4. Lowell McAdam, President & CEO, Verizon Wireless

What makes him powerful: His polite exterior masks a cunning mind that has helped to keep his company a step ahead of the competition and keenly outmaneuver regulators.

Back in 2004, when McAdam was COO of Verizon Wireless, Verizon did an about-face and shocked the industry by embracing local number portability after vehemently opposing it for years. The strategy was smart--Verizon ended up looking like the consumer-friendly leader instead of a boorish telecom carrier resistant to competition.

 McAdam apparently learned from that strategic play and made a similar move late last year. After opposing the FCC's addition of open access requirements to the 700 MHz spectrum auction, Verizon pulled its petition against the FCC and embraced open access by introducing the Open Development Initiative.

That move helped convince FCC Chairman Martin that Skype's petition to apply the "Carterphone" rules to the mobile phone industry was unnecessary.  Martin announced at the CTIA Wireless conference last spring that it would be premature for the commission to add more requirements to wireless carriers now that so many operators have started embracing a more open environment.

And when the International Trade Commission banned the import of all handsets made with Qualcomm EVDO and WCDMA chipsets because they contained technology that Broadcom claimed used its intellectual property, Verizon cut a deal with Broadcom so that the ban wouldn't impact its critical fourth-quarter holiday handset season. Though costly, McAdam explained to FierceWireless in an interview that the deal was necessary to meet consumer demands and keep the supply chain from being disrupted.

Although McAdam says that Verizon doesn't regret passing on the opportunity to sell the iPhone exclusively to its customers, this may be one area where the company's strategy didn't work in its favor. Although the carrier's third-quarter earnings haven't been announced yet, many analysts suspect that Verizon may be losing customers to competitor AT&T because of the popularity of the iPhone 3G.

However, if that is true, it's likely that Verizon has a plan in place to overcome this challenge. Never underestimate Verizon Wireless or Lowell McAdam--because you'll likely be disappointed.

4. Lowell McAdam, President & CEO, Verizon Wireless