Telstra head of networks stepping down

Telstra's head of networks Mike Wright has announced that he will be stepping down.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra's group managing director of networks Mike Wright has announced that he will be stepping down from his position at the end of September after 40 years at the telecommunications company.

"Mike is one of the most widely respected network engineering leaders in the world," Telstra COO Robyn Denholm said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "He has made a huge contribution over many years and he will leave an impressive legacy in Telstra's world class wireless and fixed networks, which keep millions of Australian consumers and businesses connected every day.

"Under Mike's guidance, Telstra has been a leader in deploying new network technologies. By the end of September when Mike will be stepping down for a well-earned break, we will be nearing completion of the key elements of our Networks for the Future program, and Telstra will be well on the way to deploying 5G."

Wright, who joined Telstra as a university graduate in 1980, said the telco is "on the cusp of great success in bringing the next generation of networks to Telstra's customers".

The announcement follows Telstra last month revealing that it would be axing 8,000 jobs amid a restructure program labelled Telstra2022, along with a reduction of "2-4 layers of management", with 25 percent of executive and middle management roles being removed.

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According to CEO Andy Penn, the jobs are being removed due to the need for more simplified and digitised processes.

"Telstra's strategy is premised on benefits to customers of market-leading, simplified, and digitised products and services for all Australians. This in turn will facilitate a significant simplification in the business, and therefore further cost reductions. This simplification is crucial to Telstra's competitiveness, and we expect it to lead to a 30 percent reduction in our labour costs," Penn said.

"It will have an impact on jobs with Telstra, and whilst we do expect to create up to 1,500 new roles within the company, overall we expect a net reduction of 8,000 jobs over the next three years, including Telstra employees and contractors.

"I'm acutely conscious of the impact that the jobs reduction has on our people, and on the broader society. I'm also acutely conscious of the uncertainty that this announcement creates for our people, but I need to be upfront and I need to be transparent about the scale of change that is needed at Telstra."

According to group executive of Human Resources Alex Badenoch, the 1,500 roles being created will largely be across software engineering and cybersecurity.

To deal with the restructure, the telco will be investing AU$50 million on two programs: The first to provide "enhanced outplacement support" for those leaving; the second for a reskilling program for those employees moving into new roles.

Restructuring costs are expected to reach AU$600 million for FY19, with an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) guidance of between AU$8.7 billion and AU$9.4 billion by then.

Its productivity program will be increased by an additional AU$1 billion to reach AU$2.5 billion by 2022, with the telco saying it still remains on track to "lead and win in 5G" mobile connectivity.

Telstra's four-pillar strategy for the next three years is aimed at achieving six goals, according to Penn: To improve customer experiences; simplify its products, business, and operating model; extend its "network superiority and 5G leadership"; achieve global high performance in employee engagement; achieve a net cost productivity of AU$2.5 billion by FY22; and attain a post-National Broadband Network (NBN) return on invested capital of 10 percent.

The news of Wright's departure also follows the telco's multiple network outages this year, with wholesale mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers impacted across 3G and 4G services as a result of a "vendor platform issue" in June; a fibre cable cut earlier that month, which affected wholesale mobile and fixed-line services and several thousand broadband and ADSL services; a mobile outage that was caused by a software fault, which it said "triggered multiple elements across the network to fail", in May; Telstra dropping Triple Zero call services as a result of fibre damage near Orange, New South Wales, also in May; and a 4G voice network outage following "technical changes made ahead of upgrades to mobile traffic control equipment in Telstra's Exhibition Street exchange in Melbourne".

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