Dan Akerson

Chairman and CEO XO Communications

XO Communications isnt afraid of change or charting new ground. And Dan Akerson, the companys chairman and chief executive, isnt shy about telling people that.

Akerson, who stepped down from the helm of Nextel Communications to lead XO, had the foresight to steer XO onto its current data-focused course and away from the recent carnage that hit the competitive carrier industry.

"A year or two ago we were clearly a CLEC," he says. "Today we have enough long-haul capacity to carry all of AT&T, all of WorldCom and all of Sprints traffic."

XO, which recently changed its name from Nextlink Communications, had no data properties until about a year ago and was focused on voice offerings. Now, the company represents a new breed of operator that holds a unique position, not just as a provider of end-to-end broadband data, but as a provider that owns the end-to-end connection. "You must own your strategic assets if youre going to be a strategic player," Akerson says.

Each piece of the end-to-end connection is crucial. XOs mix of fiber and an extensive portfolio of licenses for the wireless spectrum allow the operator to offer broadband to the last mile.

"A fiber-only local distribution model is good, but its not great. An LMDS or fixed wireless local distribution strategy is good, but its not great. You need the combination, the hybrid of the two technologies to make it work," Akerson says.