Kris Rinne is Senior Vice President of Network Technologies at AT&T Labs. AT&T has more than 90,000 women working in various capacities all across the globe. But few, if any, are as influential as Rinne. She is responsible for AT&T’s vast network architecture, platforms and performance, plus its radio access roadmap, wireless device requirements, and vendor selection. Previously, she served as Chief Technology Officer for Cingular, the wireless juggernaut created through a joint venture by AT&T and Bell South. Over all, she has more than 30 years experience in the telecom industry, which started when she switched her career aspirations from teaching math to a job working at Bell South.
At heart, Rinne is a down-to-earth Midwestern girl who remains as refreshingly approachable as any big-time exec could be. I was at the ceremony last Fall in San Jose, for instance, where the Wireless History Foundation inducted her into the Wireless Hall of Fame. With AT&T Mobility’s CEO Ralph de la Vega present and a host of other industry stalwarts, Rinne, the only woman among four inductees, was exceedingly humble when accepting her recognition. She might not like to say it, but if you want to know what’s new and cutting edge at AT&T and across the wireless industry, ask Kris Rinne.
It was also late last year that AT&T announced it would begin remodeling its network, tossing out old legacy telecom gear and replacing it with a plethora of smaller but powerful software-driven servers. The goal, dubbed Domain 2.0, is to transform AT&T’s network into a spiffy new data center.
To accomplish that, AT&T plans to open up its network to new software vendors and new ideas from the likes of Silicon Valley engineers and even University researchers. Traditional telecom networks aren’t adaptable, they’re hard to scale up and they aren’t as cost-effective as they could be. Rinne acknowledges that such a network revamp won’t be easy for AT&T, but she and the company are committed to the rebuild in order to remain relevant in the future.
Here are edited excerpts from Rinne’s answers to five questions about AT&T’s business and the wireless world in general. (more…)