2 Degrees (of separation)

What do Microsoft, Steve Jobs and 2Degrees all have in common?

The answer is John Stanton, a founding partner of 2Degrees major shareholder Trilogy International Partners, and former confidant of Steve Jobs was recently appointed to the Microsoft board

Thats quite a lot to fit together, so I’ll unpack a few pieces because this is a story that should interest us all here in NZ as John is obviously an insiders ‘insider’ when it comes to all things mobile.

First of all his own CV shows a career that has grown and thrived with the mobile industry.

Stanton led four of the top wireless operators in the United States over the last 32 years, and operated wireless networks in Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and New Zealand.

During the 1980s, he served as chief operating officer and vice chairman of McCaw Cellular. From 1992 to 2005, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of Western Wireless Corp. Between 1995 and 2003, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of VoiceStream Wireless, which was acquired by Deutsche Telekom and subsequently renamed T-Mobile USA. He also served as director and later chairman of Clearwire Corp. from 2008 to 2013.

That is probably why Steve Job’s sought out his advice when Apple was developing the iPhone

When Steve Jobs first dreamed up the iPhone with his team at Apple, he didn’t want it to run on AT&T’s network. He wanted to create his own network.

So says Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Stanton, who spent a good deal of time with the late Apple CEO during the phone’s development period. Jobs wanted to replace carriers completely, Stanton says, instead using the unlicensed spectrum that Wi-Fi operates on for his phone.

“He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum,” Stanton said on Monday at the Law Seminar International Event in Seattle. “That was part of his vision.”

Both Wi-Fi and cellular frequencies belong on the ultra high frequency level of the radio frequency spectrum. Wi-Fi takes up five channels of the 2.4 GHz band. Other frequency bands are allotted to various purposes and cellular providers by the FCC.

Jobs gave up his plans to create his own network in 2007, ultimately settling on a deal with AT&T.

Wired then goes on to wonder

It’s not outrageous to think Jobs and Stanton spoke candidly about network matters, given Stanton’s long history with wireless carriers. He was the first employee at McCaw Cellular, the national wireless provider that later became AT&T Wireless. He started another firm called Western Wireless, which birthed an operator called Voicestream that was bought out by Deutsche Telekom and became T-Mobile.

So John is definitely a ‘go to’ guy, Jobs was legendary for seeking out the best advice from the best people and now it looks like Microsoft are after some of the same as they face the challenges of competing in the ‘post PC‘ era. 

Microsoft have been trying to get mobile right for a long time, way before Apple entered the fray, in fact second kind of ‘smart phone’ I used was a ‘Windows Mobile’ these were HTC devices that ran on Telecom’s pre XT evdo CDMA network.

They were awful and made me long for my previous Palm OS based Kyocera ‘smart phones’, but I appreciated have email on the go and other basic internet based services.

Microsoft have had numerous resets in their mobile strategy, with the latest being the purchase of Nokia’s mobile business and the desire to create one overarching OS.

It is starting to look like Apple and Microsoft have swapped places especially when IBM has now firmly lined up to support iOS in the enterprise space.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the Microsoft board meetings as they like everyone else try and unlock the future.

But it’d also be fascinating to hear what goes on at a 2Degrees board meeting as they try and figure out their ‘breakout’ strategy to move from the expensive and competitive ‘pre-paid’ plains to the green fields and higher ARPU of post paid business accounts, full service residential offerings and getting a slice of the media and mobile payments pies.

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