What makes him powerful: Philipp Humm has plenty to consider at the helm of T-Mobile USA. Among his chief concerns: How to move T-Mobile toward LTE network technology, counter increasingly vicious competitors and reverse T-Mobile's declining subscriber additions.
Naturally, Humm appears well positioned to take on such challenges. Humm served as CEO of T-Mobile Deutschland from 2005 until 2008, where he took over a company in a declining market and successfully turned it around to become Germany's leading mobile operator in both subscribers as well as service revenues. He was also responsible for the successful market introduction of the iPhone in Germany in 2007--possibly portending a similar action by T-Mobile USA in the coming months.
Most recently, Humm was responsible for sales and service in Europe as chief regional officer of T-Mobile's European operations, overseeing international sales and customer service, as well as steering the five national mobile companies in Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Poland. In this role he played a pivotal part in formation of the joint venture between T-Mobile UK and Orange UK of France Telekom.
In May, Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann named Humm as the replacement for T-Mobile USA CEO Robert Dotson, who announced his resignation after 15 years at the carrier. Noted Obermann of Humm: "His strong vision within the industry as well as his courage to transform, combined with his entrepreneurial qualities, ensures that he has all the credentials to lead T-Mobile USA as a strong competitor in a very dynamic market."
Humm stands to wield a significant amount of power in the wireless industry in 2011, primarily because of T-Mobile's tenuous competitive position. The carrier has been struggling with anemic subscriber growth compared with its larger rivals, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Further, the carrier currently doesn't have the spectrum resources to deploy a full-blown LTE network, which has pushed T-Mobile to evaluate a number of options including participation in possible future FCC spectrum auctions and negotiations with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) for a possible spectrum purchase or wholesale deal. T-Mobile also could ink an agreement with LightSquared, which plans a terrestrial-satellite LTE network.
More immediately, Humm must also navigate T-Mobile's current network situation: The carrier is working to expand and upgrade its HSPA+ network, and recently embarked on an advertising campaign that positions HSPA+ as a 4G offering.
The challenges facing T-Mobile, and its range of possible responses, make Humm a notable force within the industry--it's unclear how he will handle the situation, and that uncertainty gives him power. --Mike