Former telecom executive to head Craig Wireless

A former Bell Mobility and Allstream Corp. executive will be the new head of Craig Wireless Systems as the company struggles to move from fixed wireless cable TV provider to a specialist in WiMAX services.

David Lazzarato, who held chief financial officer positions at Bell Mobility and Allstream before it was sold to Manitoba Telecom Services, will become Craig’s CEO on April 28.

“I think it’s an interesting time in wireless, in particular at Craig,” Lazzarato said in an interview Monday, when the announcement was made.

Winnipeg-based Craig, which owns WiMAX spectrum B.C., Manitoba, California, New Zealand, Norway and Greece, combines “the best in wireless technology” with good people and opportunities around the world, he said.

With personal computer users looking for high speed mobile Internet connectivity, “I think we’ve got the opportunity to make a different kind of telecom company – different technology, different cost structure, different kinds of services.

“This is a technology where we think the opportunity is not only simplicity, which is what WiMAX is known for, but also to offer services that have portability and mobility at great speeds. These are the ingredients customers really want from their wireless services.”

The appointment comes with a management upheaval at Craig, which has seen its stock drift south after going public through a reverse take-over last September.

In January, former MTS president and CEO William Fraser – who had briefly been Lazzarato’s boss – was named to the company’s board. A few days later it released first quarter results showing revenues had dropped to $468,712 from $534,520 for the same period in 2007.

Among the problems it had to resolve was a switch to Motorola as a prime supplier to its network in Greece. But it has also been spending, thanks to some $35 million it gained from going public. During the first quarter it spent $12.8 million on spectrum in Norway and $800,000 for spectrum in New Zealand. Money is also being spent on its networks.

Two weeks ago Craig reported second quarter loss on revenues of $482,745.

With Lazzarato’s appointment, co-founder Boyd Craig will shift from president and CEO to co-executive chairman with his brother Drew. Lazzarato will also sit on the board.

While Lazzarato was executive vice-president and CFO at MTS after it bought Allstream, he stayed only a few months to help oversee the integration. Since then he has been executive vice-president and chief financial officer at cable channel specialist Alliance Atlantis and chair of its film distribution arm.

Despite the red ink, Craig Wireless will continue to look around the world for opportunities, said Lazzarato. It will offer both wholesale and retail service to both consumer and business markets, mixing products in different countries.

“And the benefit of being in multiple markets is we’ll learning something in market A that we can use in market B,” he said. Meanwhile, the priorities for the coming year will be to start building out its Vancouver-area network and continue network construction in the Palm Springs, Calif., area and Greece.

“Our real revenue growth is going to start next year once our networks are built,” Boyd Craig said in an interview last fall. That growth has yet to be seen.

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