In-Building Heavyweight Becomes Part Of A Bigger, Wireless Family – Ready to Help CRE

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Written By: Joe Dyton

Industry veteran Stephen Bye will guide the new Connectivity Wireless Solutions as it looks to extend its leadership in the neutral host infrastructure and services business.

In March, Neutral Connect Networks acquired Connectivity Wireless Solutions.

Stephen Bye was named Chief Executive Officer of the newly combined companies as part of the acquisition. The role is a perfect fit for Bye, who has worked in the wireless industry for more than 27 years for wireless cable and wireline service providers in the United States and abroad. Under Bye’s leadership, the companies will reorganize in an effort to improve their respective operating efficiencies so they can create a world-class organization.

“Our team members represent the most important capability we have,” Bye said at the time of the announcement. “We will work together to ensure we operate as efficiently as possible to deliver best-in-class solutions and services to our customers, supporting managed Wi-Fi, LAA, CBRS, private LTE networks, and the evolution to 5G and beyond.”

While Bye’s background makes him an ideal fit to lead this newly formed company, that same background also makes his decision to assume the role somewhat of a surprise. Bye was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and President of telecommunications company and wireless carrier provider C Spire, where he was responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations prior to joining Connectivity Wireless Solutions. He also held executive and engineering positions with well-known enterprises such as Sprint, where he was also CTO, Cox Communications, AT&T, Bell South Corporation, Optus Communications and Telstra.

However, Bye has never shied away from a challenge and is excited to help guide a company that’s newer and smaller than he’s accustomed to.

“I love challenges,” Bye said. “If you look back at my career, I’m not the sort of guy that sits at a company for 40 years. I like taking on challenges and being in a position where the market is moving and shifting, taking those challenges and putting them together to grow those businesses and that opportunity. I think this industry is poised for a big shift when it comes to neutral host, and with the technology that’s coming in that unlocks that opportunity. For me, I thought this was an exciting opportunity.”

The combination of the support of M|C Partners, the chance to start anew with a smaller company, and Bye’s specific experience and skill set also made joining Connectivity Wireless an attractive opportunity to him.

“M|C Partners is a very good firm,” Bye said. “I’ve known them for a long time. Working for a smaller company is always fun. It’s different, and not everyone’s cut out for that. I think I can bring the experience that I have from a service provider perspective because they are one large customer group for us as a business.”

“I think this industry is poised for a big shift when it comes to neutral host, and with the technology that’s coming in that unlocks that opportunity.”

Real estate developers and landlords will also be significant customers for the newly formed company, according to Bye. He believes Connectivity Wireless has not only established great relationships with developers and landlords alike, but also generated a significant amount of credibility in the market which will help this new company accomplish its goals.

“That’s the other side of this relationship that we need to manage from a customer perspective as we go forward, because they have as much to gain and benefit, and perhaps as much to lose, if it is not done in the right way,” he said. “It’s really about bringing together those two constituents and serving the service providers the best we can. There are no big companies that have done that well, so we thought, ‘Okay, this is a great opportunity to bring that together and take on this challenge and take advantage of this opportunity that emerges.”

“What we do impacts the customer experience across multiple dimensions, so how we operate those networks, how we work with the carriers to make sure those networks deliver what their customers expect of them is absolutely critical.”

The merger began a few years ago when M|C Partners be-came interested in the emergence of the neutral-host model in commercial real estate buildings and venues. The company made an investment in Neutral Connect Networks. The early success with Neutral Connect Networks led to an interest in Connectivity Wireless Solutions.

“(M|C Partners) looked at acquiring the company and then combining it with what they had with Neutral Connect Network,” Bye said. “That’s when they approached me about coming in. I said, ‘Okay, let’s consolidate the different components we have and combine them in a way that really takes advantage of the strength of each so it will give us a great foundation on which to grow the business going forward, too.”

The consolidation means the new company will offer venues a full suite of in-building wireless solutions and services.

