Ed L. Reynolds
Champion of Wireless Service in Rural America
Inducted in 2002
It is possible that Ed L. Reynolds has “seen it all” in telecommunications. Today the president of network operations for Cingular Wireless, he started as an Auburn University co-op student at South Central Bell in the late 1960s. Some 20 years ago, he began to garner corporate attention for his re-engineering of PBX — that antique term — technology. Today, Mr. Reynolds stands front and center in the “wireless revolution” that’s shaping the way we live and work. He has now earned widespread attention and appreciation.
Promoted to AT&T headquarters in 1982, he had helped the firm prepare for divestiture. He was among the core staff who launched BellSouth Services upon divestiture. Soon afterward, he led BellSouth’s Network Strategic Planning group, successfully developing engineering guidelines and deployment policies for fiber optics, enabling BellSouth to create some of the most pervasive fiber-optic capabilities of any telephone carrier.
In 1989, when cellular was still in its start-up phase, Mr. Reynolds was named regional vice president of BellSouth Mobility. Tasked with building and operating wireless systems across five southern states (including Alabama), he quickly recognized the potential for bringing cellular service to rural areas, while the rest of the industry still viewed larger cities as the only market for wireless. Initially, he served 30,000 customers; by 1995, it was 600,000. That explosive growth intimated the rapid advancement Mr. Reynolds would experience himself. Midway through 1995, he became president of BellSouth Wireless. He oversaw the firm’s global planning and development, devising new wireless services to exploit new technologies. BellSouth Wireless associates were granted many patents that decade, reflecting the rigorous intellectual-property program Mr. Reynolds led.
When Mr. Reynolds deployed his first analog networks, it was viewed as a phenomenon to telephone, using airwaves instead of wires. Yet these miraculous networks would themselves be surpassed by the digital technology of which Mr. Reynolds was and is a pioneer. He has been a leader in the transition from the original analog systems to the still-advancing digital systems.
For a time Mr. Reynolds served concurrently as president of BellSouth Mobility DCS and of American Cellular Com-munications Corporation, a subsidiary responsible for BellSouth’s domestic cellular business outside the Southeast. He was also president of BellSouth Mobility.
Since October 2000, Mr. Reynolds has taken on as Cingular’s president of Network Operations the total responsibility for a nationwide network of 21 million customers, and $14 billion in annual revenue. Cingular is the second-largest wireless carrier in the country, subsuming the wireless properties once owned by BellSouth and SBC Communications. Mr. Reynolds directs all engineering, design, deployment, and operations, and has worked since the merger to implement uniform engineering, design, and performance criteria.
The fruits of Mr. Reynolds’s distinguished career cannot be overstated. His networks allow us to communicate from the places whence our communication is most productive. Furthermore, each day 140,000 Americans use wireless phones to report emergencies, saving lives and property. And consider the effect of the September 11 passengers’ cell calls — on the immediate response, the subsequent investigation, and not least on their families.
In addition to the electrical engineering degree from Auburn University (1970), Mr. Reynolds holds an M.B.A. from The University of Alabama. He serves on Auburn’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board. He is a former executive-committee member of the North American GSM Alliance and of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, and a past director of the Personal Communications Industry Association. He is active in the Atlanta community, serving as a director of the Atlanta College of Art, and is a past vice chair of the Woodruff Arts Center Annual Campaign and honorary chair of the Atlanta Braves’ “Hit ‘em for Hemophilia” event.
Mr. Reynolds and his wife, Peggy, have two children (Michelle and Kimberly) and two grandchildren (Miller and Katelynn).