U.S. Cellular names AT&T Mexico exec as CEO

U.S. Cellular has tapped AT&T Mexico CEO Laurent Therivel as the wireless carrier’s new chief executive, starting July 1.

Therivel is replacing long-time CEO Kenneth Meyers, who has held a variety of leadership roles at the nation’s fourth-largest carrier over the last 33 years and will serve as senior advisor to the CEO until he retires on September 4, 2020. Therivel is also filling Meyers spot on both U.S. Cellular and TDS boards of directors.

Therivel most recently headed up AT&T Mexico operations, which has about 18,000 employees. He spent more than a decade at AT&T in different leadership positions in the carrier’s domestic operations. Prior to that, Therivel was chief operating officer for voiceover-IP applications development company IPcelearte. He started his career as a Telecommunications Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Laurent Therivel US Cellular CEO
Laurent Therivel (Business Wire)

President and CEO of U.S. Cellular parent TDS LeRoy Carlson said Therivel’s appointment followed an “orderly succession planning process and an extensive search.”

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“With his deep experience in the telecommunications industry, LT brings tremendous insight and perspective to this role. During his years at AT&T he had a variety of important assignments leading wireless and wireline operations, strategy and finance,” said Carlson in a statement. “He is highly customer-focused which aligns well with U.S. Cellular’s mission of providing exceptional wireless experiences to our customers. I am confident LT’s leadership, experience and collaborative style will build upon the success that U.S. Cellular has achieved under Ken Meyers’ leadership.”

In a video posted alongside the CEO transition announcement, Therivel expressed gratitude for the new position, emphasizing the important role communications companies play, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. He also gave credit to Meyers, saying the retiring CEO “focused on operational financial excellence and it shows in the results.”

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For the first quarter, U.S. Cellular posted largely solid results and in early May Meyers said the carrier’s handset supply chain was still operating smoothly. After a major transition in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Meyers last month characterized April “as a period of moving towards stable. Different, but stable.”

In his new role at U.S. Cellular, Therivel said he plans to bring along his previous experience of placing a focus on innovation and creativity, building solid teams, and driving profitable growth. As to where the company needs to prioritize efforts, he plans to gain guidance through input from owners, analysts, and other stakeholders, along with customers and employees.

“Based on that input I plan on establishing a thoughtful and disciplined strategy,” said Therivel, acknowledging that the details still need to be worked out. It will, however, be rooted in connectivity first.

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U.S. Cellular is completing its VoLTE rollout and started turning on commercial 5G services in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin this year. Outgoing-CEO Meyers had been candid about not expecting a dramatic effect on consumer experience from 5G near-term. Like T-Mobile, the carrier is initially using 600 MHz spectrum for 5G, with plans to layer on millimeter wave later.

Executives have also emphasized the attractiveness of mid-band spectrum. The FCC on Monday said it secured commitments from all eligible satellite operators to clear C-band spectrum on an accelerated timeline. That means an auction planned for December 8 will move forward, and the first phase of spectrum in the 3.7 GHz band will be available by the end of 2021.