Nortel Names New CTO

Nortel on Monday announced the appointment of Greg Mumford, previously the president of the company's optical long-haul business, as chief technical officer.

Nortel today announced the appointment of Greg Mumford, previously the president of the companys optical long-haul business, as chief technical officer. Mumford, 55, said that he looks forward to leading Nortel into a new era of technological breakthroughs.

"In a company that has a long and proud history as a technology leader and innovator, Im looking forward to contributing to our ongoing success in delivering high-performance communications network and architectures that represent leading-edge value to our customers," said Mumford, in a prepared statement.

While Mumford praised past holders of the CTO position at Nortel, his tenure is likely to be one of the more challenging in the history of the company. Mumford takes over responsibilities for Nortels technology strategy at one of the low points in both the industrys and companys existence. Like other large networking firms, Nortel descent since the bubble burst in the telecommunication market 18 months ago has been extremely steep.

The decline in valuation and market leadership significantly increases the obstacles in Mumfords path. Foremost, Nortel is only about half the size it was a year ago. While many of the tens of thousands of jobs that were cut were connected with the outsourcing of manufacturing, Nortels technical talent, which was already being poached by startups and competitors, such as Cisco, has been significantly thinned.

Mumford will also be handicapped in relation to most of his predecessors in that opportunities to acquire innovative technology through acquisitions of smaller companies will be few. Although Nortel, with the possible exception of its $8 billion purchase of Bay Networks, has been less free-spending than competitors Cisco and Lucent, it has acquired key optical technology over the past few years.

Most of its metro gear is based on a strategic investment, as is its all-optical switching technology and ultra-long-haul DWD equipment.

Mumford moves over from Nortels optical long-haul division. Brian McFadden, another long-time Nortel employee, will fill his position there. Mumfords appointment could also be an indication of Nortels desire to move the high-profile Mumford out of a sector of the industry that appears to be in decline, at least in terms of shipments of DWDM gear.

While optical switching and metro equipment is expected to receive a good deal of attention in the coming year, service providers, having built out long-distance optical spans in the past few years, are not expected to spend huge amounts of their budgets on long-haul transport gear. Although its mostly circumstantial, evidence of further cutbacks in long-distance gear was delivered last week when Qwest Communications announced it was trimming another $1.2 billion from its capital-expenditure budget.

While Qwest was not specific about the equipment that would be affected by the budget cuts, speculation falls on long-haul gear. On the same day as the cutback announcement, Ciena announced that it could see falloffs of DWDM sales of as much as 50 percent in the first quarter of next year. Ciena is one of Qwests biggest suppliers of DWDM long haul gear. The other is Nortel.

Mumfords appointment is effective immediately.

His appointment fills the position vacated by Bill Hawe, who left the company earlier this year. Nortel officials could not be reached this morning to ask why it took several months to fill the vacancy and why Mumford was not named to the post immediately after Hawes departure.

In another company appointment, Nortel named Marco Pagani as president of its metro optical division.