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Cope will be missed

From Telus to Bell: A wireless champion who never ducked or went into hiding moves over to wireline.

November 1, 2005  

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I first met outgoing Telus Mobility President and CEO George Cope at a Clearnet event in Ottawa in the late 1990s, and I liked him immediately.

I was fairly new to the fast-paced, rapidly evolving, acronym-rich wireless industry, with all of its technology, regulatory, business and other issues, and I probably asked a few questions that were as thick as clotted cream.

But Cope, an industry veteran and key player (he was president of Clearnet at the time), treated me as an equal, provided direct answers to my questions, and thanked me for the interview afterwards.

Any reporter will tell you that one way to make a good impression is to dispense with the business double-speak.

We don’t believe that your company is “a leading this,” or “creating a paradigm shift that”: according to all of your competitors, they are too.

But unfortunately, many members of the information and communications technologies sector prefer to talk in riddles, and it often gets worse as one moves up the food chain: I’ve talked to some company vice presidents who were all but indecipherable.


But with Cope, there was never any dancing, mincing, slipperiness, and best of all never, ever any ducking and hiding. If you wanted to talk to George, you called the media relations person and he would call you back, and quickly.

Or, someone would call back and say, “here’s the number for George’s wireless phone — he’s expecting you.”

And he was, with energetic and insightful comments about whatever wireless issue you wanted to discuss.

His enthusiasm and passion for the wireless industry in which he had spent so much of his career was obvious.

Cope’s energy was also evident to anybody who attended a Canadian wireless industry conference and trade show.

Whether it was speaking passionately about spectrum auctions and licence fees, glad-handing at the top of the escalators at the Toronto Congress Centre, or doing a quick interview with a reporter in a corner, I seem to recall him being everywhere at these events.

I’m sure he wasn’t, but that he was able to leave that impression is still quite an achievement. And anybody who was in the room at the industry’s 20th anniversary bash in Ottawa this past spring will never forget Cope’s “History of the Wireless Industry Quiz” or his frank discussion of the successes and — equally important — the failures of the industry over the past two decades.

So it was with mixed emotions that I read in October that he had left Telus Mobility and will join Bell Canada in January as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Happy for Cope, sure since he will be responsible or Bell Canada’s residential services, including its wireline, Internet and video business, and will also oversee Bell’s Enterprise, Small and Medium Business, and Wholesale operations.

Wireline’s gain

That’s a big job and I’m sure he is looking forward to a fresh challenge. I’m also sure that Bell’s wireline businesses are going to benefit greatly from his talent, enthusiasm and energy.

But at the same time, the wireline sector’s gain is the wireless industry’s loss. A Globe and Mail report on the appointment noted his agreement with Telus Mobility means he has to keep his mitts off wireless stuff.

That is perfectly understandable: What he knows about Telus Mobility could cripple the company if he was allowed to compete against them.

And I suspect that Telus is breathing easier knowing that he doesn’t start at Bell until after the all-important fourth quarter, in which the wireless industry makes the majority of its sales each year.

Regardless, the company will miss the guy, as will everyone else in the wireless industry, including his former competitors. So, congratulations George, and I’m sure that if you ever want back into wireless you will be most welcome.

The industry can always benefit from strong, clear speakers like you as one of its champions.

Trevor Marshall is a Toronto-based reporter, writer and observer of the Canadian wireless industry. He can be reached (on his mobile) at 416-878-7730 or