Telstra CEO David Thodey has called for a united voice in the telecommunications industry similar to that of the financial or mining sectors to tackle industry issues.
Speaking at the 2011 Communications Day Summit in Sydney this morning, Thodey said the telecommunications industry was at the heart of the Australian economy, yet there was no leadership within the industry looking to drive growth in the economy and provide better customer service.
"I'm using today to call for a stronger industry that is not led by any one group to speak as a united voice for the issues we face," he told the summit.
"We need to be at the forefront of trying to define what the new job opportunities [in the digital economy] will be."
Thodey said this should not be taken up by one individual company but said that exponential growth in customer expectations in the telecommunications industry, driven by smartphone technology and services such as streaming video, means the industry has to unify to try and meet these demands.
"Our industry does not have a great reputation for customer service [and] it's not just Telstra," he said. "The expectation from consumers has gone far beyond it ever was before."
"When you're dealing with half a million Australians every day ... it is difficult to try and give a consistent service," he added.
He said that companies within the mining and finance industries competed intensely, yet still had a single voice in Australia to speak on issues.
"I think that it's very important that the industry stands together," he said. "There are other industries that have done this far better than we have. We get more caught up in policy reform than the application of technology."
Thodey also took aim at the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, stating it was the role of business to improve customer services, not the regulator.
"What I am worried about is regulators step in to try and force us to deliver a better service. I find that shocking. It's not the role of regulators to deliver better service. That's business," he said.
On whether the industry would be able to unite while Telstra remains the owner of the legacy copper network, Thodey said it would not prevent industry unity.
Thodey welcomed the passage of the NBN Bills governing access and ownership of the NBN late last night.
"We've been very clear, we think it's in the best interests of the industry that the legislation be passed and we get on with life," he said.
Thodey said the company still had concerns about the possibility of NBN Co offering retail services, but said that it didn't have a problem with the government's last minute amendments to the legislation.
"I think the amendments are within the spirit of what was originally said," he said.