A major changing of the technology guard is imminent at Vodafone and Ericsson, with Johan Wibergh, head honcho at the equipment maker's networks division, set to replace long-standing Vodafone CTO Steve Pusey in July this year.
Pusey has announced plans to retire in the summer, having been with Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) since 2006 -- when he joined the operator from defunct Canadian vendor Nortel Networks Ltd. -- and held a Board position since 2009. It looks as though he will spend three months working alongside Wibergh, who is to join Vodafone in May, to ensure the Ericsson executive settles into his new role comfortably.
Vodafone's choice of Wibergh as a successor to Pusey is interesting in light of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s involvement in Project Spring -- the investment program the operator announced after selling out of US operator Verizon Wireless for the tidy sum of $130 billion in early 2014. (See Vodafone Agrees to $130B Verizon Stake Sale.)
The Swedish vendor landed a five-year network upgrade contract with Vodafone in February last year, and it seems likely that Pusey and Wibergh have already developed something of a working relationship as a result of that deal. (See Euronews: Ericsson Lands 'Project Spring' Deal.)
Wibergh is to step down "immediately" from his current role, according to Ericsson's statement, although he will be "available" to the vendor until April 30, when his employment contract formally expires.
Ericsson is not replacing Wibergh as head of Segment Networks, a role announced in April 2014, but instead is transferring all of his responsibilities to CEO Hans Vestberg, who can presumably look forward to becoming one of the most overworked men in telecoms. (See Ericsson Creates Cloud & IP Unit.)
Vestberg can expect no let-up, either, Ericsson having confirmed to Light Reading that it will not be seeking to recruit a new head of Segment Networks at any time in the future. "This is a permanent solution," said a spokesperson for the vendor.
One possible conclusion from this is that Vestberg has been keen to have more direct control over the Radio and Cloud & IP units that together make up Segment Networks.
The management changes have dramatic implications for both Vodafone and Ericsson, given the influence that Pusey and Wibergh have wielded in their respective organizations during the past few years.
Pusey is credited with the international expansion of Vodafone's 3G services and its more recent launch of 4G technology in 15 countries, as well as the development of its IT and cyber security capabilities.
He also appears to have been one of the driving forces behind Vodafone's convergence strategy. Like its big European rival Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Vodafone is determined to develop both fixed and mobile capabilities in its key markets and Pusey has played a prominent role in the recent acquisitions of various fixed-line businesses, including the takeovers of Germany's Kabel Deutschland GmbH and Spain's ONO . (See Convergence: All the Rage in 2015, Euronews: Vodafone Clears Hurdle to Kabel Bid and ONO Says Yes to Vodafone.)
Wibergh, meanwhile, has been the man behind Ericsson's cloud and IP initiatives, as well as its mobile broadband strategy, and has held senior management positions with the vendor worldwide, including in the critically important US and Brazilian markets.
News of the changes emerged in the same week that Ericsson rival Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) poached Bhaskar Gorti from IT giant Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) as its new president of IP platforms. (See Gorti to Pull the NFV Strings at Alcatel-Lucent.)
Oracle has yet to announce a replacement for Gorti.
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading