Sue Spradley has been on the job as head of North America for Nokia Siemens Networks since July 2007. Spradley has 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, including in services, operations, sales, product line management and customer service, and formerly served as president of Nortel Networks Corp.’s Global Services and Operations. Prior to the appointment at NSN, Spradley oversaw technical engineering, manufacturing and supply chain management for the company. Spradley recently sat down with RCR Wireless to discuss NSN’s goals for North America, the development of LTE and WiMAX technology and the past year at NSN.
You have been on the job for a little more than a year. What have been some of the highlights?
Certainly one is we merged two companies and we are a little bit over a year old. The good news is most people forget that. They think of Nokia Siemens as having this really long storied history. We are really just a year old. We have overcome a lot of the challenges that a lot of companies struggle with in mergers. We don’t have the cultural issues. We are working as one company. When I first came on, sure the natural tendency was to be kind of ex-Nokia or ex-Siemens. Now, it’s NSN. People don’t really think of themselves as being one or the other. That has been a highlight for me just seeing that we got passed that. We had one quarter where we weren’t where we wanted to be. We are now doing what we want to be doing in both growth and smart profitability for the company, which is important. We can’t be partners for our customers long term if we don’t have the balance sheet that supports that partnership. That is a key for us.
The other highlight is the fact that we are recruiting new talent into the company. These are individuals who come from other parts and are able to bring their skill and capability in. It shows that we are a company that people want to work for. For me on a personal level, it’s seeing the company grow in North America. We have to continue to do that, but we do that by earning the business everyday. I know it sounds very basic. I have been in this market for many years and you earn customers with credibility. That is what we aim to do. Because of that we are going to win new customers.
What challenges does North America present for Nokia Siemens Networks?
We do not have the incumbent base, if you will, in wireline technology that Lucent and Nortel experienced in their buildout days. For us it is a matter of making sure that we help customers understand how they can evolve their networks. We are not in the base network. I don’t see that really as a negative challenge. I see that as an opportunity because we are really where they want to go with their networks. We are investing in Voice over IP, the longer optical capabilities and the next generation wireless capabilities. These are where customers are evolving their networks. That is where we are evolving and that is where we are investing. That is where customers are talking to us about. We are not somebody that they have been working with. That said, look at Embarq Corp. That is a really good example of our managed service arrangement we have done with them. I suppose many thought they would have gone to a Nortel or a Lucent or somebody who is in their base. That decision clearly shows that Nokia Siemens is experienced to manage networks all over the world. We really believe that is a stepping stone from where managed services will go. Embarq was a perfect example of a customer who wanted some thought leadership in where we were taking their business and how we could evolve their business. So far, it has been a great cooperation for the two companies.
What are the company’s goals for North America?
Clearly one of the goals is we want to have demonstrative leadership in our areas of investment. That is in out next generation wireless capability and Voice over IP evolution and what we are doing in the transport areas to evolve and grow. Those are stated areas of investment as a company in North America. We are being assertive in growing our base here. We want to be seen as a winner in this next generation evolution of wireless in North America and the activities we have under way with WiMAX, where we are positioned with LTE and most importantly what we are doing with 3G. I think you will see we are really stepping up to that challenge.
How will the WiMAX Initiative impact NSN’s position in the North American market and where is the technology headed?
I think the new Clearwire is going to open the door to a lot of operators. With that, we will then see the other tier players stepping in and playing. We see some interest already from some operators in Canada who are interested in looking at it. Somebody has to pave the road, and I think the new Clearwire is doing that.
How will the market respond to it? I think it comes from consumers really seeing the technology. We are excited because we see the Intels and the Googles and others involved in this. They are the natural developers of this and it will open the doors to the capabilities of the technology. Now people go on the Internet and download information. It is something you do. It is not something you necessarily experience. I think WiMAX is going to allow consumers to really experience this wireless Internet. I think it is going to change the game. I really do. It is good for the LTE players coming down the road as well. It is not going to do anything but help them with this ecosystem that gets built
What is the company’s plan for LTE and what is the future of the technology?
We are aggressively working on the LTE environment. We are one of the companies being trialed by the Verizon-Vodafone trial for LTE. We don’t look at it like some of our competitors perhaps, as either WiMAX or LTE. We see them as two capabilities depending on the spectrum and depending on the market and both running on our Flexi Base station capabilities. We are unique that way and this is a good thing. It allows us to bring a global ecosystem with that, including even cost for the base station itself because we are using it in multiple places all over the globe. You can imagine the benefit of that vs. designing something for one technology.
We see Verizon in the U.S. taking a very strong leadership in LTE. We are excited to be part of their trial system. We will see that market evolve. It is clearly behind. WiMAX is delivering today but ultimately you will see both in the market. I don’t think it will be a situation where everyone goes to one. It is not unusual to think in the next few years we could have 2G in evolving new markets. In Asia-Pacific and Latin America there will be 3G. In parts of North America, Europe and all over the globe with there will be 4G. These will all be up and running around the same time in different parts of the world. That is the unique place wireless is in. There is a sense that people think you go from one and then it is all 4G and there is no more 3G. That is not true.