We spend a lot of time talking about the technology that enables the future, the software and network devices and sensors. It’s important, though, to remember the people behind it.

They create the technology that defines how we live, work and play.

Today, we’re honoring 4 of the innovators who helped create and commercialize that technology: Ralph de la Vega, Joel S. Engel, Richard H. Frenkiel and Philip T. Porter.

These 4 AT&T employees and alumni are giants in their field. Last night, they became part of the Wireless History Foundation’s (WHF)Hall of Fame. It’s a huge honor and they deserve every bit of it.

Take a look at what the WHF had to say about their accomplishments.

Ralph de la Vega

In his role as President and CEO of AT&T Mobility, Ralph led the company’s expansion as one of the world’s leading providers of smartphone and mobile Internet services and expanded into new growth areas such as connected cars, and home security and automation. He has been widely acknowledged for his civic involvement as well as for his leadership by academic institutions and non-profit organizations. He currently serves as Vice Chairman of AT&T Inc. and CEO of Business Solutions & International.”

Joel S. EngelRichard (Dick) H. Frenkiel, and Philip T. Porter (posthumously)

“[F]or their joint contributions to the conception of the cellular concept and design. As AT&T Bell Laboratories researchers in the 1960s and 70s, this trio led the effort to expand capacity of mobile radio spectrum through their design of cellular telecommunications networks. Under their leadership and expertise, the architecture and technical parameters were developed into a detailed proposal for submission to the FCC, leading to the establishment of the first nationwide cellular system standards.”

Without their work, our world would be a lot different.

Joel, Dick and Phil, in particular, got started in an era when wired phones were the basis for “personal communications.” Personal computers, smart phones, and the internet had yet to change the world.

That AT&T team helped to create the cellular revolution.

The AT&T “AMPS” (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) system was the first cellular system in the world. It became the standard for mobile communications in the 1980s. It was the first step toward the ubiquitous worldwide connectivity for communications, information and entertainment we enjoy today.

The WHF is recognizing Joel, Dick and Phil for their contributions to the creation of that first system.

The mission for the researchers, engineers, and software developers at AT&T Labs today is no different.

These men and women are the closest thing we have to time travelers. They peer into the future and start building what they see there. As Ralph says, they’re “Getting to the future first.”

But it doesn’t stop with advanced wireless networks. They’re also exploring areas like software-centric networking, machine learning and artificial intelligence, data security, image recognition and data analytics, and more.

Along with our prototype experts at AT&T Foundry, AT&T Labs is creating the next generation of technology that eventually we won’t be able to live without.

Congrats to these Hall of Famers. I look forward to welcoming many more.

Richard (Dick) H. Frenkiel with his Award

Andre Fuetsch
Andre Fuetsch President – AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer