NIKOS KATINAKIS Telstra Group Executive Networks & IT
The Internet of Things Australia Enters the Brave New World of 5G
Australia’s largest telecommunication company, Telstra leads the way for the introduction of 5G technology into the Australian market place
In this introduction to 5G, we converse with Nikos Katinakis, Telstra Group Executive for Networks & IT for Telstra to explore this brave new world and how consumers benefit from technology that abounds with possibilities.
What is 5G?
The easiest way to understand 5G is to take a look at the top corner your smartphone device where an indicator shows that you are likely to be receiving 4G LTE or 3G and you would deduce that this somehow related to your mobile phones connection to an invisible network of radio signals from metal towers surrounding your area. The letter G stands for “generation” and the advance from 1G, to 2G, 3G, 4G and thence to 5G represents in each generation a leap in minimum speeds, capacities and capabilities.
3G-enabled consumers gained access to the internet and were able to download data and later 4G LTE capability made that ability a great deal faster and more reliable. The leap to 5G, however, is not just an incremental increase in speed but represents a defining moment in humankind’s ability to use technology in a way that is grandly coined as the “Internet of Things.”
What are the exciting possibilities of 5G?
Theoretically, 5G speeds can potentially get up to 20 times the rate of 4G - in technical terms, this means the technology could get up to 10 Gigabits per second. The easiest way to think about this possibility is how you might watch Netflix or Foxtel on your mobile phone. With 5G, its capability could be akin to watching 400 movies at the one time in 8K. The magic of 5G lies in its razor-sharp response known as its “latency rate.” An average person has a reaction time of between 200 to 300 milliseconds.5G could potentially have a latency rate or reaction time of a mere one millisecond. At this level, 5G response times are almost equivalent to real time.
The implications of these kinds of possibilities are staggering.With a network of 5G signals criss-crossing our cities and urban roads, the brave new world of sensored driver-less cars could help reduce road fatalities and increase road safety. While driver-less cars are admittedly some years away from actualisation, the real benefits are for gamers – those whose passion for real-time online competition between players pitted continents apart brings the world together seemingly only a lounge room away. The more altruistic goal of 5G lies in applications to medicine. Imagine in the near future a team of top surgeons stationed around the world connected via 5G through advanced networks into a hospital operating ward where a pair of robotic arms carry out delicate life-saving surgery. Perhaps the more utilitarian benefits of 5G lie in mega-factories which are not partly but wholly managed by an army of robots each communicating to the other during complex assembly line processes. Alternatively, imagine hotels operated at supervisory management level by robots from check-in, housekeeping, room service and even self-regulating energy and sustainability systems. Australian farming could be revolutionised by a 5G network in which not one but a squadron of drones choreographed to monitor vast tracts of farmland capturing information about plant stock to optimise nutrient feeding or zero in on cattle injured or gone astray.
Nikos Katinakis (together with compatriot Christian von Reventlow) are two of Telstra's most senior executives in charge of the rollout of 5G in Australia. Both ubertalented individuals with extraordinary successes in digital network implementations overseas joined Telstra less than a year ago and both share common reasons for making the journey to Australia.
TAE: Your resume says that you spent the previous four years in India with your family working as the Executive Vice President Networks for Reliance Jio where you were responsible for the rollout of India's first 4G LTE Network and later the launch of automated and streamlined wireline/fixed consumer / commercial business services. Tell us about success of that experience.
NK: The India assignment was executed in a very flexible manner – I reported directly to the company’s owner, billionaire Mukesh Amani. When a problem arose, solutions were decisively dealt with. This is part of an agile work practice which proved highly effective. The exciting aspect of the assignment was the scale. We truly transformed India because of our new technology. The impact was felt by literally hundreds of millions of people seemingly overnight. India went from being 144th
ranked globally in terms of data consumption to No. 1. That means that the average Indian person now consumes more data from the network than anybody else in the world. That can be explained in several ways: the wireless network dominates the country which broadband infrastructure does not. And because the data packages are so big and cost-effective, people can genuinely rely on wireless for their homes.
TAE: What made you decide to join Telstra when you were already involved with this life transformative work in India?
NK: I received a call personally from Telstra CEO Andrew Penn who was keen to share his vision of what Telstra could do with 5G in Australia. For me to get involved, I needed Andrew and Telstra chairman, John Mullen to convince me they were truly committed. I said that there are plenty of people who can carry out cost-cutting for Telstra. If that’s all you want to do, I told them that I am not the guy. The fact that I am being interviewed to you today as Telstra's Group Executive for Networks & IT is a testament to Telstra commitment to giving Australia the best possible 5G experience. It should be pointed out to your readers, that it is not just about 5G alone. 5G on its
About Nikos Katinakis - Telstra Group Executive, Networks & IT
Relocating from Toronto, Nikos Katinakis joined Telstra on 15 October 2018 as Group Executive Networks & IT. In this critical role, Nikos is responsible for ensuring Telstra delivers next-generation network technologies to create the most extensive, smartest, safest and most reliable networks in the world. This includes rolling out new technology developments, such as those related to 5G, as well as maintaining and enhancing Telstra's IT platforms.
