Verizon's technology chief Tony Melone to retire, as carrier merges network and IT functions

Longtime telecom executive Tony Melone, Verizon Communications' (NYSE: VZ) executive vice president of network, is retiring from the company.

Tony Melone verizon

Melone

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo disclosed the change during an appearance today at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, and Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis confirmed Melone's retirement to FierceWireless.

Melone will be replaced by Roger Gurnani, who will be leading a combined network and IT group. It's unclear when Melone's retirement becomes effective or why he is retiring; Lewis declined to comment further. Gurnani currently serves as executive vice president and CIO at Verizon, but his new title will be Chief Information and Technology Architect. The move was announced internally in December, a company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.

Shammo elaborated somewhat at the investor conference on why Verizon is making the change, noting that as Verizon and other carriers move to software-defined networks, the network and IT functions of carriers are being merged and consolidated. The change also comes a few months after the retirement of Kris Rinne, AT&T's (NYSE: T) longtime network architect; Rinne was replaced by Tom Keathley, who was named senior vice president of network and product planning.

Melone rose up the ranks of Verizon's top technology executives and was, along with former Verizon CTO Dick Lynch, responsible for driving Verizon's push into LTE and making Verizon the first national U.S. carrier to launch a widespread LTE network. Before being named as the head of Verizon's network team and CTO in December 2010, Melone was senior vice president and CTO for Verizon Wireless. Melone held that role from 2007 to 2010 and oversaw Verizon's transition from its 3G CDMA network to LTE. Previously, he served as vice president of network operations for Verizon Wireless. Melone is a 31-year industry veteran who joined Bell Atlantic Mobile's network operations group in 1996, and when Verizon Wireless was formed in 2000 he was named staff vice president of network planning and administration.

Gurnani leads the information technology strategy, systems development and operations for Verizon and has been in his current role since October 2010. Before that, Gurnani was senior vice president of new product development for Verizon Wireless and headed up innovation, development and commercialization of consumer and business products, so he has clear technology chops. From 2005 to 2008, Gurnani served as the president of the West area for Verizon Wireless and was responsible for the carrier's operations throughout the Western United States.

Gurnani was one of the founding officers of Verizon Wireless and until 2005, he served as vice president and CIO, and helped to lead and complete the integration of the domestic wireless operations of Bell Atlantic, Vodafone AirTouch and GTE at the company's inception in 2000. He had previously served as vice president and CIO at Bell Atlantic Mobile.

The shift in Verizon's technology leadership comes a few weeks after Verizon said that John Stratton would be the new chief of its wireless business, replacing Dan Mead, who had been the CEO of Verizon Wireless since 2010. Stratton, who had served as executive vice president and president of Verizon's global enterprise and consumer wireline business, is taking on a new role as executive vice president and president of operations, with operational responsibility for Verizon's wireless and wireline businesses. Mead will stay with the company to oversee the sale of Verizon's wireline operations in California, Florida and Texas to Frontier Communications, and will retire after that.

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