Verizon names Jennifer Chronis as head of Public Sector

Nine months after taking the lead on Verizon’s federal business, Jennifer Chronis is now heading up the operator’s entire public sector segment.

A U.S. Army veteran with former roles at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM, Chronis was appointed senior vice president of Verizon Public Sector, taking on the additional responsibility of state and local, public safety and education segments.

Chronis told Fierce she’s excited about the opportunity and Verizon’s capabilities to serve public sector customers.

“I think we’re going to have a fantastic year with all of the work that’s being done” she said, including 5G, edge compute, network-as-a-service and IT digitalization.

She succeeds Andrés Irlando, who was SVP and public sector president for two years and recently left the company to pursue a new opportunity. In her new role, Chronis reports directly to Verizon Business CRO Sowmyanarayan Sampath.

Chronis has experience that spans cloud, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)  customers and personal military experience. Before joining Verizon in July 2020, she was at AWS as general manager of DoD business and prior to that, she held federal civilian and defense leadership roles at IBM including VP for its DoD business. Chronis also served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years, retiring in 2010 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

RELATED: Verizon delivers 5G to Air Force base in Florida, Marine base in California

In an interview with FierceWireless, Chronis talked about priorities for the business going forward, growth opportunities and how edge compute is poised to take an outsized role for the public sector.

In the first quarter Verizon’s public sector business revenue grew 11.7% year over year to $1.65 billion.

One of the main focuses for Chronis out of the gate is to continue that growth trajectory. Another is to become more deeply embedded with customers as they transform digitally, which she said is not strictly just around 5G, but all things related to IT digitalization. Beyond straight connectivity, that means things like managed services, cloud, MEC, advanced communications and end-to-end use cases for applications in telehealth, distance learning, and remote work.

“I think we’re very uniquely positioned now with the advent of 5G and all of the C-band holdings we’ve invested in to really go deeper with our customers across those various components of their mission,” she said.

Opportunities for growth

As for growth opportunities, Chronis pointed to Verizon’s recent multi-billion acquisition of C-band spectrum as helping efforts on the public sector front.

Aside from mobility in 5G, she sees fixed wireless access, including business internet, and mobile edge compute as key growth areas.

MEC: When it comes to MEC, once the carrier’s public and private flavors are adopted at scale, Chronis said she can see an outsized role for edge compute in the public sector, particularly for defense.

“When you think about the intent of MEC, it’s really to get the compute and the power of compute and faster networking closer to the edge where it really matters,” she said. “I believe, in an organization like the DoD, computing at the tactical edge and getting faster capabilities through 5G into the hands of warfighters is going to be really really important.”

RELATED: Verizon bolsters private 5G MEC with AWS

It’s going to take a bit of time before that happens, she acknowledged, but noted that’s the aim of ongoing DoD 5G testbed efforts. She expects to see MEC adoption “really take off in the federal and public sector.”

Fixed wireless: For FWA, Chronis sees broad applicability across the different segments.

That includes, for example, the U.S. Postal Service. The postal service has previously shown interest in 5G deployments. She noted how the organization has numerous locations geographically dispersed across the U.S.

“Enabling those more remote locations with fixed wireless access versus [wired] connected access could be a game-changer for them,” Chronis said.

FWA is also queued up for education customers and state and local governments, as well as larger agencies in the federal government.

RELATED: Verizon brings 5G fixed wireless for business to 21 cities

“What we’re seeing now is a desire on the part of federal government to experiment with how they can use 5G, whether it’s for backup or potentially even in-building connectivity or telehealth solutions,” she said, adding that there’s an appetite across the various levels of government to explore FWA as an alternate means of connectivity.  

Public safety is also a key group. Competitor AT&T has been staking claims with its dedicated public safety FirstNet buildout.  T-Mobile too, has been putting an increased eye on public safety and the government sector.

Verizon recently introduced its Frontline technology and network platform for first responders, and Chronis said the carrier will continue to focus heavily and invest in public safety customers.

Public sector primed for 5G

Unlike earlier technology generations that were largely consumer-driven, some have pointed to the enterprise as the key to 5G use-cases. In terms of where the public sector customers land as primed for uptake, Chronis would rank them near the top.

“Within public sector, I think our customers are actually ahead of commercial enterprise in some ways,” she told Fierce, pointing specifically to the federal government and DoD as leading the way with work on 5G testbeds and broad prototyping efforts. “I think we’re going to see some rapid growth in public sector in terms of adopting 5G.”  

RELATED: DoD doubles down on 5G testbeds

Just this week the DoD issued a third request for prototype proposals (RPP) to develop near- real-time spectrum management technologies that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Verizon’s been involved in 5G work on a number of fronts including at the Department of Energy sponsored Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which set up a 5G living lab with a focus on energy efficiency, national security, and port security.

It also equipped the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care system as the first 5G-enabeld VA hospital.

It’s not just federal and DoD though, Verizon also has 5G efforts with university partners, such as 5G labs at Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub and the University of Michigan, the latter experimenting with driverless cars.

Alongside growth and deeper integration, Chronis is initially focused building a strong team to engage with customers and partners.

“We have a great public sector team now and just continue to ensure that the team has the right skills and experiences to serve our customers in their journey,” she said in terms of early priorities. “And then to just be a market leader in everything we do.”