How Irishman Ronan Dunne is helping usher in a 5G revolution

2 Dec 2020

Ronan Dunne, executive VP and group CEO of Verizon Consumer, speaking at Web Summit 2019. Image: David Fitzgerald/Web Summit via Sportsfile

Ronan Dunne, executive VP and group CEO of Verizon Consumer, spoke at Future Human about the role 5G has to play in 2020 and beyond.

The significant ramping up of 5G roll-out in the US has, in no small part, been led by Dublin-native Ronan Dunne, executive vice-president and group CEO of Verizon Consumer, a division of the telecoms giant.

Dunne joined Verizon in 2016 following a series of C-level positions at O2 and is a fellow and former council member of the Chartered Accountants Ireland and a fellow of the Association of Corporate Treasurers.

In his role in charge of Verizon Consumer Group, he leads teams responsible for providing wireline voice, data and TV products and services, as well as wireless connected experiences, to more than 100m consumers in the US.

Speaking at the inaugural Future Human 2020 event in October, Dunne said that over the past 18 months, Verizon Consumer has been striking deals with some of the biggest tech companies on the planet, including Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm to build a new 5G network.

Making sure that all these companies are signed up to what he calls the “double chocolate chip version” of a 5G ecosystem is especially important given the world created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For so many people, the reality of the last seven or eight months has just copper-fastened the need for connectivity to be both widespread and inclusive, and that’s both socioeconomically inclusive and also geographically inclusive,” he said.

Addressing the possibility that 5G development could accelerate as a result of the pandemic, Dunne said while there are some signs this is the case, there is still much to do before it can reach who needs it most.

“In the US, there is going to be an option of funds available from central government for rural developments that are specifically intended to broaden out the coverage and, as much as possible, bring 5G to rural areas that wouldn’t otherwise receive it,” he said.

“But the reality still in the US is that if you’re in a deprived neighbourhood in New York or in a rural part of the US, there’s a very good chance you don’t have good connectivity yet. So the US, like most western countries, has a lot more to do just on basic inclusion.”

‘A new type of work pattern’

This was especially brought home to Dunne who, in the wake of the pandemic, oversaw the moving of almost 15,000 call centre workers to a remote-working environment in just 17 days. To put this into perspective, Dunne had previously overseen the moving of 2,500 call centre staff to remote working, which took two and a half years.

This, he said, highlighted the fact that not everybody had great connectivity at home, while bringing what he calls “positive discontinuity” to light where new opportunities come from such a seismic balance shift.

“What we tried to do was not solve what was just an operational issue, but reimagine what we could do with the employment opportunities that we had,” Dunne said.

“We created a new type of work pattern where we give people the flexibility of split shifts, for example, which says I have kids that I need to bring to school and bring home from school, so if I can at all, please don’t have me scheduled between eight and 10 and three and five.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic