AUSTRALIA – In a scathing critique, Peter Adderton, the visionary behind the multibillion-dollar Boost Mobile network in Australia and the USA, has pointed fingers at the Singaporean owners of Optus, Singtel, attributing the carrier’s recent woes to a clash of corporate cultures.
Adderton, known for his telecom industry acumen and esteemed by the US Federal Government, claims that the cultural differences between the Singaporean and Australian managements are at the heart of Optus’ ongoing troubles.
On 8 November, Optus faced a crippling nationwide outage, disrupting the connectivity of millions of customers and businesses in Australia.
This incident occurred just one year after a significant cyber attack in 2022 that compromised the personal data of over two million customers, including passport details.
A spokesperson verified on 13 November that the outage was a result of changes to routing information following a routine software upgrade.
However, facing public criticism in Australia, Optus’s CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, chose to resign, with some members of the Singaporean audience perceiving this move as her “taking responsibility” for the series of lapses.
“Culture differences is at the heart of the problem”
In an exclusive interview with an Australian media outlet ChannelNews, Adderton criticised Singtel for allegedly abandoning Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin during a Senate inquiry, describing it as throwing her “to the wolves.”
Singtel made an announcement on 20 November, regarding the changes within its Australian subsidiary Optus.
In the meantime, Optus’ chief financial officer, Michael Venter, will assume the responsibilities of the CEO role as the company initiates a global search for a suitable replacement, as confirmed by Singtel.
In the interview, Adderton alleged that Singtel’s handling of recent crises, including a data breach and a 12-hour network outage, underscores the stark differences in management approaches.
He argued that Singtel’s corporate culture, vastly different from the Australian operational ethos, has contributed to the mishandling of critical situations.
“The corporate cultural differences between Singapore management and Australian management cannot be underestimated,” he said in a Facebook post, on 21 November.
“What we saw in the handling of both the data breach and the recent outage is the result of the culture difference between both Companies.”
“I think it is time for Singtel to accept that their corporate culture and the culture of how Australians operate is very different, and that culture difference is at the heart of the problem.”
He suggested that it’s time for Singtel to acknowledge the cultural gap and consider divesting Optus.
Founder of Boost Mobile calls for change
Additionally, Adderton claims that the Optus board, present in Australia during both the 2022 hack attack and the recent 12-hour network crash, are gutless when it comes to taking responsibility for their actions and the decisions made by the company’s management, which they own and oversee.
“Singtel management are Singaporeans who hide whenever there is any hint of trouble,” he said.
Reportedly, during the Optus network crash, not a single board member came forward to defend the company or show support for the CEO, as stated by ChannelNews.
This is despite the entire board being in Australia at the time of the incident.
Instead, Singtel proceeded with a financial briefing 24 hours after the network outage without acknowledging the challenges Australians were encountering due to the Optus network crash.
Adderton called for a change in ownership, advocating for Optus to be sold back to Australians, emphasizing that a foreign-controlled entity is not in the best interest of the Australian telecommunications landscape.
The outspoken telecom entrepreneur asserted that the new CEO of Optus should be “consumer-facing.”
“They are not there to run a network or run an operation. They are there to engage with customers, Singaporeans with their culture are not right for Australia, and the problems at Optus will not be fixed until they are out of the picture,” he said.
He argued that the disconnect between the Singaporean culture and Australian expectations needs to be addressed for Optus to thrive.
Moreover, with nearly 40% of Australian communication needs serviced by Optus, Adderton estimated the potential value of the business at over AUS$18 billion if sold.
“…and with a management team that is consumer-focused, the business could grow,” according to Adderton, who has a reputation for growing telecommunication businesses.
When asked about crisis communication strategies, Adderton advocated for transparent and real-time communication across various platforms.
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