Nokia’s Ricky Corker promoted as Chowdhary reportedly heads to Apple

Nokia announced that Ricky Corker, currently the infrastructure vendor’s North American chief, will be promoted to president of customer operations for the Americas. He will report directly to Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri and will also join the Nokia Group Leadership Team.

Corker “has played an instrumental role in returning the business in North America to growth and positioning Nokia strongly in 5G and other technologies,” according to Nokia.

Corker’s promotion is part of a wider reorganization across the company apparently sparked by the departure of Ashish Chowdhary, who currently heads Nokia’s customer operations. Suri said Nokia will now essentially be split between Corker’s Americas unit and Federico Guillen’s new unit covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Guillen moves into the position from his previous job as president of Nokia’s fixed networks business.

“As we enter the 5G era, extreme customer focus is a must," Suri said in a statement. "The changes we are announcing today will ensure that we continue to have the senior management capacity necessary for superb customer relationships in a world of increasing speed and complexity.”

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According to various media reports, including one from the Economic Times, Chowdhary is leaving Nokia to head up Apple’s operations in India. However, Chowdhary’s departure from Nokia appears to be amicable: "Everyone has a time in their career when they want to try something new and, after 15 successful years at Nokia, Ashish has reached that moment," Suri said. "The decision to leave Nokia was his alone, but he goes with my full support.”

Nokia is the latest company to restructure its front office. Verizon, for example, recently announced that the company would be split between Ronan Dunne’s consumer-facing division and Tami Erwin’s business-facing division. Dunne, currently the chief executive of Verizon’s wireless business, will head up the “Verizon Consumer Group” that will include the consumer segment for both the company’s wireless and wireline businesses, including wireless wholesale.

Similarly, in recent years Ericsson underwent a major reorganization and cost-cutting effort. Niklas Heuveldop, currently CEO of Ericsson’s North American business, was one of the winners of that reorganization; CEO Börje Ekholm removed an entire management layer and consolidated six different teams under Heuveldop’s leadership last year.

Nokia was the leading North American RAN vendor in 2016, according to Dell’Oro Group, but lost that position to Ericsson during the course of last year. Further, Dell’Oro said that Ericsson’s North American RAN lead widened by about 3 percentage points during the first six months of 2018 relatively to the full year 2017. Nokia is currently the second-largest supplier of wireless networking equipment in North America, just behind Ericsson and ahead of Samsung.

Nonetheless, Nokia has been named as a top 5G supplier to all of the major wireless network operators in the United States, from AT&T to Verizon. T-Mobile, for its part, split its $7 billion 5G spend equally between Ericsson and Nokia, but recently disclosed that Nokia equipment currently runs on across 37,000 T-Mobile sites in 31 states, which Tefficient noted gives Nokia an edge over Ericsson’s likely 26,000 T-Mobile sites (if T-Mobile’s 19,000 small cells aren't counted).

In its most recent quarter, Nokia reported that its wireless networks business grew 2% year over year.