Trujillo on TV: Sol Trujillo interviewed on TV
by GTB editor Alan Burkitt-Gray. Watch the interview on www.globaltelecomsbusiness.com
The big-bang switch-on of Telstra's award-winning 3G
network, called Next G, was probably the last sudden
technological changeover the company will make. In future, says
CEO Sol Trujillo, it will be continuous, unstopping
He's already half-way through the initial five-year
transformation programme, which has seen the implementation of
Next G, as Telstra calls its 3G network, and the development of
an IP-based fixed network. Now he's looking 10 to 15 years
beyond the end of those five years.
And there will be a continuous evolution from 3G through to
3.5G to 4G, he says. No more big bangs — but a
remarkable improvement in service.
The groundwork has already been done, says Trujillo. "The real
purpose of the five-year transformation was to enable the
10-15-year strategy to be played out. We've changed the game
with our Next G network. We don't call it 3G, we call it Next
G." That is intended to imply that it will move almost
seamlessly through 3.5G to 4G. "The infrastructure choices, the
spectrum choices, the technology choices, the supplier choices
were all taken with that in mind."
At the same time — see www.globaltelecomsbusiness.com/awards08
— there's the news that Telstra and its equipment
supplier, Ericsson, won one of this year's GTB Innovation
Awards for the Next G project. If Telstra really is committed
to Ericsson through all this continuous upgrading that Trujillo
is promising, there will be celebrations in Stockholm.
So, to confirm, the Next G choices were made to take Telstra
through to the LTE world? "Correct. And the reason is that I've
been around too long to believe that something is just going to
Look at WiMax, he says. "People have been talking about it for
three years. Has it happened? The answer is no." Why? "Because
it takes time to build out an ecosystem. We learned that with
3G. We talked about 3G before 3G became real."
At Telstra, "we already have the world's fastest, biggest
network", he says. "It covers two million square kilometres and
it is running at 14.4 megabits a second peak speed. That's the
network: we're going to be taking it to 21 megabits a second by
the end of this year."
And by the end of 2009 "we'll be taking it to 42 megabits a
second", he adds. "We're going to keep that ball going forward,
and that momentum going forward, as we move towards 4G
— what people call 4G, or LTE, whatever the acronym
LTE is the abbreviation preferred by the GSM industry for the
"long-term evolution" towards what might otherwise be regarded
as 4G — a term many in the industry have been wary of
using, for fear of inciting politicians to look for more
LTE or 4G means "super high-speeds", he says. "In the mean time
we can serve our customer with great speeds, with great
applications, and move them towards that as opposed to
pretending that we're going to go from low speeds to
It will be, he says, "a very high speed evolutionary
process, because I believe in taking customers with us as
opposed to hoping that they will be there when we get there".
So the Next G network has been built with this evolutionary
capability, he says: "and we're going to turbo-charge
But does that 42 megabit speed remove the need for optical
fibre into people's homes or offices?
"I believe we have two phenomena happening simultaneously," he
says. "One is that all of us love being untethered. We love
being wireless. If I can make it real time, that's all the
better. When you get to 14.4 megabits, 21, 42, you can be real
time. You push the button and, guess what, stuff
But does that mean that people no longer need broadband in
their home or business? "Absolutely not, and here's why: at the
same time we're all becoming very attached to the next wave of
high definition, high resolution, 3D, haptics, holography
— all these things that are now starting to
That means "we're about to see the renaissance of the
fixed-line business", says Trujillo. He sometimes jokes, he
says, that the US is the Third World in terms of wireless
services — and he's American, and a former CEO of a
big US telco, so he can say that.
Bandwidth for 3D
"But at the same time it's the first world of fixed line."
The penetration rates for high-definition services show that
higher bandwidths will be essential. A couple of HDTV channels,
another being recorded, and some high-speed internet, and then
add 3D. It's coming from studios such as Dreamworks. The result
will be that "you'll need more bandwidth".
And in the business world, Cisco's TelePresence and similar
high-definition systems from HP and Polycom, show that higher
bandwidths will become essential. "You will need 40-45 megabits
for TelePresence, but it gives you that richness of
Taken together, there will be "an enhanced social experience"
in entertainment, in business "and the way we socially
interact", he explains. "That all requires bandwidth."
And then families will drive bandwidth still further. He
reminisces about "the old days" when a family would share three
or six megabits — though that's still a dream for some
— will not last much longer.
"Simultaneous use in the home, just like in a business,
requires more bandwidth. I believe the renaissance of the fixed
line is coming."
So how is the Next G network performing? Trujillo,
understandably, is an enthusiast. After it had been switched on
and was running successfully the company closed down its old
CDMA mobile network — overnight, though a couple of
months later than it originally planned. Rural politicians had
lobbied hard to keep to on.
"Most of our customers had already been switched over, and the
last few were phones that people had in drawers, for security,"
says Trujillo. But the changeover "went very well".
Was there anybody who couldn't get 3G, who had been able to
rely on CDMA? "No, he says. "Next G provides more coverage than
CDMA, and it provides more services. CDMA was basically
— and I say basically — a voice service. Now
you can take data, you can get on the internet, you can do all
kinds of things that you couldn't do with the old CDMA network.
And it runs at high speed."
Next G uses the 850 megahertz spectrum, much lower than the
frequency bands normally used for 3G, and that gives it much
"The 850 spectrum has been great, because you can have fewer
cellsites than with 2100 or 1900, the other spectrum bands, and
the propagation characteristics are just better."
Are there lessons for other operators in how Telstra managed
that transformation, by turning on Next G quickly, to provide
nationwide coverage, and then — not long after
— turning off the CDMA network equally quickly?
"I guess the lessons learned are to make bets. You have to take
some risks and you have to be decisive about it. And you have
to put full effort on doing it, because not only are there
technology choices, not only are there investment choices, not
only are there product and services choices, but there are the
whole customer experience and the politics of
When analogue converted to digital, "that was a big emotional
moment and political moment in many countries around the
world". How it was done then was often politicised, he says.
"Some went well and some didn't go so well. Planning the
details, the execution is always important. The good news is
that feedback always helps."
Telstra was glad to get feedback about handsets, "that some
worked better than others and we put in place a blue-chip
certification programme so that if you are really out in
faraway places, here are the handsets that work better".
Telstra told "every manufacturer what the specs were" and "they
could work to them, or not". Telstra sells standard certified
handsets, "but you have to take it one step further when you're
serving people in remote locations".
And you have to learn to live with those rural politicians,