IBM taps former Nokia exec as new telco biz chief

IBM made some changes in its telco business unit, appointing longtime Nokia executive Stephen Rose as GM of its Global Telco, Media, Entertainment and Distribution Vertical. He replaces and will report to former unit chief Steve Canepa, who was recently promoted to GM of Global Industries. Though Monday marks the start of his first full week on the job, Rose told Fierce he’s already focused on pursuing a handful of key priorities.

As one would expect, Rose said the first steps he plans to take in his new position are getting to know his team and client base. But beyond that, the top two items on his to-do list are refining IBM’s go to market strategy and ensuring insights are shared between telco and IBM’s other vertical markets.

“The great news is that IBM has made massive gains in winning CSP trust in landmark cases,” he said. “So really it is to build on that. And in practice that means replicate and scale the successes we’ve made so far, [and] further grow the ecosystem associated with that.” Among other things, that means ensuring CSPs have access to the hybrid cloud, analytics and security capabilities they need to enable network transformations, he said.

By cross-sharing information between its CSP business and the other verticals it serves, Rose said IBM can also help its customers gain more insight into “the intersection of operational technology and network technology” for a range of different use cases.

Prior to joining IBM, Rose spent 12 years at Nokia. Some of his previously roles included Global Head of Portfolio Management, Strategy & Innovation and Global Head of Care Services Sales, with the latter including accountability for $2 billion in annual sales. He also spent several years working with CSPs as part of Nokia’s partner consulting business, helping C-suite executives shape their technology investment, new business and transformation strategies.

Rose told Fierce service providers are currently facing enormous changes related to convergence of fixed and wireless networks and the emergence of 5G. They’re also dealing with network disaggregation, a shift to cloud-based models, the need to assure SLAs for things like network slicing and private networks, the emergence of the metaverse and web 3.0 as well as the need to address heightened security needs.

“For me, the industry actually is going through not only just a radical shift in the way that it will go to market but the value chain. And I think firms that are deeply expert in their field are the ones that will succeed,” he said.

An IBM representative told Fierce 83% of the world’s largest CSPs and media companies are IBM clients and all of the telcos in the Fortune 500 already rely on its Red Hat hybrid cloud technology. Still, Rose said growth is “absolutely the ambition.”


This story has updated with the full titles for Rose's previous roles at Nokia. Fierce uses the term executive in a general sense to refer to someone with managerial responsibilities, rather than an executive as defined under any particular organization's internal structure.