Telstra cuts the ribbon on innovation facility

Australian telecommunications heavyweight, Telstra, unveiled its new "Innovation Centre" in Sydney yesterday, which is designed to "accelerate the development of new and emerging technology solutions for customers".Telstra group managing director, Ted Pretty, said the centre has a two-fold purpose; to provide a development facility for small to medium businesses and a demonstration facility for customers to present innovations in real-life scenarios.

Australian telecommunications heavyweight, Telstra, unveiled its new "Innovation Centre" in Sydney yesterday, which is designed to "accelerate the development of new and emerging technology solutions for customers".

Telstra group managing director, Ted Pretty, said the centre has a two-fold purpose; to provide a development facility for small to medium businesses and a demonstration facility for customers to present innovations in real-life scenarios.

According to Telstra the facility is equipped with "innovation zones" to enable development teams to test out products in "everyday customer environments" such as the home, hotel room, retail shop, call centre, corporate workplace and SME (small to medium enterprise) office.

Pretty said that all the equipment located in the facility was contributed by partners and vendors, including Microsoft, Cisco, Siemens and Internet Security Systems.

"In most cases the vendors products are available on the market," he said, adding that "Telstra delivers it [the product] as a solution".

"We haven't seen good partnering on these things before. The whole idea of this is that we make go or no-go decisions quicker," he said. "It's more about getting the product to market."

Pretty said the development facilities can support up to six "project teams" working concurrently, supplying them with work space and high-speed internet connections. He adds that more than 15 projects are already booked in to use the centre.

The first "customer solution" to emerge from the centre, Pretty said, was a managed broadband service for small-to-medium enterprises called the "Telstra Business Network".

"The resources available at the centres have helped our people take Telstra Business Network through to commercial development from the concept, design, testing and trial phase, including training of channel partners, in just six months. The technology is now ready to be demonstrated and sold to Telstra customers," he said.

According to Pretty, Telstra will put AU$10-20 million a year into innovations in the facility, which he said "will be expensed, not capitalised".

Pretty said despite falling access line numbers in the telecommunications company's PSTN network, the company will continue to put money into fixed line innovation.

"We are still looking to focus on PSTN products, but yes there is fixed to mobile migration," he said. "We will continue to develop products that will enhance the use of PSTN."

Telstra will release a network-based personal address book early next year, Pretty said, called the "Telstra Personal Assistant".

Telstra also announced the future launch of its new GSM based 2.5G mobile data service using the i-Mode platform later this year, and its 3G WCDMA service, scheduled for 2005.

Pretty also said Telstra's 3G EVDO (Evolution Data Optimised) rollout -- worth AU$50 million and run via its CDMA network -- is expected later this year. The service will initially provide customers in major cities with wireless broadband at speeds of 300-500kbps, and will further roll-out to some regional centres.