Mobile operators must avoid the over-supply of unlimited and free data plans to maintain the network investment necessary to cope with the upcoming “data tsunami”, fuelled by growing demand for next-generation services, such as connected cars and LTE broadcast, according to Mike Wright (pictured), Telstra, general manager, networks.

Speaking with Mobile World Live ahead of a panel session at Mobile World Congress, where he discussed the challenges of transitioning from a voice-centric network provider to a data-led one, Wright said operators need recurring data-generated revenue streams to keep pace with consumer demand.

Wright added: “Revenue underpins investment so we need to avoid unlimited and free data. Our foundation has been volume-based charging and providing our customers with value through options like shared data plans – packages that allow customers to share their monthly data allowance between their mobile and data devices.”

Telstra, the biggest mobile operator in Australia with over 16 million domestic retail mobile customers, invested $850 million on its network infrastructure in the last year, according to its 2014 annual report.

Wright said this level of investment had to be maintained if Telstra is to meet with customer demand, especially as consumers are increasingly asking for “value add services” – such as connected cars and LTE Broadcast – which require expanded network capacity.

“The challenge for carriers is staying ahead of the curve to meet customer demand, now and into the future as the data tsunami continues,” he said. “We have a strong focus on ongoing, strategic network investment and innovation to maintain – and grow – our customer base. We are competing not only on coverage – which in a country the size of Australia is a challenge – but on the quality of service.”

Other participants in the Thursday panel session, which was hosted in auditorium 5, included: Vasyl Latsanych, MTS CMO; Yogesh Malik, VimpelCom’s group CTO; and Graham Wilde, BWCS’ CEO.

By Ronan Shields