Telecom sector should be viable to attract innovation, says Telstra CEO

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on November 19, 2019

Andrew Penn, CEO, Telstra

Australian firm won’t make investments in India: Andrew Penn

Australia’s largest telecom player, Telstra, has ruled out making investments in India stating that the country already had a significant number of players.

Andrew Penn, CEO of Telstra, told BusinessLine that India has a very mature market. “There are significant players and we wouldn’t want to be an investor to build a network in India. We do serve India through submarine cable network for international traffic and also service some enterprise customers,” he said.

He added that the telecom sector needs to be healthy, vibrant and economically successful, especially in countries where the spectrum pricing is not viable.

He pointed out that the governments should see to it that the telecom sector is a viable business because it needs to attract innovation, investments and skills. “If an industry cannot generate a reasonable return of capital, the investment is not going to come to the industry.

“I would encourage policy-makers, the government, politicians and the regulators to look at the telecom industry through the lens of making it economically viable, and generate employment.”

Penn said that the return of investment in capital has been going down in industries across Australia, from about 12 per cent to 6-7 per cent, over the past five years.

“It is not a good situation to be in. If you cannot attract capital, the network does not get investments. Australia is lucky that we have got the best mobile network in the world. But for that to continue, we need to attract investments all the time.”

Telstra is among the first three telecom companies globally to launch 5G.

Innovation centre

Penn was in Bengaluru to visit Telstra’s latest innovation and capability centre based out the city. The centre is part of Telstra’s strategy to invest in key strategic capabilities in critical areas such as machine- learning, automation, software engineering and innovation to enhance the company’s competitive advantages.

He said there are about 500 people who work out of the centre which will be scaled to about 2,000 in another couple of years.

NT Arun Kumar, Country Managing Director and Innovation Executive, Telstra, said several start-ups that work in collaboration with the centre use technology such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning to repurpose some of the solutions being built here.

He said the centre, which is the company’s largest outside Australia, is at the core of solving live customer problems.

“For example, we recently worked on how we can move equipment that we deliver, to a self-installed autonomous mode. What used to be labour-intensive effort in activating a customer is now being software-defined, and the centre is playing a role in defining that software.”

Published on November 20, 2019

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