Well this is certainly an upset!
Greg Wyler, the entrepreneur behind satellite internet company OneWeb, has won our “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” tournament for 2017, just edging past T-Mobile CEO John Legere during this weekend’s final matchup and beating other industry notables like Ericsson’s Borje Ekholm, Apple’s Tim Cook and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam.
Legere, who was last year’s winner, maintained a slight lead against Wyler for most of the weekend's final round of voting, but Wyler edged ahead late last night and won this morning with a total of 58,872 votes to Legere’s 54,457 votes.
Indeed, there was a noteworthy amount of drama during this weeklong tournament as executives worked to drive votes via social media:
1/2 What an honor to be nominated to @FierceWireless #PowerfulPeople! Thank you all for your support. Exciting recognition of #OneWeb's mission to bridge the digital divide for more than 4 Billion people globally.— Greg Wyler (@greg_wyler) December 7, 2017
But during the final championship vote this weekend, Legere appeared to have a change of heart. In a now-deleted Tweet on Saturday, Legere wrote “I refuse to lose!! Go get your votes in! Let's win this thing.” That prompted Wyler to tweet:
Uh oh! The big city telco marketing machine is waking up! Once again the worlds unconnected population may fall to the wayside. We have a chance for our voice to be heard if we get out the vote: https://t.co/RlZg7EhK6P https://t.co/MS4VNM5qsI— Greg Wyler (@greg_wyler) December 9, 2017
On Sunday morning though, Wyler offered a more conciliatory tone:
I am also a big fan of @JohnLegere, he has done an incredible job with T-Mobile. Soon we hope to make rural coverage affordable, then perhaps together we can extend connectivity to the uncovered populations! https://t.co/RlZg7EhK6P— Greg Wyler (@greg_wyler) December 10, 2017
And then, on Sunday afternoon, Legere urged his almost 5 million Twitter followers to vote for OneWeb’s Wyler instead of himself:
But Legere wasn’t the only high-profile voice of support for Wyler. OneWeb’s founder also received aid from other major Twitter users including:
Greg Wyler is in the running as the most powerful person in US Telecom. He has devoted his life to bridging the digital divide, I hope we can all vote for him. He deserves it! @greg_wyler— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) December 8, 2017
The vote even generated some headlines in Kagame’s Rwandan press.
When it became clear that Wyler could win the vote, I asked a OneWeb spokesperson if Wyler had a quote he wanted to supply to FierceWireless if he won. "This has been an amazing public statement about the need for global connectivity. Our mission is to enable affordable access for the world’s unconnected. While we still have a lot of work to do, with the support of partners, friends, governments, and customers, I know we will get there," Wyler said in a statement issued shortly before voting ended this morning.
(Also, OneWeb’s spokesperson clarified that the company plans to offer up to 500 Mbps download speeds in the first phase of its satellite system, not the 200 Mbps SoftBank’s chief executive touted in February.)
In fact, OneWeb appears to have recently received another vote of confidence from Japan’s SoftBank. According to a Wall Street Journal report, SoftBank has increased its investment in OneWeb by another $500 million, bringing its total to $1.5 billion.
Wyler also told the WSJ that the company’s initial fleet of more than 700 low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning in 2018. The company plans to start offering service in Alaska by 2019 and expanding worldwide by the end of 2020, Wyler told the publication. Further, he said that OneWeb plans to deploy 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s, which he said would allow the company to offer speeds of 2.5 Gbps.
So there you have it. According to Fierce’s readership, Wyler is not only the industry’s top rising star for 2017, he’s also the industry’s most powerful person. Go figure!
Congrats @greg_wyler!! You deserve to be the @FierceWireless Most Powerful Person in Wireless! You’re doing amazing work trying to bring affordable internet to everyone! @tmobile and I fully support you! #IvoteGreg https://t.co/FHCqJ5RRSc— John Legere (@JohnLegere) December 11, 2017
Thanks John, This wouldn't have happened without you! Together, we can bridge the digital divide and create new opportunities for the digitally isolated. @FierceWireless— Greg Wyler (@greg_wyler) December 11, 2017