The Five Nine Podcast: Adriana Rios Welton, Head of Legal & Government Affairs at UScellular

Adriana Rios Welton has the important role of bringing UScellular’s unique vision and purpose of connecting everyone in line with existing regulatory and legal frameworks, as well as establishing and tapping into funding mechanisms where available.

A headshot photo of a dark-haired woman in business attire.
Adriana Rios Welton (UScellular)

As covered earlier in the season in our exclusive interview with UScellular CEO Laurent Therivel (LT), UScellular is not only the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S. but also the fifth-largest tower company. This puts them in a unique position to build out and expand their network and focus on serving those communities often left behind by major carriers.

Their focus on smaller communities and rural areas means they have made bridging the digital divide a key part of their mission and purpose. Senior leaders at the company believe firmly in the role that UScellular and similar carriers play in bringing affordable and reliable services to all.

It is no secret that we are in a unique environment with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to access federal funding for large infrastructure projects, including broadband and connectivity expansion. The economics of rural and remote connectivity is, at best, tricky, and effectively using those funding mechanisms will play a key role in delivering connectivity to all. Understanding each of these economic levers and mechanisms and having a close partnership with local, state, and federal entities will spell success in bridging the digital divide.

Adriana and her team play a key role in building relationships at a federal and state level to give UScellular the tools necessary to build out in areas where, normally, the economics do not stand up to scrutiny. These are often complex and condition-burdened funds, each looking to target a specific need or area. Navigating through them is a key competitive advantage in tapping these greenfield markets.

Delivering connectivity to these communities will require flexibility in the technology used to reach them. UScellular has been bullish in its fixed-wireless access (FWA) strategy, and, as reported by Fierce in the past, has had some impressive results, attracting 49,000 new subscribers in 2022 alone. As UScellular lights up its recently acquired C-Band and 3.45 GHz spectrum, the user experience will improve, and the company is confident this will help bolster subscriber numbers further. In this podcast interview, Adriana gives her perspective on FWA's role in UScellular's network and the benefits that customers are already experiencing since deployment.

We also pick up the conversation around healthy relationships with screens and technology. Granted, it's not necessarily the topic of conversation you’d expect with a head of legal and government affairs at a carrier, but this is clearly an issue close to the purpose and mission of UScellular.

In fact, the carrier has recently launched a “Phones Down for 5” campaign, encouraging people to put down their phones for five hours, five days or even just five minutes. At the time of recording, UScellular's CEO LT was in the midst of a five-day cell phone hiatus. However, it is not just about the time we have our phones down, and a core element of the campaign is working with content creators and partners to ensure a safe online environment for all.

The Fierce team is in constant contact with innovators, thinkers and leaders across the telecommunications and related sectors. Thanks to this insight and knowledge, we put together market-leading events and bring you exclusive and independent editorial coverage.

The Five Nine Podcast brings you this in a weekly audible format. Learn more from executives shaping the present and future of telecommunications. Hear from suppliers, carriers and analysts on the trends and opportunities for our sector, and get perspective on today's biggest news.

Join Alejandro Piñero and the Fierce team as we bring exclusive interviews and the best event keynotes to your ear in The Five Nine Podcast.