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Telstra launching London cybersecurity centre

Telstra CEO Andy Penn has announced the launch this year of a security operations centre in London, with the chief exec also discussing the USO, 5G backhaul, media services, IoT, and smart cities.

Telstra has announced that it will be launching a Security Operations Centre (SOC) in London, with CEO Andy Penn telling ZDNet that cybersecurity is becoming critical for all businesses.

Speaking during Telstra's first-half financial results call, Penn pointed towards the telco's growing capabilities in security.

"During the half, we enhanced our cybersecurity services with the opening of two new Security Operations Centres in Melbourne and Sydney," he said.

"We have plans to open a further Security Operations Centre this year in London. We have seen strong demand for our cybersecurity offerings in the context of a market where this is becoming an increasingly important issue for companies and boards."

Penn told ZDNet that the London SOC will have the "same dynamic" as its Melbourne and Sydney centres, which operate virtually as one room with interaction between all of the operators.

"It builds up the ecosystem of the security capability that we have," he told ZDNet.

"What it enables us to do is either directly for our customers, particularly the large enterprise customers, and/or in partnership with our customers, monitor all of their own in-house networks to make sure that we can identify the aberrant behaviour and the aberrant traffic, any malware, also effectively intervene quickly, and the security operations centres also have crisis management centres in conjunction with them, and it enables us to actually [interact] quickly with the customer, with the teams wherever they are in the world to really manage an incident if and when it occurs."

The London SOC will also house around the same amount of workers as its Sydney and Melbourne centres, he told ZDNet, which see teams of around 25 people from its 500-strong cybersecurity expert base monitoring 24/7.

In regards to launching additional SOCs across the globe, Penn said Telstra has not yet formally announced any plans.

"The only thing I would say is that undoubtedly cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly critical and important issue for large companies and small companies for that matter, for boards, for chairmen of companies, for CEOs," he told ZDNet.

"So we are only likely to see this demand increase, and of course it's a global risk, so whilst obviously much of our focus is on Australian companies and also in the Asia-Pacific, we also have to protect our customers wherever they may be doing business."

Also beyond standard fixed and mobile telco offerings is Telstra's Internet of Things (IoT) business, which Penn said is continuing to grow, pointing to the acquisitions of MTData and VMtech and the launch of its Cat-M1 IoT network during the half.

Telstra's IoT business is nearing AU$200 million in revenue, which he said makes Telstra "one of the most successful IoT businesses globally".

"Our smart cities solutions have also gathered momentum, with Telstra being awarded contracts from the City of Launceston and the City of Casey in Melbourne to solve modern city problems in parking management and environmental management," he said.

Telstra is also providing its smart cities solutions to Joondalup in Western Australia, and last month switched on its narrowband-IoT network.

In terms of its media offerings, while Telstra was forced to write down Ooyala this month, resulting in a AU$273 million non-cash impairment, it said the Flex part of the IPTV business remains strong.

The telco is looking to "drive synergies" between Ooyala and Telstra Broadcast Services (TBS) to strengthen its media solutions, according to Penn.

Unlike Optus, however, Penn said Telstra has no interest in moving into producing broadcast content, or even in buying more media content, as it can rely on Foxtel and Fox Sports.

"We will continue to look at ways in which we can differentiate our telecommunications offerings and services using media, but we're not seeking to become a media company. We're not about to go into production," he said.

"Will we buy more content directly? Possibly, but I think the important point ... about the Foxtel and Fox Sports relationship and the importance of the merger of these two companies is we don't necessarily need to buy content, because we can access the content from the best media content from the best media company in Australia."

The proposed merger would see News Corp own 65 percent of the merged company, while Telstra would own 35 percent.

Penn also used the financial results call to discuss the recent movement on the Universal Services Obligation (USO), which is set to be axed in 2020 in favour of a Universal Service Guarantee.

The years-long USO discussions saw rival mobile operator Vodafone Australia argue that the government is wasting taxpayer funds; signed by the Labor government back in 2012, the USO currently costs the government around AU$100 million per year, with AU$200 million funded via a levy on telcos.

"Others in the industry would like to remove the USO in order to avoid making their contribution. But we will not cut this essential lifeline for regional Australians prematurely without a genuine alternative to the current USO in place for everyone," Penn argued.

"The bottom line is at the moment there is not an alternative technology to basically ensure that all Australians remain connected through the USO, and until that is actually in place, then it's not fair, it's not reasonable, and we shouldn't actually put those Australians at risk by trying to push something through that may suit some people for their own reasons but it won't suit Australians."

Penn said Telstra will continue focusing on both updating and extending its mobile network, saying the telco will complete more than 1,600 macro mobile builds including new sites, upgraded sites, and sites under the federal government's mobile blackspots program during FY18.

Telstra is also focusing on increasing fibre backhaul to mobile towers in preparation for 5G services.

"It's not just about at the access layer, at the 5G boxes on the tower, and the spectrum; it's also actually in the backhaul," he explained.

"93 or 94 percent of our towers have fibre to them [and] we've upgraded our optical transmission network to provide full capacity, so it's critical that you've got the capacity and the speeds at the access layer, but you've also got to have it in the core as well, and we're making material investments."

Telstra earlier on Thursday announced attaining 2Gbps speeds across its 4G network in partnership with Ericsson by utilising 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO) and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Moderation (256 QAM), and aggregating 100MHz of spectrum across three frequency bands.

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