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AT&T shuffles executives

Carrier adds a new position and rejiggers top-level executive responsibilities.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

AT&T announced today a rejiggering of its management team, in what looks like a move to better align executives to AT&T's various business units.

The company created a new position for John Stankey, who had previously been president and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions. Now Stankey will be group president and chief strategy officer in charge of developing AT&T's road map for future growth. This includes corporate development and addressing AT&T's long-term wireless capacity needs.

"Stankey, who has led nearly every major AT&T business unit during his 27-year career, will be responsible for developing the road map to maximize future growth opportunities," the company said in a statement.

Ralph de la Vega will be president and CEO of AT&T Mobility. His responsibilities will include leading AT&T's wireless business with a particular focus on expanding the company's smartphone position. De la Vega has been leading AT&T's wireless business for some time, but his responsibilities previously also included AT&T's consumer wireline broadband business.

That responsibility will now be handed over to Andy Geisse, who will be senior executive vice president of AT&T Business and Home Solutions. Geisse, a 32-year veteran with the company, will have responsibility for AT&T's business and consumer landline products. He will work with businesses large and small, as well as run AT&T's U-verse and DSL broadband businesses and AT&T's legacy wireline voice business.

And finally, John Donovan will be senior executive vice president of AT&T Technology and Network Operations. Donovan previously held the title of chief technology officer.

All these executives will report directly to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

AT&T also said that Forrest Miller, who was in charge of AT&T's merger and acquisitions and corporate strategy, will be retiring after 30 years with the company.

The management changes come after AT&T failed to complete its proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile USA late last year. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission opposed the merger, stating it would hurt competition. AT&T claimed the merger would create jobs and give the company much-needed wireless spectrum.

Since AT&T launched the iPhone on its network in 2007, it has seen tremendous traffic growth on its wireless network. And the company, like other wireless companies, says it needs more wireless spectrum to keep up with the growing demand for wireless broadband services.

The problem is that there isn't much spectrum left to auction from the government. While the FCC is working with TV broadcasters and government entities to free up more spectrum for auction, companies like AT&T are also looking to acquire spectrum from other sources to feed their need for capacity. AT&T has already struck a deal with Qualcomm to buy spectrum it had used to build a nationwide mobile TV network. Verizon Wireless, AT&T's largest rival, recently struck a deal to buy $3.6 billion worth of spectrum from major wireless carriers.

AT&T saw its acquisition of T-Mobile as a way to get its hands on more spectrum. And last week during the company's quarterly conference call with analysts and investors, Stephenson blasted regulators for blocking the deal. He criticized the FCC for making it unclear which deals were acceptable when it comes to acquiring more spectrum and which were not.

"Our biggest problem is identifying what the rules are," he said. "It's figuring out how much we're allowed to buy."

It will be Stankey's job to form AT&T's strategy for acquiring more wireless spectrum. Stankey, who has been around AT&T for years and has held several management positions, has been at the forefront talking about AT&T's need for more capacity.

Some experts speculate that AT&T may be looking to partner with or buy spectrum from satellite TV provider Dish Network, which acquired spectrum last year for $2.8 billion via deals with two failed wireless companies, DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks.

Updated at 7:42 a.m. with additional context.