoperability in an open proceeding.

Of course, the reason for Meena's passionate opposition to AT&T and the creation of Band Class 17 is that it directly impacts the future of C Spire.  Meena has helped the company become the nation's largest privately held cellular operator and the eighth largest carrier in the United States. The company has slightly less than 1 million customers across Mississippi and parts of four other states in the southeast.

Meena also helped usher the operator into the world of smartphones and the iPhone. Along with several other regional operators, C Spire started selling the iPhone 5 in late September, making it the second iPhone that the company has offered to its customers.  

Though not a national player, C Spire does try to stay competitive by offering innovative rate plans. In July the company launched its first no-contract mobile data plans for mobile hotspots, tablets and USB modem devices. The plans are targeted at the casual user.

C Spire is also in the early stages of its LTE network deployment. In September the company launched LTE in Mississippi after a nine-month delay, which the company said was due to difficulty getting equipment compatible with the 700 MHz A block spectrum.  

Meena should be commended for his willingness to take on such formidable players as AT&T and Verizon while still keeping his company competitive with innovative new rate plans and devices. --Sue

Special Report: Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012