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Optus on the path to modernising phone calls

The telco has developed applications that can transcribe voice calls in real-time and translate them from different languages into English.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

To keep up with the way customers are communicating through group messaging services such as Whatsapp and the new incoming emojis, Optus has set out to modernise phone calls. 

"We have the duty to continually improve phone calls. We do that just like any telco but increasing coverage, making phone calls available to more Australians in regional and metro, and improving the quality of our network. But in a digital world there's shifting customer expectations," said Optus senior innovation manager Guillaume Poulet-Mathis.  

"While we have been working on improving our network and ability to serve core phone calls, we have to look at ways we can enrich and better the customer experience."

Speaking at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development, and Integration Summit in Sydney this week, Poulet-Mathis revealed how the telco has developed a number of new call applications.

Read: Roughly a third of Americans think they have a 5G phone (they don't) (TechRepublic)

Three years into its voice innovation program, one of those applications that have been developed is Voice Genius, which can transcribe phone calls in real-time, and be integrated into different internal IT systems, such as a web service to help customer service agents better serve customers. 

"What we did was lift the capability we created for the network and put it into our contact centre systems, turned on transcription, and this eases and accelerates the ability for agents to take notes," Poulet-Mathis said.

Within the application, Optus has also developed Optus Voice Translate, a feature that allows phone calls to happen between English and non-English speakers. Poulet-Mathis said a product such as Voice Translate is "lifting communication barriers" that have long existed. 

Optus' voice innovation program is being deployed via Red Hat Openshift Container platform, which Poulet-Mathis said would allow Optus' engineers of today and the future to focus on building more applications. 

"What we wanted to do was make it possible for engineers -- even after us -- to build new voice applications and to do that we needed to extract the network, which is very complex … we did that in a cloud native environment," he said.

"Within that cloud native environment we needed an orchestrator, which for us created a chance to truly focus on building applications. Where we want to be focusing on is applications; we want at least 80% of our work focused on that." 

Other areas the telco has been recently focusing on is 5G. It announced in May that 50 sites across Sydney and Victoria would receive 5G, via Ericsson kit. 

Optus plans to have 1,200 5G mobile sites live by March 2020 across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia. 

For the full 2019 fiscal year, Optus collected AU$9 billion in operating revenue, nearly a 6% increase year on year.

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