5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?
In our series called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Gianni, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MD7.
Michael Gianni is the Chairman and CEO of MD7, a mobile infrastructure solutions company, which he founded in 2003 with a desire to positively impact people around the world through the potential of mobile and a dedication to service. Michael has more 20 years of wireless infrastructure experience which he has used to pioneer a company committed to alleviating growing real estate costs for wireless operators around the world through outsourced asset and infrastructure management solutions. Since its founding, Michael has led MD7 from the U.S. into the U.K. and Continental Europe, and is driving its continued growth into Latin America and Asia.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Istarted working in wireless in 1984, installing cell sites on rooftops in Los Angeles alongside my father, who actually built the first half a dozen sites for the 1984 Olympics. Learning about the industry growing up, I always knew wireless was where I wanted to focus my career.
My first job in the industry was with RAM Mobile Data. I did site acquisitions to help to build a packet data system, supporting customers like Hertz Rent A Car and UPS. I then worked for Whalen & Company, a wireless equipment services provider, on Fleetcall, which would later become Nextel. After a year with Nextel, I moved to Rome, Italy to help build out the country’s second national wireless network with AirTouch International. I went on to consult with BellSouth in Atlanta as they built out their network during the PCS boom.
After spending time working for wireless operators, service providers and as a consultant, it came full circle as I joined my father at Gianni & Associates. Together, we built the company up to a sizable wireless site development firm.
Around 2002, I realized I had been working non-stop since 1984 and had gotten a bit burnt out. So that summer, I took my wife and two young boys to Kona, Hawaii and completely shut off from work. It gave me time to decompress and figure out what I was going to do next. That’s when I had the idea for MD7, which I started in January 2003.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
During my days at RAM Mobile Data, I traveled all over the western U.S. to survey sites for their network. One November, I had to review a site at the top of a mountain in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I remember standing at the base of the mountain thinking, “How am I going to get up there?” It was snow-capped, icy and freezing out. Lo and behold, about five minutes later a big, burly bearded guy cruised up on a snowmobile and just says, “Hop on.” He took me right up to the site.
It was a pretty fun ride too. I remember taking a picture of myself at the summit, maybe my first-ever selfie, and sending it off to the RAM HQ in New Jersey, letting them know just how far I was willing to go to get the job done.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Attitude is everything.” Your mind is a powerful tool, and if you have a positive attitude, you will naturally be more successful in life and encourage those around you to be successful in life, both professionally and personally.
I’ve been married for 22 years and have three adult boys. I’ve seen how my attitude impacts my sons’ approach towards what they do and their outlook on life. My sons see me work hard and they’ve learned to work hard too.
At MD7, our employees know I make as much time for family and friends as I do work. Our company operates through a set of core values, and work-life balance is one of them. If you have that, it leads to a more positive attitude and better health overall. When employees see me living by that value, they know they can too.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father was absolutely a key person in helping me get here. Not only did he introduce me to the industry early on, but he constantly taught me new parts about it.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Dan Pennisi, my boss at RAM Mobile Data. Dan encouraged me to leave my employment with him and take a job in the industry that would allow me to travel the world and grow my knowledge of wireless. I could have stayed at RAM Mobile Data and would have enjoyed being there, but Dan knew it was better for me to move on professionally, and I’m very appreciative of his wisdom at the time.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Integrity — Integrity is how you behave when no one is watching. I have always strived to do the right thing no matter the cost and no matter who was watching or not watching. I have three college-aged boys and I want to make sure I can be someone they can look to for an excellent example of good character and integrity.
Also, being in this industry for as long as I have, you only have one thing that sticks with you — your reputation. And, as the leader of 300-plus employees, I want to make sure our employees are proud of my behavior and decision-making.
There will always be opportunities to make questionable decisions; however, I want to sleep well at night and make my boys and my company proud.
Respectfulness — Since my early days in the industry, I have always believed in treating everyone the same, from the person in the mailroom to the vice president. I interview 99.9% of our U.S. employee candidates. I often hear how impressed people are to have had the opportunity to meet with the CEO, which frankly makes me uncomfortable, as I don’t view myself that way. We are a team at MD7, and I don’t view people as working for me. We all work together, and I have constantly introduced people in that manner; she and I work with one another at the company, not she works for me. You distill all this down to respect for the individual, one of our core values at MD7.
Optimism — This goes back to “Attitude is Everything.” You have to be positive about possibilities and what you can do — not what might happen or what you can do. As an entrepreneur, it’s especially critical to think this way. If you think about the glass half-empty, your company won’t grow.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
MD7 focuses on optimizing the real assets that are underneath every cell site in the world. In addition to our ongoing commitment to continuously improve the process of acquiring and deploying real property for mobile operators, we have evolved into providing mobile operators insights and consulting expertise.
