Q&A with Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton – Part I

On the eve (well sort of) of the twelfth installment of the ACOMM awards, Telecom Times sat down with Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton to review some significant ways in which the Australian telecoms industry has changed, and importantly, where it may be heading.

Thanks for your time, John.

Telecom Times   Which key trends are you’re seeing now that you feel may potentially hamper the industry going forward?

Stanton   If telcos cannot achieve digital transformation – i.e. the move away from increasingly commoditized basic carriage services and into value added content and lifestyle-oriented services, then there is a clear risk that so-called over-the-top players will increasingly capture the profitable revenue and the stronger relationships with customers.

Telecom Times   Conversely, can you name a tech or enterprise trend that could boost the telco sector in ways yet unforeseen?

Stanton   The Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity is immense and not even yet well-scoped, because so many of the applications and solutions that will drive growth are as yet unimagined.

IoT, fueled by the rollout of 5G networks and the coming explosion in nanosat ubiquity, will transform most industry sectors over the next decade, change lifestyles and workforces and turn traditional productivity scenarios on their heads.

Telcos have an opportunity to drive this change and reap the benefit – but again there is a risk of missing out as IoT-specific players make much of the early running. There is a lot of M&A activity ahead in that space!

Telecom Times    From your standpoint, how do you see the local introduction of 5G playing out? Do you see any specific pitfalls that might in theory be avoided?

Stanton   All the major players have a very strong focus on 5G, but I also see them being appropriately hard-headed about the transition from 4G, through 4.5G and onto stand-alone 5G.

They want a business case to justify the very significant costs of spectrum and the rollout of densified 5G networks. They want to wring the value out of their existing 4G investments and do as many ‘5G-like’ things as possible with those 4G assets, rather than just rushing headlong at the shiny new gear.

Telecom Times  Do you feel the much-hyped smart cities concept is something we in Australia only seem to pay lip service to? What could we do better in this space?

Stanton   I think it is happening now with smart towns. To their credit, many local councils across Australia are implementing practical smart solutions – smart management of bins and waste, water and lighting are good examples of solutions that can be implemented today and bring immediate cost and productivity benefits.

They might not be ‘sexy’, but they pave the way for more complex solutions. And I guess it is more manageable to implement a solution across a place the size of Townsville or Wollongong, as opposed to the massive challenge implementing a Sydney-wide system.

Big smart cities will come sooner than we think, but will benefit from lessons learned in smart towns and smaller smart cities.


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