Sol Trujillo laid out his grand vision for Telstra last week, saying he wanted the company to become a world leader in the telecommunications industry. Having given many of its contemporaries a two-year head start in the next generation network stakes, it has a long road to travel if it is to achieve that aim.
The telco has copped a lot of flack from a variety of sources in recent times, most notably the press and politicians, for pursuing an aggressive and eclectic acquisition strategy rather than spending its money on sorting out infrastructure issues. Plans to lay off 12,000 workers are not going to make it many new friends.
But regardless of its relative position in global telecommunications and employment policies, the $10 billion of infrastructure spending Telstra has earmarked for the next five years has simply got to be good news for the Australian economy.
Upon completion, consumers and businesses will gain access to a raft of new bandwidth-intensive services that are vastly more reliable than many of today's attempts at leading edge technology implementations. And the nation's army of developers, integrators and boutique service providers should also be in a better position to serve their customers.
But there is a grey cloud looming in the shape of Telstra's predictable reluctance to play nicely with the rest of the industry. Having announced it was prepared to shell out for a shiny new network, it has already warned it will take its ball home unless it gets assurances from the Government that competitors will not be granted access to the new infrastructure. So just when the naive among us thought we might be headed in the right direction, and could soon wave goodbye and good riddance to current competitive imbalances, it looks like Telstra wants to put a fresh barricade up. While it is to be hoped that the Government will oppose this position and insist the network is opened up for the greater good, protracted wrangling looks a cast iron certainty.
In an ideal world, the fully converged IP network should be a major fillip for the myriad of innovative integrators and service providers in the communications and IT industries. But several channel players contacted by ARN last week were in an unusually reticent mood, refusing to offer an opinion on what the announcement would mean for the channel until they knew more details of Telstra's plans. Those who would talk offered broad support for the announcement. After all, a $10 billion spend on infrastructure can only be beneficial for the industry as a whole. But it will be some time yet before any indication emerges of how it will affect different businesses plying their trade in the communications and IT industries.
There can be no doubt that we will see some very significant changes in the next few years, with Telstra's next generation network likely to play a big role. It will be those companies that quickly interpret how and react accordingly that will make the most of the undoubted opportunities that are going to present themselves. Any that refuse to embrace the changes will be on the fast track to extinction.
Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at email@example.com