We have developed software and AI and machine learning capabilities to abstract, analyze and assess the deluge of data and contracts associated with cell sites.
5G will require several times as many cell sites compared to prior generations. As a result, MD7 is continuously innovating our processes, software and training to find better, faster AND cheaper ways to manage these crucial assets.
The possibilities in a connected world are unlimited. Mobile operators will change the way the world communicates, and MD7 will support them by changing the way they view the property underneath their networks. We help people by helping mobile operators deploy and manage their networks more efficiently.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?
5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology. What everyone cares about is speed — 5G is 100X faster than 4G. As impressive as that is, the real benefit will be its ultra-low latency or the amount of time it takes for data to reach its destination and back. For example, if you are riding in an autonomous vehicle, you want zero latency (i.e., no delays) in the communication between two cars as they approach an intersection.
Initially, we will enjoy faster 4G apps on our phone as they operate on 5G networks. But I’m not sure how much faster we really need our social media posts to appear or our ride-share to arrive.
5G will impact enterprises more than consumers. For example, applications that accelerate supply chains, automate agriculture, enhance telemedicine, facilitate remote/robotic surgery, etc. will evolve naturally with 5G deployment.
What’s exciting is that we have yet to imagine the best applications for 5G. Just as we did not imagine the market for Uber until after we deployed 4G, we will not realize the full potential of 5G until after we fully deploy it.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
Healthcare — Robotic and remote surgery. If a car crashed on the side of the road, and someone needed immediate surgery, it’s feasible that with 5G technology, a surgeon could operate in real-time via robotics and a first-responder. This could also be applicable in war zones.
Agriculture — Thanks to IoT, with 5G, farmers will be able to get real-time data about their crop’s moisture, nutrition and fertilization content. They’ll also have better management capabilities with autonomous tractors and other devices.
Autonomous Vehicles (A.V.) — A.V.’s will produce 10TB of data/day. For A.V.s to operate safely, there can be no delay in communication between other A.V.s, street lights or other road hazards. 4G doesn’t offer this latency, but 5G can.
The most revolutionary applications are not yet imagined.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
Like any technology that is developed with good in mind, people can also use it for nefarious purposes. As we become even more connected through vehicles, telemedicine and IoT at large, we need to bear in mind that as positive as technology can be, we should never let them take over actual, real-life personal relationships. For example, I’m grateful to be able to connect with my wife over FaceTime when I’m nine time zones away in Europe, but that will never replace being with her in person!
Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?
There are two things that need we need to solve. First, a broadband network needs to exist everywhere, even in areas where there is not necessarily an easily measurable ROI. We are doing our part to help our customers deliver on this.
The second thing is handsets — or phones. The handset manufacturers should be ensuring that there are devices available to provide the basics — which we can boil down to internet access and videoconferencing. If the industry is thinking about these two components within the context of broadband access, then I think we can minimize any sort of divide.
Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)
For any career, not just telecommunications, you need the following.
- A good attitude — A good attitude means a willingness to do things that might seem less than ideal or not precisely what the person wants. A good attitude communicates teamwork, and “we” over “me.”
- Coachability — Are you willing to not only hear feedback but are you ready to take it on and implement it? The employees who have been with us for a decade or more are folks who are still seeking to improve and get feedback, even though it would be effortless for them to rest on their laurels. The workplace is constantly changing, and markets are always moving, so it’s important to remember that what you knew yesterday will not necessarily solve tomorrow’s problems.
- Focus — The ability to focus should be self-evident. Still, with all the distractions available to us in 2021, it is incredible how easy it is to waste time on things that are not central to the task at hand. Learning how to know which notifications require an immediate response is part of this.
- Willingness to take risks — It’s essential to take a risk sometimes. Sometimes it’s the risk associated with starting a new business, but more often, it’s more subtle, such as asking a question even if you think it might sound dumb. But learning to engage even when your idea is shot down is part of how we, collectively, get to success.
- Willingness to ask for help — We can’t trust somebody unwilling to ask for help. Nobody knows everything, and everybody eventually runs into challenges that they cannot solve independently.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think there is a lot of power in being positive. It’s easy to say that we want to build a big company, create the next iPhone or achieve other grand plans, but truthfully those kinds of world-changing things happen very infrequently relative to the number of people on the planet. But if we focus on the one day in front of us, we can do a lot if we allow ourselves to be inspired.
We have a daily huddle at MD7, where each day a different employee gives an inspirational quote. We’ve been doing this for over two years, and I hear stories from people who say “that quote today made a difference” because they changed their attitude, took on a new project or addressed some challenges outside of work. Creating that sense of connectivity and relationship is inspiring.
Choose joy. It feels as though people are looking to be happy, but happiness is a feeling that doesn’t last very long. Joy is something we can choose amid a storm. Enjoy the journey and be joyful along the way.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.