CIO50 2021 #26-50 Rob James, TPG Telecom
In July 2020, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and TPG merged to create TPG Telecom Ltd, bringing together two highly complementary businesses.
The combination of TPG’s fixed network assets and a leading mobile network from Vodafone presented some unique convergence opportunities to provide customers with alternative internet technologies to the NBN at a competitive price.
TPG Telecom has since introduced a range of wireless internet alternatives to the NBN based on its 4G and 5G networks. Group Chief Digital and Information Officer, Rob James led the technology delivery component, working with the commercial and network teams to release these products to the market across its Vodafone, TPG, iiNet and Internode brands during 2021.
“5G technology is enabling us to deliver much faster speeds than similarly priced NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans, while our 4G product is the best value home internet service available in the market.” says James.
This project required the collaboration of analytics teams to map mobile network capacity and commercial teams to source modems and test their suitability on the Vodafone mobile network, in the midst of the global COVID pandemic. Creating a product and customer journey that simplifies the internet experience for customers was up to the digital and IT teams under James’ leadership.
This task was challenged by the pandemic and the need to make this product digitally native and support touchless delivery and configuration.
“The COVID pandemic made it even more important to get our 4G and 5G home internet products into the market as soon as possible to help our customers stay connected with family and friends and be able to work remotely,” says James.
“Our customers have different speed, usage and budget requirements for their home internet service, and we’re giving them choice with our 4G and 5G products.”
The 4G product was launched earlier this year to huge demand and a tripling of TPG Telecom’s customer base within the first few months. The 5G product followed in the second half of this year and is also proving popular.
“From here the plan is to improve the customer experience even further in the sign-up and provisioning process and also to provide more tools to help customers in their product decisions,” says James.
“Already on the iiNet brand, customers are given options based on their location rather than having to explicitly select a specific wireless internet product.”
James says as 5G penetration increases across the country, it will deliver new customer experiences and connected household use cases that are yet to be imagined. Earlier this year, TPG Telecom opened an Innovation Lab at Glebe in Sydney to drive product and technology innovation, including network virtualisation and emerging 5G applications.
Creating the right roles
James says that the most challenging thing in business, as it can be quite subjective, is getting people in the right roles, particularly at the leadership level.
“I am firm believer in the concept of hiring great people to be your leaders, and at the same time, making sure that once you have great people, that you put them in the right roles and if the roles don’t exist, you create the right roles for each individual,” he says.
“Nowadays, I am very focused on getting this right and am always meeting and connecting with people in the industry and looking for opportunities to work with them. Additionally, I keep a keen eye on people as their careers grow and sometimes work with them again in more senior capacities.”
Finally, James says he is always mindful to create structures that will support the overall vision of the business and its goals, how to best work with all stakeholders and make sure that the technology vision is not undermined or compromised.
“The structure also helps enforce this. I don’t think there is a perfect model and it’s important to continually improve on what works and doesn’t work,” he says.