I’m a bit surprised that the downsizing of Telstra Research Laboratories hasn’t been given more space in the media. If a company as big as Telstra can’t do research then who can?

I
understand why the decision is being made. Telstra is moving away from
doing technology (that’s what the vendors are for) and concentrating on
products and services. As a consequence the need to manage technical
risk (the most valuable service that TRL provided) is declining. In the
future that risk will be borne by the vendors (for a price) who will be
managed using contracts and lawyers. The new regime is of the view that
Telstra should only use technology which has been proven in other,
bigger, markets. That is, wait to see what other bigger Telcos do and
copy what works for them. In this environment there seems little need
for innovation or research – just a small strategy unit to look at what
the other mobs do and then to make recommendations based upon their
experience.

All this may make commercial sense now, but its
effect is to send all our R&D to vendor labs in other countries.
This is part of a wider pattern (see also the closure of Ericsson’s
Australian R&D facilities in 2002, cuts to CRCs, CSIRO etc) and has
implications for our skills base and the form of our economy in five to ten
years’ time. For me, this is the most important story and it seems to
have been overlooked by the media.

Peter Fray

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