6. Robert Dotson, President and CEO, T-Mobile USA
What makes him powerful: Back when he was still in charge of T-Mobile USA's marketing efforts, Robert Dotson masterminded the operator's memorable "Get More" advertising initiative, and while the campaign itself went into mothballs long ago, its basic philosophy has remained central to how the company does business under his command. Despite fewer than half as many subscribers as industry leader AT&T and data ARPU totals nearly $4 behind category pacesetter Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA has hung in during the fight by offering its subscribers more bang for their buck, whether via aggressive pricing tactics (roughly 6.5 million subscribers have signed up for MyFaves, which offers unlimited calling to any five contacts, regardless of their respective carrier affiliation), new multimedia applications (e.g. CallerTunes, the first nationwide ringback service) or award-winning customer care efforts.
Now in his fifth year at the carrier's helm, Dotson is offering T-Mobile USA customers more than ever before: More service options, more 3G markets and more devices--headlined by the pending introduction of the HTC-produced G1, the first commercial handset powered by Google's fledgling Android mobile operating system. Consider the announcements made by T-Mobile throughout 2008: In February, the operator challenged the conventional pricing structure of the residential landline market, introducing a bundled wireless and at-home VOIP service for an extra $10 a month. In May, it finally rolled out its first commercial 3G service in New York City, concurrently formalizing plans to introduce its first HSDPA device. A month later, T-Mobile USA launched a landline offering dubbed HotSpot@Home, enabling customers to make unlimited nationwide calls from the home phone, also for $10 per month. And in September, the carrier promised to effectively double the number of markets covered by UMTS/HSDPA by the end of the year, bringing its total 3G coverage to 27 metropolitan areas.
It's Dotson's decision to introduce the G1 that heralds the most dramatic transformation in T-Mobile USA's approach to wireless services, however. The phone--based on Google's open-source Android platform, which promises operators, device manufacturers and customers unprecedented freedom and flexibility--could quickly emerge as the signature device in the T-Mobile portfolio: According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, the carrier is expected to sell 400,000 Android-based units in the fourth quarter alone, capturing four percent of the smartphone market in the process. Various reports have surfaced recently saying that T-Mobile has received pre-orders for 1.5 million G1 devices already. Accompanying the G1's debut is the new T-Mobile devPartner Community program, offering third-party mobile software developers a more efficient channel to do business with the operator, as well as a rumored virtual application storefront a la Apple's App Store. Give Dotson credit--T-Mobile USA remains the smallest nationwide operator, but it's responsible for some of the biggest and boldest moves in recent memory.