Telstra’s 5G navigator Kim Krogh Andersen cool under fire


“The business has been on crisis operations mode pretty much since I started and that’s a good accelerator when it comes to learning what you need to know in a business. “

Andersen will have his work cut out for him, given Telstra’s earnings trajectory is starting to go south, dragged down by the gravity of the National Broadband Network and a subdued mobile market. Telstra simply doesn’t make enough as a reseller of NBN services to justify the size of its business and it is now banking on 5G to reassert its lead in the mobile market.

Anderson has joined the business at a critical juncture. Telstra’s T22 strategic overhaul is now past the halfway mark, and the 5G technology he is spearheading is at the centre of its future aspirations.

“To be honest, a lot of the conversations I had with Andy (Penn) was about T22 and landing in the middle of that process, but when I look at the changes that are happening they are the right thing to do.”

Product development and innovation haven’t been the strongest points for telcos

Kim Krogh Andersen

“Things like digitisation, ensuring the back-end technology works with the customer-facing features, cleaning up the legacy, this is all part of what I was working on at Telenor, so I liked the direction of T22 strategy.”

He adds that T22, if successful, could potentially become the blueprint of sorts for the global telecom industry.

“Telstra is really the first telco to try and tie together the capabilities of a traditional telco with software and cloud to create new products for customers.”

“Product development and innovation haven’t been the strongest points for telcos,” he says.

As telcos globally look to diversify from being mere providers of connectivity to developers of solutions, the one thing Telstra’s global peers haven’t had to contend with is the NBN. The disruption wreaked by the $51 billion project on the Australian telecoms industry has forced Telstra hand and Andersen says the traditional telco model is under siege on multiple fronts.

“Telstra has been forced to become disruptive because of the NBN, where you have to build capabilities on top of your network, but in other parts of the world, telcos have been disrupted by over-the-top (OTT) services, so this differentiation is something every telco is working on.”

For Telstra and its local rivals, 5G is the source of the desired differentiation and while there’s plenty of money flowing into infrastructure and spectrum there’s so far little to show in the way of products and applications.

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But that may be about to change, now that Telstra has flagged its intentions to offer a 5G fixed wireless broadband service to customers before the end of a year. Fixed wireless services deliver an internet signal into a home via radio waves rather than using cables or wires. In Telstra’s case the technology would allow it to save money by bypassing the NBN altogether and not pay any wholesale charges.

“Fixed wireless access is an obvious use case, it’s being used in other parts of the world and I think it’s something we need to have in our portfolio.”

Andersen is also confident that as the lines between fixed and mobile broadband services continue to blur, 5G can be used to hive out premium services.

“5G is by design a service-defined network, so once the core network is there you can carve out a slice of it and develop a particular experience for a specific application. We are already doing this.”

For now, a bespoke 5G service has been offered by Telstra to gamers in the eSports arena and it’s likely to make a bigger splash in the enterprise space over the 12 months, as Telstra starts spruiking automation and Internet of Things offerings to its business customers.

However, Andersen admits that it will take some time before the full potential of 5G is made visible to the general public. Driverless cars, flocks of AI drones and the wholesale intrusion of sensors will have to wait for now.

Instead, Andersen says Telstra’s growing 5G footprint will soon translate to a more robust and reliable network performance.

“Connectivity has always been important but now its also about being reliable, the use cases may not be fully fledged right now but we need to start the 5G journey now and we need to start training ourselves to be ready to build the solutions for our customers.”

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