By any measure, Telecom allowing its director of mobile to commute between Miami and Auckland during the launch of the company’s $574 million XT mobile network was an unusual situation.
But Paul Hamburger all but shrugs away questions about that, explaining his wife is Australian, the family often joins him, and he spends most of his time here.
That commuting was required because UK-born Hamburger’s children attend a Jewish secondary school in Miami, something not available here.
So how long does the launch expert plan to stay with Telecom now XT is up and running?
“I’m here for Telecom as long as they want me,” he answers.
The top echelons of Telecom and new network 2 Degrees are now peppered with US and UK telecommunications veterans. Oddly, UK-owned Vodafone NZ appears to have more homegrown talent at the top, led by Auckland’s James Cook High old boy Russell Stanners.
But the imports have impressive CVs and, perhaps more importantly, many of Telecom’s have experience of working in an environment where operational separation has been introduced.
Again Hamburger is different. He wasn’t brought in for regulatory damage control, but to manage a launch. And it was a critical launch for Telecom, aiming to take the company back to being “number one in mobile”.
Hamburger’s CV from before his arrival at Telecom last September is all about mobile and all about launches. He boasts 15 years in the telco industry, most recently as chief commercial officer for Cable & Wireless, working across the Americas. There, he launched a range of billing, roaming and content services for mobile users.
He also led global customer marketing for T-Mobile International, where he had responsibility for consumer and business markets in 14 countries.
Hamburger says he has significant investment experience and has been involved in launches many times. He knew Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds as a competitor and Telecom’s chief transformation officer, Frank Mount, as a colleague at T Mobile.
So how was Hamburger hired?
“I got an email asking what I was doing,” he told Computerworld after a recent TUANZ event. Hamburger adds he can’t remember whether that email came from Reynolds or from Mount, who joined Telecom last May.
Hamburger says the opportunity was “phenomenal”. He says it was exciting to be able to get involved in a significant investment and to shape the strategy around that.
He also appears to be relishing the opportunity to take on Vodafone in one of its strongest markets.
“It’s a kick to take them on,” he says. Hamburger echoes others in saying Gen-i is key to XT’s success. “I genuinely believe they are world leaders. Others could learn from that.”
Hamburger says if you are going to listen to customers, you have to be able to offer a complete solution, something Gen-i has been pushing. Some won’t want that, but Telecom can offer them the choice, he says.
That is not about “one size fits all”, he says, pointing to a TVNZ case study he presented to the TUANZ audience. That case study featured remote TVNZ production crews using the XT network to deliver content back to the studio for broadcast and even using it for live streaming.
Hamburger seems relaxed and fairly unflappable. Telecom has been making much of its transformation and its new focus on the customer and on service. So, does the old Telecom still lurk beneath the hood?
“Any company is made up of the people within it,” Hamburger seems to concede, before going on to describe people as the company’s biggest asset and Telecom’s people as “energised by a clear vision”.
A lot of organisations say they are customer focused, he says, “our team believes it”.
He says that the team knows that to achieve the vision of being number one, they have to have a passion for customers.
“That’s compelling to work for, by the way,” he adds.
In his presentation, Hamburger outlined the road to XT and pumped its success since launch. He says the vision to be number one is being achieved through four strategies. Delivering a quality network, clear value, good service that creates an “addictive experience” and by building a compelling brand.
He says a “Blue Ocean Strategy” was used to benchmark progress. This charted where Telecom was, where its competitors were and where the company wanted to be across a range of measurable parameters.
Then the team identified which factors needed to be influenced to achieve the goal of market leadership.
Hamburger says a lot of time has been spent testing the XT network and he is confident it is superior. He says despite it not being under the load of high customer numbers, that load can be simulated in testing by independent consultant Red-M.
He made much of the rollout of fibre backhaul to cellsites in 13 major centres, saying this would give the network an edge.
“It’s faster in more places,” he says. “It delivers 97 percent genuine 3G coverage, not a ‘mish-mash’.”
Like Vodafone, Telecom is planning a move to HSPA+ to provide up to 21Mbit/s download speeds.