5. Dan Hesse, President and CEO, Sprint - Most Powerful People in Wireless

5. Dan Hesse, President and CEO, SprintWhat makes him powerful: After several dismal quarters, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) appears to finally be on the road to recovery--and much of the firm's turnaround is due to the leadership of CEO Dan Hesse.

A reliable pitchman for the company, Hesse has been instrumental in not only improving Sprint's image with customers, but in preparing Sprint for the future.

Hesse likes to discuss his three strategic priorities: customers, Sprint's brand and cash. However, from a strategic standpoint, Hesse's accomplishments this year can be broken down into three different categories: prepaid, 4G strategy and Sprint's network modernization project.

After acquiring Virgin Mobile USA late last year, the company re-tooled its prepaid offerings and launched a multi-brand strategy in early May aimed at segmenting the market. Hesse effectively doubled-down (or quadrupled, if you want to think of it that way) on prepaid with the re-launch of Virgin Mobile as well as the launch of Assurance Wireless for low-income customers and Common Cents Mobile pay-per-minute brands. So far, the bet has given Sprint 644,000 net new prepaid subscribers in the two quarters it has been in place.

Hesse has also been a vocal proponent of Sprint's 4G strategy. The company selected WiMAX technology and has backed Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) because it provided Sprint with a time-to-market advantage. The company released the first 3G/4G smartphone, the widely-praised HTC Evo, and followed it up with the Samsung Epic. The Evo was one of the factors that helped Sprint reach its first net wireless subscriber growth in three years in the second quarter.

Although Sprint remains committed to WiMAX and Clearwire, Hesse is trying to future-proof Sprint's network. The company is in the final stages of vendor selection for a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar network modernization project in which Sprint plans to deploy new multi-mode base stations that it claims will allow it to save on costs and reduce the number of its cell sites while simultaneously improving the in-building coverage of its 1900 MHz spectrum. Importantly, the project will allow Sprint to eventually shut down its legacy iDEN network, and use its 800 MHz spectrum for CDMA services. The project also gives Sprint the option of transitioning to LTE. Although it is ambitious, complex and costly, the project is exactly the type of decision that makes Hesse a powerful figure in wireless. --Phil

5. Dan Hesse, President and CEO, Sprint - Most Powerful People in Wireless