2019 Rising Star Winner - US Cellular's Mike Irizarry

Mike Irizarry, EVP and CTO, US Cellular(Source: US Cellular)

The FierceWireless editorial team has done it again. We’ve selected a slate of wireless executives who are on the rise. For 2019 we’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Next week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless. 

Like it or not, wireless technology is making its way into every corner of our lives, and US Cellular’s Mike Irizarry is working hard to make sure rural and small town America are not left behind by 5G.

“As you think about providing higher speed and broadband internet access to rural markets and doing so economically, you need to figure out ways to extend the range of the higher bands, so we’re very active in standards and working with our vendor partners to make that happen,” he said. 

Irizarry and his team have a good track record when it comes to advocating for the needs of rural wireless customers. He said his team worked closely with device manufacturers and wireless standards bodies to drive development of smartphones that supported the 700 MHz band, paving the way for larger carriers with 700 MHz licenses to deploy the spectrum.

“We’ve been told by some of our vendors we often punch above our weight in the marketplace,” Irizarry said.

RELATED: Smaller and regional carriers begin to rally around 5G

US Cellular may be a regional carrier, but the executive team has a global perspective. They travel regularly to Europe and Asia to meet with Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung; the company is currently working with Samsung on a millimeter wave project.  

Irizarry is passionate about recruiting and developing top talent as he moves US Cellular toward 5G. He says he looks for employees who are “lifelong learners.” Irizarry himself earned two PhDs online while working at US Cellular - one in communications technology and one in computer science. Now he turns that intellectual curiosity toward real world wireless network issues. 

“I get motivated by challenges and tough problems,” Izarry said. “I love it when people say ‘no that can’t be done.’ … we figure out a way to turn that no into an opportunity.”