18: Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent – Most Powerful People in Wireless

18: Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent – Most Powerful People in WirelessWhat makes him powerful: Ben Verwaayen has been working fervently to right the Alcatel-Lucent ship ever since the company ousted former CEO Patricia Russo in 2008.  But the task certainly hasn't been easy.  The company is still struggling and Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) lowered its 2011 profit forecast earlier this month after the company's third-quarter revenue came in lower than expected.  The company attributed the problem to operators being more hesitant to spend amid economic uncertainty, especially in Europe.

To cope with weaker sales, Verwaayen had to make some difficult decisions and said that the company will embark on a $691 million cost cutting program in 2012 that will impact both spending and project costs. Nevertheless, Verwaayen is confident that the company's strategy of capitalizing on mobile broadband demand--and the attendant network upgrades--will pay off.

North America continues to be a highlight for Alcatel-Lucent. In the third quarter, sales in North America climbed 10 percent year-over-year thanks to an increase in CDMA EV-DO and LTE equipment purchases. 

Of course, contributing to that success in North America has been Alcatel-Lucent's major contract wins with AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S). The company also had some success with smaller operators--for example it is working with C Spire Wireless (formerly Cellular South) to upgrade the company's core and infrastructure switching system.

Interestingly, North America now comprises nearly 42 percent of Alcatel-Lucent's total revenue, surpassing Asia and the Middle East. And analysts predict that the company will continue to see strong growth in North America for the next four years.

While Verwaayen has been building a strong foundation to achieve his goals, it still remains uncertain whether he can keep the momentum going and more effectively compete against Ericsson and low-cost competitor Huawei, which is making huge strides in the wireless infrastructure market. --Sue

18: Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent – Most Powerful People in Wireless