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August 19, 2019
How is Verizon bridging the digital divide with 5G?
By: Omar Abbosh

In the third episode of our podcast series— "Pivot to the Future”—we met up with Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, to hear how 5G, the lightning speed network, will change the world forever.



As part of my podcast series with musician, philanthropist and technology investor will.i.am, we met with Hans Vestberg a few weeks ago. He’s the Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, a multinational telecommunications company that’s at the forefront of the 5G network revolution. Verizon’s 5G network is now available in Chicago, Illinois and Minneapolis, and coming soon to more than 30 American cities. Hans is leading the charge in all of this, so will.i.am and I tried to find out what makes him tick and the kinds of pivots he’s had to make—professionally and personally—to be where he is today.

Here are some of the interesting things Hans shared which speak volumes about his approach as a leader:

  • Technology transforms business and society. Hans told us he’d lived in seven different countries as his career progressed and that experience taught him a lot about the importance of technology and how it can positively impact our society. Now, heading up Verizon, he’s in the midst of a wave of technology change. He has a deep sense of responsibility around doing the right thing, in a business context and in terms of society. He believes 5G is a great leveller—because it doesn't matter where you're born or where you come from, this technology can remove bandwidth and capacity limitations to give you the same experience.

  • 5G makes all the difference—and it’s going to be everywhere. Consumer experiences have been at the heart of shaping the 2G, 3G and 4G evolution, where success was down to throughput and speed. But with 5G, the design principles are different. The thinking behind it is: “How can we now make mobility be something for industries, enterprises and society?” This best-of-all-worlds relies on a network that’s stable, performing well and where technology investments are sound. 5G is part of Verizon’s DNA. As Hans says, it’s not up for discussion whether to invest in technology, but how much and how fast.

  • Businesses must act responsibly. Hans believes any company that can use its strategy and its employees to do something good with mobile technology should act responsibly and do it. This is why Verizon is focusing on education, going into schools and implementing connectivity and broadband, using the devices and developing a STEM program, giving everyone an equal chance. Last year, Verizon committed roughly US$400 million over a five-year time period to education in schools in the United States.

  • Leadership is a team sport. Hans was a handball player until his mid 20s and chairman of the Swedish Olympic Committee in the past. So, sport has been a red thread throughout his life. He believes it’s shaped how he behaves as a leader, because that team mentality means he’s focused on the success of everyone working with him, as well as business partners, making sure that they are empowered and energized. Hans wants his people to feel they are working for a company that has a great purpose. And he’s always seeking out inputs, to bring together diverse opinions before he makes a final decision.

Hans clearly leads from the front; he’s combining the different time horizons of the old, the now and the new. And there's plenty of thought and attention to the culture and people in his company.

He’s raised some great points that I suspect we’re going to hear a lot more of—the behaviors and approach of strong leaders who are not only a driving force for innovation, but also have a passion for creating a purpose-driven business.

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