LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI: David Thodey, former CEO and now a board member of Telstra, called for a “new leadership paradigm” in the mobile industry, covering its relationship with government, its attitude to innovation and how it deals with customers.
Speaking in this morning’s keynote, Thodey said the new stance was necessary for the industry to realise the opportunities that lie in the future.
The industry has a lot going for it. “Never was there a time when demand has been higher.” The benefits delivered by the industry are “amazing”, he added. It contributes four to five per cent of global GDP. “That is a significant industry”.
But, he emphasised, the industry needs to move to “a new stage”, highlighting three areas. Firstly, its collaboration with government and regulators. “We need a shared vision to understand the industry’s impact”. Access to sufficient spectrum for 5G is obviously a major issue, which is why the forthcoming ITU meeting in Geneva is so important, he added.
The Telstra exec also highlighted a need for “common standards for the open network” but with a recognition operators are investing capital and need returns, a reference to net neutrality. Relatedly, he mentioned the need for consistent, light-touch regulation. There should also be an agenda around digital inclusion based on network coverage, that could embrace new public-private partnerships.
The second thrust of Thodey’s argument was about innovation. “We must not stand still,” he warned. “We must be a leader and be collaborative.” He highlighted particular areas of technology but the critical point is the industry must lead, not follow. “SDN, IoT and 5G are all critical but we need to lead. We cannot take what is given to us.” Operators have to become part of the innovation culture and celebrate entrepreneurship.
The final strand to this new approach to leadership is the users. “We must never, ever forget about customer service. Put them at the very centre of what we do.” The industry must be known as the best for looking after its customers, he said. He acknowledged that it’s not easy now the industry works within complex series of relationships, not all of which it controls. But, he maintained, we must have “transparency and trust”.