Meet the CTOs in wireless: Verizon’s Roger Gurnani

Verizon’s Roger Gurnani

This story is part of a broader Meet the CTOs feature that introduces all of the major network operator CTOs across the wireless, telecom and cable industries. To read about top network CTOs from other companies, click here.

Who he is: As the executive vice president and chief information and technology architect for Verizon, Roger Gurnani oversees the company’s wireless and wired broadband networks as well as its global Internet network services. He was a founding officer of Verizon Wireless and until 2005 served as the carrier’s vice president and CIO, helping to oversee the integration of the domestic wireless operations of Bell Atlantic, Vodafone AirTouch and GTE. Prior to being named to his current position in January 2015, Gurnani was executive vice president and CIO for Verizon Communications.

Gurnani is an Auburn University graduate and holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering.

Where he is: Gurnani reports directly to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and helms a team of senior vice presidents who lead the company’s efforts in technology strategy, network planning technology, global IT technology services, IT security and digital ecosystems. Gurnani is responsible for developing and guiding Verizon’s technology strategy and investments, and his role includes network and technology planning, development of architecture and roadmaps, continued evolution of digital platforms and oversight and direction for the CIO and CTO teams across Verizon.

What he’s doing: Gurnani essentially serves as both CIO and CTO of Verizon, so his purview is immense. He oversees both the wireless and wireline networks of Verizon as well as focusing on IT and digital technologies aimed to increase customer engagement and “run the factory,” as he described it in a Forbes interview last year. So he helps determine how technologies are leveraged internally at Verizon as well as how they are used to serve customers.

Essentially, Gurnani is Verizon’s main technology architect when it comes to network strategy. However, in the company’s wireless business, it’s Nicola (Nicki) Palmer, senior vice president and chief network officer for Verizon Wireless, who is tasked with building and operating the operator’s wireless network. Palmer reports to Verizon’s John Stratton, who is executive vice president and president of Verizon’s operations, including Verizon Wireless, Consumer and Mass Business, Verizon Enterprise Solutions and Verizon Partner Solutions.

In wireless, of course, Gurnani is largely charged with determining how to best expand and densify Verizon’s LTE network through carrier aggregation, small cells and other techniques. And that’s a project that Verizon recently highlighted through its public launch of “LTE Advanced technology,” which the carrier boasted would provide 50 percent faster peak wireless data speeds to more than 288 million people in 461 cities across the United States. 

But Gurnani’s biggest single challenge on the horizon may be 5G. A spokesperson said Verizon expects 5G to be an evolution of LTE rather than a replacement, and the carrier believes existing technologies and “network design concepts” such as C-RAN, low/tight RF design via small cells, self-optimized networks, virtualized core networks and various IoT-centric flavors of LTE as well as NB-IoT will all pave the way for technical evolutions toward 5G. Verizon is also focused on massive MIMO beam forming and unlicensed spectrum to add capacity.

Verizon has been outspoken about its intention to be the first U.S. wireless carrier to deploy 5G, saying it will begin commercially testing fixed wireless services next year. The company recently caught flak from the research firm Signals Research Group, however, which said Verizon’s specs don’t fully align with standards being developed by 3GPP, potentially posing future problems for Verizon and its gear suppliers.

Regardless, Gurnani is uniquely positioned to play a key role in the overall telecom industry as the worlds of wireless and wireline collide over the next few years, and as 5G expands beyond lab trials to widespread commercial deployments around the world.