Steve Elfman is no ordinary Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) executive. A member of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse's inner circle, Elfman has worked with Hesse at two previous ventures--AT&T Wireless and Terabeam--before joining forces with him again at Sprint.
Elfman is viewed as a powerful player at Sprint and someone who has Hesse's respect. He's also known for his knowledge of the inner workings of wireless networks and his operations acumen.
Elfman made his mark on Sprint when he helped ink the carrier's network management agreement with Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC)--a move considered a game-changer by many analysts. That deal, which was finalized in July 2009, is valued at up to $5 billion and will last at least seven years. It also involved more than 6,000 Sprint employees being transferred to Ericsson.
Elfman will be in the hot seat in the coming year. He's been charged with overseeing the operator's $4 billion to $5 billion network modernization project, which is expected to be completed in the next three to five years. The heart of the project is the deployment of a new, multi-mode base station, which Sprint has argued will give it greater technology flexibility and could allow the carrier to deploy LTE at minimal cost.
Elfman will also have to work with Sprint's WiMAX partner, Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), which is in the process of testing LTE network technology.