Telstra chief executive David Thodey speaks at the WestBusiness Leadership Matters breakfast this morning. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.
Telstra chief executive David Thodey speaks at the WestBusiness Leadership Matters breakfast this morning. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.

Telstra chief executive David Thodey says customer expectations of its mobile network "to work everywhere" far exceed what it can actually provide, despite huge advancements in technology.

Speaking this morning at a WestBusiness Leadership Matters event which centered on the need to celebrate innovation in Australia, Mr Thodey said West Australians needed to remain realistic about its mobile coverage.

"Your expectations of where you can use your mobile phone continues to far exceed what we can actually do," Mr Thodey said.

"You expect it to work everywhere, but technology is good, but it's not that good."

Telstra has gained market dominance in the mobile space over its rivals in WA, in part because of its ability to service regional areas.

Mr Thodey highlighted the public-private partnership with the State Government which resulted in the construction of more than 100 mobile towers in regional WA.

The wide-ranging speech also centered innovation in Australia, and how the country needed to become the smart country - not just the lucky country - through the development of a "culture of innovation" and the celebration of technological success.

Although he admitted Telstra was not the "poster child" for innovation, he said its moves into venture capital and funding of start-up companies was a sign of things to come. He said unless Australia embraced and supported innovators they would continue to leave the country.

"If you don't have a culture that celebrates innovation you're never going to get it," he said.

"But there is no policy framework … and there's very little money in terms of venture capital for new ideas. And why do all our smart minds from Australia go and live in Silicon Valley? Because they don't get money here in Australia."

Mr Thodey also touched on the "disruption" of business models through technology and highlighted a suggestion from the chief executives of LinkedIn, who said all chief executives should learn how to code (create computer programs) to learn how easy it was to disrupt a business model.

"There are people out there today, no matter which business you are in, who are thinking about disrupting your business model," he said.

"You may say well no that can't be me, I'm in social services or in health or education . . . all these models are being disrupted because of digitisation, because of social media. And you've either got to be a victim of that emerging technology, or understand how you are going to take advantage of that."

The West Australian

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