Tech change is getting faster and faster, and it can be hard to keep up. This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, however, gave us a bird’s eye view of what’s coming next, and what we should be looking out for.

Pre-pandemic, the telco industry from around the world would gather in Barcelona annually for Mobile World Congress, to talk about the state of the industry and show off the latest tech. This year marked the first MWC back since the pandemic.

The great leap forward

The pandemic was a pressure cooker for tech innovation, giving us 10 years of tech advances in just two as people went online in droves for more and more.

Now that we have collectively achieved the next 10 years of tech in the last two, everyone is asking: what comes next?

Against this backdrop, our CEO, Andy Penn spoke about the things that will drive change for the next few years in tech as we get on with the new normal.

Enter the metaverse

Of course, we can’t talk about tech trends without talking about the virtual elephant in the virtual room: the metaverse.

Many players in the technology sector are busy painting visions of a new artificial and virtual reality world, a “metaverse” that is both broader and experientially deeper than any we have seen before.

It may have a lot of buzz, but Andy shared that it’s still a bit of a pipe dream. “The various competing visions around this virtual world will take years to come to fruition and it will depend on hardware not yet available,” he said, adding:

“One thing common to all of them is their success rests on the availability of high-quality, low-latency connectivity.”

Thankfully, we’re already well progressed on this front. Telstra has Australia’s largest and fastest 5G network, and a plan to upgrade our national fibre network to boot. That fibre upgrade will add 20,000km new route kilometres, increasing the transmission rates by over six times today’s speeds.

Translation: it’s fast. Really fast. Fast enough to drive Australia into the next three decades of connectivity and into a top spot on the world stage.

Andy adds on the metaverse that new tech isn’t enough to deliver on its promise. “We need to build new skills and capabilities to sit alongside this network advantage.”

We are making other bets through our proposed joint venture with Quantium, Australia’s and one of the world’s leading AI companies and our investment in Silicon Quantum Computing which is one of the most promising leaders in the advances it is making towards real commercial opportunities in quantum computing.

Bring in the bots

While the metaverse is about building a virtual world, automation and robots are going to revolutionise the physical world at the same time, according to Telstra CEO Andy Penn.

“There is not a single industry that is not planning for how it can improve its business outlook with the help of automation and robotics,” he adds.

Indeed, we already are too, as the long-promised (but slow-to-arrive) world of IoT is at last at scale.

Andy shared a sneak peek of our new Telstra Energy business, and how we’re building capability that allows us to move fast with automation.

The ink is only just drying on a deal with smart energy meter provider, Intellihub, which will see us put up to 4.1 million IoT SIMs into their meters.

Connected technologies like these are helping organisations use connected technology to drive positive customer experiences and help remotely monitor their network, equipment and assets, without significant human intervention.

High-speed, low orbit

We’ve been building cable connections and mobile towers all over this great nation, but at the same time we have been watching the rapid improvement of satellite technology.

Andy shared his thoughts at MWC on how likely these technologies were to replace traditional networking. Will 5G fixed wireless replace fixed broadband? Will Low Earth Orbit satellites (LEOsats) replace geo-stationary satellites (GEOsats)? Will fibre replace cable? Andy said that his answer on this has been the same for a while now: “when we look to the future and the demand for low latency bandwidth and compute work loads, we need all of these technologies.”

“We already have a great network, and have just announced a major 16-year deal with Viasat to build and operate the ground infrastructure for the Asia Pacific series 3 next generation geostationary system they will be launching to make it even better.”

“We will also be working with OneWeb to explore its potential to provide high-speed, low latency connectivity for regional and rural Australians, to ensure nobody is left out of this digital revolution, live from space!”

The way we work

COVID-19 really upended the apple cart of how we work globally, and I don’t see it going back to “the old way” any time soon.

Andy recapped how, two years ago, we moved 25,000 people to working from home over the course of a weekend. We made the decision on a Friday and it was done by Monday and we have not looked back, he shared.

“There is no talk of returning to normal at Telstra, we don’t waste time debating who should be in the office and when. We are all in on hybrid. For us work is a thing you do not a place you go,” he said, adding that we now hire remote team members to join us from all over the nation.

“Last June we moved to location agnostic contracts for our staff removing that clause that states what your place of work is. That is no longer a part of the terms and conditions of working at Telstra.”

This is a massive cultural and operational change for a telco when you have decades of history of a different approach.

Staying secure in an unsecure world

We cannot talk about trends of the future, however, without acknowledging the challenges of the present and the tragic events currently unfolding in Ukraine.Already our TV screens and our media feeds are full of frontline combat footage but one critical aspect of modern conflicts is cyber conflict

As Chair of the Australian Federal Government’s Industry Advisory Committee on Cyber Security.

Andy is well-placed to give us insight into the cyber dimension of this.

“Even beyond Ukraine, more abundant and better resourced cyber-criminals, cyber-activists and increasingly emboldened state actors, mean many of our countries and many of our networks are quite literally under constant cyber-attack.

The threat landscape was already evolving and worsening before the events in Ukraine so these warnings are not new but have a new potency.

Ultimately, he summarised, protecting businesses, our countries, our customers, our families and ourselves, depends on cyber defences that are strong adaptive and continue to evolve.

Making it count

The pandemic has presented us with many opportunities, both personal and professional. Andy added that it’s “important that we seize these opportunities to create a brighter future for everyone, and not leave value on the table as a business.”

We need to make these opportunities count!