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Verizon will have a new CEO for its 5G future

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Hans Vestberg will succeed Lowell McAdam on August 1st

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Mobile World Congress 2015 - Day 1 Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Verizon has announced that Hans Vestberg, currently the company’s chief technology officer and VP of global networks, will become its next CEO and succeed current chief executive Lowell McAdam on August 1st. McAdam has led Verizon Communications — the parent company of Verizon Wireless, Verizon Fios, and other telecommunications subsidiaries — since 2011.

He began his tenure as CEO just after the company launched its 4G LTE network, which has since grown to offer robust nationwide coverage. He also oversaw major acquisitions including AOL and Yahoo, which were later combined into Oath. McAdam will remain as executive chairman of Verizon’s board through the end of this year. “For Verizon, the time for a change in leadership is now, and I am confident that Hans is the right person to bring Verizon through its next chapter,” he said in a statement. “Hans is an energizing force who will continue to position Verizon to lead the fourth industrial revolution — the emergence of technologies that blend the physical and the digital to create historic breakthroughs in connectivity and mobility.”

Vestberg, formerly the CEO of Ericsson, is a newcomer to Verizon. He joined the company in 2017 to oversee 5G development and Verizon’s continued fiber buildout. And just like that, only about a year later, he’s set to take on the top job. McAdam told CNBC that the board wanted “a fresh set of eyes” as the company focuses on its 5G future. Verizon aims to launch 5G service in five cities by year’s end.

Vestberg’s appointment makes clear that, at least in selecting a new chief executive, Verizon is prioritizing its technology business and network expansion over content and media. The succession announcement comes as rival AT&T continues its $85 billion effort to acquire Time Warner. Both companies want to build out enormous ad-tracking operations, but Verizon already has that covered with Oath and the various media properties within it.

Verizon’s next CEO could face a dramatically reshaped mobile market within the next couple years if regulators allow the proposed $26 billion merger between T-Mobile US and Sprint to proceed. Their tie-up would create a mega-carrier that’s much closer in subscriber count to Verizon, which still tallies the most wireless customers in the United States, and second-place AT&T. McAdam has expressed little concern over the situation. “We don’t care, is the answer to that,” he told GeekWire when asked about a combined T-Mobile / Sprint. “I don’t think that merger matters from a 5G perspective. We’re going to do it regardless and we’re way ahead of everybody. We’ve made all the investments that are required in fiber and millimeter wave spectrum and those sorts of things.”

Another potential candidate to succeed McAdam was John Stratton, a decades-long Verizon employee who was VP of global operations until this morning’s news broke; Stratton has since announced he’ll also be retiring at the end of 2018, but he’s leaving his VP role immediately.