Telstra network chief Mike Wright to leave as 5G investment continues

Telstra’s network chief Mike Wright told the company this morning that he will leave at the end of September.

His departure comes as Telstra is at the peak point of planning its launch of 5G services – something CEO Andy Penn says is central to the company’s long-term plans.

Wright, who has been with Telstra for 38 years, gave no clue about his next move. More details may emerge in Thursday when he is due to launch an LTE broadcast service – called LTE-B – that is designed to improve the performance of TV streaming on 4G mobile networks. 

COO Robyn Denholm said he was “one of the most widely respected network engineering leaders in the world”.

She added: “By the end of September when Mike will be stepping down for a well-earned break, we will be nearing completion of the key elements of our Networks for the Future programme and Telstra will be well on the way to deploying 5G.”

His departure was announced only weeks after Ericsson apologised for an 18-hour outage that affected Telstra’s wholesale operations. In May the company’s 3G and 4G networks suffered major problems, with customers unable to make mobile calls, including to emergency services.

However Telstra denied his departure was connected, telling the Australian Financial Review: “Mike has played a key role in establishing Telstra’s world class networks”, and saying the company’s network resilience programme “has reduced the number of mobile outage hours this year by 60% compared to 2016.”

According to his own LinkedIn profile Wright has spent “over 30 years in telecommunications spanning planning, designing and building telecommunications networks across copper, HFC, fixed broadband, switching, paging, transport, routing, media engineering and mobile networks from pre-cellular to 4G”.

He says he has had “engineering, commercial and people leadership roles spanning JV partnerships, offshore contract establishment, technology strategy development and end to end accountability for all aspects of telecommunications networks”.

He became group managing director and head of network engineering in July 2013, with “end to end accountability for all aspects of fixed, wireless and media networks covering network planning, investment planning, design and construction”.

Only a few days ago he wrote on the Telstra website that the company had switched on its 450th base station in the Australian government’s mobile blackspot programme.