What makes him powerful: Bill Morrow clearly is in the center of a business tornado.
As the chief of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), Morrow sits on an incredibly valuable asset: spectrum. Clearwire said it owns fully 120 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in most major U.S. markets--spectrum that can be completely devoted to 4G network technology. The holdings dwarf the spectrum that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) have positioned for 4G. According to Clearwire, Verizon owns 30-46 MHz of spectrum in most major markets (in the 700 MHz and AWS bands), while AT&T owns 12-24 MHz of spectrum in most major markets (also in the 700 MHz and AWS bands).
Thus, Clearwire is in the pole position in terms of spectrum.
Further, the company has managed to score clear gains during 2010: During the third quarter, Clearwire added a record 1.23 million new subscribers. The company now expects to end this year in excess of 4 million total subscribers--nearly double its original 2010 expectation of just over 2 million.
That said, Clearwire clearly faces a range of issues. The company is running up against Verizon Wireless' impending deployment of LTE technology (Verizon plans to cover 110 million POPs by year-end with LTE), as well as competitive threats from the likes of T-Mobile USA and AT&T Mobility. Even more worrisome, Clearwire is facing significant financing challenges, and is considering a sale of excess spectrum to fund its continuing operations. Indeed, at the end of the third quarter the company announced it would delay some markets and reduce its workforce.
Couple these issues with a possible move by Clearwire from WiMAX to LTE network technology, and Morrow obviously has a lot on his plate.
But Morrow's long experience may serve him well: Before his appointment as Clearwire CEO in March 2009, Morrow was president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco, where he oversaw operations and successfully directed an overhaul aimed at improving the company's efficiency, supply chain and customer focus. Prior to PG&E, Morrow served in a number of senior executive positions at international mobile communications group Vodafone Ltd. and Vodafone Group PLC, including CEO of Vodafone, Europe, CEO of Vodafone UK Ltd. and president of Vodafone KK in Japan. He also held senior executive positions with wireless telecommunications carrier AirTouch International.
Morrow obviously has some major decisions to make in the months ahead, but his long experience in wireless, combined with his command of bountiful spectrum, position him to have a major effect on the U.S. wireless industry. --Mike