is a question I have often pondered. A person in a high-level position makes a
comment and people stop and listen. The comments are used in newspaper articles
and on news broadcasts and as we read or listen to the words we nod and
acknowledge that this person really is knowledgeable and is worth listening to.
My question is this. Does someone who has brilliant thoughts make it to the
high position by virtue of their brilliance so we should stop and listen to
their comments or is it just the fact that the person is in an influential
position that suddenly their remarks are important? I don’t know the correct
answer but this week we were privileged to listen to the Telstra CEO attend a
Dubbo Chamber of Commerce breakfast as the guest speaker. There is no doubt
that everyone in the room stopped and listened.

it comes to the world of technology in Australia, there are not many that could
claim to be as important as the Telstra CEO. With a market capitalisation of
$63 billion, it sits at number six on the ASX200 with no other technology
companies even in the top fifty. There are more private shareholders in Telstra
than any other company in Australia and it would be hard to envisage a day
going by without every individual in Australia using some part of the Telstra

Penn started working for Telstra five years ago and was officially appointed as
CEO on 1 May 2015. With all of that introduction, what did Andy have to say
about the world of communications?

presented some initial information to explain the complexity of the network we
are dealing with. Most people don’t think too much about what happens on the
other side of their telephone or computer. We simply pick up our phone and dial
a number and expect to be speaking with someone a few seconds later. If it
doesn’t connect or work instantly we say “damned [insert carrier name]” and try
again. When you start to think about the complexity of what happens when we do
make that call, maybe we should actually jump for joy each time a successful call
is made rather than be annoyed when the occasional call is unsuccessful. That
is not so much trying to defend any carrier but to try and think about what an
incredibly complicated network we have.

1858 the first inter-colony telegraph links were built when Adelaide, Melbourne
and Sydney were linked together with Brisbane being connected three years
later. To emphasise the simplicity of the early networks, the Overland
Telegraph Line was made from a single strand of iron wire. That is a far cry
from a modern network that goes via a complicated array of wireless; wired and
fibre transmissions and is automatically routed at a number of points via a
variety of switches and routers.

point that Andy did make was that Telstra received heavy criticism earlier in
the year when a part of its mobile network stopped operating for a two-hour
period (it happened twice). The customer expectation has now been set so high
that every person expects to be connected at all times of the day and night and
we are immediately aware if our phone is not connected. Ten years ago if the
mobile network was down for half a day we may not have noticed but today the
down time is measured in seconds.

an overview of the actual network, Andy started to talk about broad business
concepts. Although he was talking specifically about the Telstra business, the
one thing that has been bleedingly obvious about the CEO Series is that
business concepts are business concepts with just the number of zeroes being
different. Andy spoke about investment in business infrastructure. He spoke of
billions of dollars of investment – about seven billion per annum at the moment.
Obviously businesses in the room are not about to invest billions but the point
was made that without ongoing investment, businesses are doomed. This
investment was Telstra’s point of difference and there is no doubt that Telstra
is regarded as having significantly better coverage than their competitors. For
the business owners sitting in the room, the point made by Andy was that
investment into your own business in infrastructure and in improving the
customer experience will deliver long-term outcomes for the business.

future of telecommunications, according to Andy, is in the increasing volume of
data consumption; mobile usage and digitisation of businesses including the
concept of digitalising the core of businesses to positively touch the lives of

quiet swishing sound you now hear is of me nodding and acknowledging the words
of Andy.

Mathew Dickerson

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