“What we’re doing is combining these different entities, consolidating the assets and the operations into two parts of the business,” Bye said. “One will be very focused on engineering design, deployment, construction and operating. The other will be the entity that manages and operates these neutral-host systems on behalf of the carriers and landlords.”

Essentially, Connectivity Wireless will provide the sales, engineering, project management, deployment, construction and operations for all in-building wireless solutions for the customers, and Neutral Connect Networks is the entity that holds all infrastructure, systems, assets and contracts for any neutral-host systems that they own and operate, Bye explained.

The companies will remain focused on serving their customers during the transition—the highest of priorities for both enterprises.

“We care about our customers’ customers,” Bye said. “By focusing on (them), you take care of your customer in that process. What we do impacts the customer experience across multiple dimensions, so how we operate those networks, how we work with the carriers to make sure those networks deliver what their customers expect of them is absolutely critical.”

With M|C Partners behind it as an investor, and Connectivity Wireless’ sterling reputation in the CRE industry, Bye believes “the new Connectivity Wireless Solutions” in partnership with Neutral Connect Networks is set up to continue to serve its customers well. “I’m frankly excited about the pieces that we have, and what we’re trying to do is get as organized as we can to take advantage of all the different components that we have in order to be able to execute against that,” Bye said. “I am excited about how we can put together what we already have and take it to a new level. We’re at a very interesting point for the whole industry, and I think we’re well poised to grow with that switch and evolution of the business.”

ABOUT STEPHEN:
Stephen is a senior executive with more than 27 years of experience working for wireless, Cable and wireline service providers in the US and several other countries.

Prior to joining the Connectivity Wireless, Steven served as the President of C Spire responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company with three lines of business, including wireless, home service, and enterprise business services. Steven also served as the CTO of C Spire and is a former CTO for Sprint. He has also held a range of executive positions at Cox Communications, AT&T, BellSouth International, Optus Communications and Telstra.

View source version here: http://magazine.connectedremag.com/publication/?i=592511#{%22issue_id%22:592511,%22page%22:34,%22publication_id%22:%2254436%22}

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James F. Wade

Jim Wade co-founded M/C Partners in 1986 with Dave Croll. He has been investing in communications and technology services since the advent of wireless and broadband, cornerstones of the firm’s sector focus. As a founding managing partner, he manages the firm’s investment process, and continuously seeks out management teams, company prospects and financial resources to grow the portfolio. Jim’s successful track record includes MetroPCS (IPO), Lightower Holdings (acquired by Berkshire Partners), Triad Communications (acquired by T-Mobile), Brooks Fiber Properties (IPO and sale to AT&T Wireless), Cavalier Telephone (acquired by PAETEC), NuVox Communications (acquired by WindStream), Attenda (acquired by Darwin Private Equity), Melita (acquired by Apax Partners), PR Wireless (joint venture with Sprint affiliate in Puerto Rico), Thrive Networks (acquired/recapitalized by Court Square) and Involta (acquired by Carlyle Group). Today he serves as a director on the Board of Connectivity Wireless and has responsibility for Omega Wireless. Jim graduated from the University of Notre Dame a B.B.A in Finance and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives outside Boston with his wife and four children. Jim was an avid boater and is now an average golfer.

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Abhishek Rampuria

Abhishek (A.B.) is a Partner at M/C Partners, where he leads origination, deal diligence and portfolio company support for investments in a variety of communications and technology services segments. He currently serves on the Board of Ascend Technologies, Connectivity Wireless, Edafio Technology Partners, TowerCom and serves as a Board Observer for Thrive Networks. A.B. previously served as a Board Observer for Ensono (acquired by KKR) and QOS Networks (acquired by Zayo). Prior to joining M/C Partners in 2015, A.B. worked at Altman Solon (formerly Altman Vilandrie), a technology, media & telecommunications focused strategy consulting firm, where he completed projects for both operating companies and private equity investors. A.B. received a B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Boston’s South End and outside of work, enjoys skiing, cycling, traveling and cheering on his home-town Patriots and Celtics.

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