Photo of awardee

William A. Payne III

Head of Advanced Technologies,
CTO-North America,
Nokia Siemens Networks
BSEE ’80

For his outstanding contributions and leadership in the wireless communications industry, including first-generation LTE.

A worldwide telecommunications innovator, William Payne wishes he could “go back and have a conversation with my dad.”

During Payne’s sophomore year at Purdue, his father died. “My father inspires me. He graduated with a BA in graphic arts from Hampton University. He couldn’t find a job in a largely white field. He took a job at the Chicago post office, becoming superintendent of parcel post deliveries downtown.”

His mother also attended Hampton, inspiring him to achieve balance in life, love of family, dedication and perseverance in achieving goals. Also inspirational was his great uncle, Byron Fauntleroy — who in 1925 was one of the first African-Americans to graduate with a BSEE degree from Purdue.

In high school, Payne was chosen for the Purdue Minority Introduction To Engineering (MITE) program. “From that program, I made two decisions: to become an electrical engineer and apply at Purdue. Purdue taught me how to problem-solve, how to address and attack problems.”

Sophomore year, Payne won the Bell Labs engineering scholarship, covering tuition, room and board, fees, and books. His father’s passing would have made it difficult financially. “I won it in November, he passed the following January. He got to see me win the scholarship.”

In graduate school, Payne discovered he was better prepared than classmates from other schools.

“I was prepared for foundational classwork in electrical engineering — how to address problems. I think that’s part of the Purdue culture.”

Achieving goals is a Payne hallmark. “I’ve been a technical leader in the development of several areas within telecommunications, including optical switching, video on demand/cable data services, and in broadband wireless.”

Payne became CTO when Nokia Siemens acquired Motorola in 2011, combining two top cellular network technology companies that accounted for about half of the commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) deals worldwide. Payne now splits time between Chicago, East and South Asia, and Europe.

At Motorola, Payne defined the future of wireless networking by helping deliver first-generation LTE implementation and establishing the strategic direction for commercial development. Payne humbly recognizes his contributions: “It’s exciting having been one of the leaders in the definition of cable data.

“Most people think about ‘the phone.’ There’s something on the other end of it, a network it’s connecting to. That’s where I’ve made my career. It has been exciting. My kids like it. They don’t understand everything, but they appreciate that I was talking about LTE before the public knew about it.”

Payne cannot hide his enthusiasm for the future of telecommunications. “We’re on the path to being able to deliver a gigabyte of information per day, per user in the year 2020.”

He says the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus award is “such a great honor to receive from my former school. I think about all the Purdue graduates. I think I’m deserving but there are certainly classmates who are deserving, as well. I am very humbly honored to be given this recognition.”

Career Highlights

2011-present Head of Advanced Technologies, CTO-North America,
Nokia Siemens Networks
2010-11 Motorola Solutions Inc., CTO and VP, Networks Business
2004-10 Motorola, VP, Wireless Broadband Systems and Technologies, Networks Business
1998-2004 Motorola, Senior Director, Advanced Wireless Engineering, Networks Business
1996-98 Motorola, Director, Cable Data Systems Integration, Multimedia Business Group
1989-95 AT&T Network Systems, Technical Manager, Broadband and Cable Data Systems
1986 PhD EE, Illinois Institute of Technology
1985-89 AT&T Bell Laboratories, Technical Manager for Optical Switching
1981 MSEE, Georgia Institute of Technology
1980-85 AT&T Bell Laboratories, Member of the Technical Staff
1980 BSEE, Purdue University