Nikos was previously Executive Vice President Networks for Reliance Jio in India where he was responsible for rolling out the first pan-India 4G LTE Network, with a focus on data management, and enhancing and stabilising the various operating platforms. In his second Jio assignment, Nikos led their wireline/fixed consumer business with the objective to launch full commercial services across major cities in India, while fully automating and simplifying workflows and the customer experience. Before this, Nikos was SVP of Architecture and Technology Development for Network and IT at Canada's Rogers Communications, as well as Chief Information Security Officer, where he was responsible for the technology strategy, selection, and roadmap that guided Rogers' deployment of next-generation capabilities across all access networks and services.
Nikos has held multiple boards and industry positions, including at ATIS, CATA and the University of Toronto, as well as at UXP Systems, a digital life company which was recently acquired by Amdocs.
Nikos has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from McGill University in Montreal
own is about a particular set of radio waves and how they are transmitted at high velocity, consistency and capacity. The exciting aspect of 5G is the other revolutionary technologies that are being introduced into the market place at the same time. Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Feature Virtualisation (NFV) are two such technologies which are transforming the way we think about old-school network architecture.
Application of SDN and NFV for enterprises in Australia will have over time a profound improvement in the way network architecture is designed and implemented to improve productivity and data gathering. In one trial project, Telstra is working with Australia’s largest bank, CBA and Ericsson to look at bringing the benefits of 5G with our version of SDN / NFV in what we call “5G edge compute technology. ”
For your readers to grasp the significance of this, that means local banks have the ability to, and I quote, "create, analyse and process data on the edge of the network" at breakneck speeds and with reduction of bandwidth to centralised locations. Bank services such as biometric scans of faces and fingerprints for cash withdrawals at retail branch level or immediately flagging abnormal banking transactions are examples of our new network technology.
TAE: Can you explain a bit more about your role and the challenges that come with the position?
NK: I’m responsible for the way Telstra designs, implements and deploys its networks and also have oversight of its IT strategy. One of our most significant costs is, unsurprisingly, the outdated “spaghetti” legacy applications that we maintain to this day. A year ago, Andrew Penn explained his vision for Telstra in a plan he calls “T22” whose primary objective it is to “simplify our operations and product set, improving customer experience and reducing our cost base.” One of the key consumer activities Andrew is talking about is taking 1,800 Telstra customer plans and reducing that number down to 20 core plans. With the new technology that is now available, the commitment of the board and my knowledge about what customers want – I feel that we are well on the journey. Of course, the ongoing process requires some pain, but the upside is enormous.
TAE: As 5G rolls out to more cities, and the customer take-up rate takes hold, where does this situation leave the rollout and utilisation of NBN?
NK: Many people think of 5G and what it can do for mobile phones, but Telstra now has the technology
available to empower businesses, homes and busy people on the road. Just last month, Telstra launched Australia's first 5G mobile device called an HTC 5G Hub. It's the world's first 5G/4GX media hotspot. It works exceptionally well in the corporate environment and family entertainment living areas.
In terms of speed, 5G is most certainly faster than the NBN – but the consistency of speed with any wireless technology is more dependent on the area reception and other variables. That said, we don’t see 5G as in competition with NBN, but more as a complimentary technology.
We presently have 5G sites in 10 Australia major cities and within 12 months the number of cities able to access 5G will total at least 35. In a year, we also expect our 5G coverage to increase in area almost five-fold coverage. (Telstra will soon confirm which of the cities beyond the first ten already done will the 5G network).
TAE: The ongoing rollout and cost to the consumer for NBN has been relatively controversial. Could you share a view as to how you could have improved on its fortunes in Australia?
NK: Given where we are today, we need to have the collective will to lower the wholesale cost of NBN. PreNBN, the wholesale cost per line was around $20 per month, post-NBN, the average wholesale cost is around $45 per month. This uplift makes it very hard for resellers to compete in the market place. This one change could change the economics surrounding NBN.
The other constraint is the reliance of old technologies to deliver broadband, particularly to remote communities. I would love to have the ability, for example not to have to rely on the old copper network but, instead, be able to offer bigger, better broadband with different technology.
TAE: You have with you the latest 5G Samsung Galaxy S10 which was launched only last month in Sydney.What are your impressions about it?
NK: Telstra together with Samsung Electronics Australia last month launched the Galaxy S10 5G and this mobile phone is exceptional in every detail. A 6.7-inch Infinity-O Display, 4,500 mAh battery and Super Fast charging capability. Its camera is possibly the best of its kind on the market. With 5G / 4GX capability, this model marks the beginning of a new era in mobile devices. I encourage your readers to take time out to look at this phone and our other 5G smartphones now in all Telstra stores.
More information about Telstra’s 5G network can be found here: https://www.telstra.com.au/5g
Directors of The Asian Executive, Grace Lim and Rick Wong admire the latest Samsung Galaxy S10 5G with Nikos Katinakis