MORRISVILLE,Frank Plastina, a longtime executive with Nortel Networks, is taking over as the chief executive officer of telecom gear manufacturer Tekelec.

Plastina, who lives in Cary, will join Tekelec as of Feb. 6. He replaces William Everett, the acting CEO. Everett is Tekelec’s chief financial officer. He had taken over from former CEO Fred Lax who resigned in January rather than move from California when Tekelec relocated its headquarters to Cary.

“Tekelec has a tremendous reputation within the industry…one that I learned was fully earned when I visited customers as a competitor,” Plastina said in a statement. “Its technological innovation, commitment to quality and customer focus resonate very strongly with me.

“Tekelec has assembled an impressive set of assets during the last few years of rapid growth,” he added. “I’m eager to work with the tremendously talented Tekelec team. The combination of signaling leadership, next-gen switching capabilities and software innovation provides a unique and powerful basis for Tekelec’s solutions leadership in the world of multi-media networking. I look forward to maximizing the value of that portfolio for the benefit of customers and shareholders alike.”

Tekelec (Nasdaq: TKLC) develops hardware and software for fixed, wireless and packet-based networks.

“Tekelec’s board of directors made a conscious decision to spend whatever time it took to find the person we felt was best qualified to lead the company forward,” said Jean-Claude Asscher, chairman of the board. “We think that we have done just that and feel very fortunate to be able to bring Frank’s talents to Tekelec.”

Plastina’s most recent position was as an executive in residence at Warburg Pincus LLC, a private equity firm. He also served as CEO of Proxim Corporation, a Wi-Fi wireless firm that was a Warburg Pincus portfolio company.

While at Nortel, Plastina led Nortel’s wireless and carrier business unit as well as its metro and enterprise networks groups.