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Splendid Hearing


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Digital Hearing - About Ian Leslie Cullen - (Proprietor)


One of Les's great passions is music. He is a lover of classical music, big band jazz, brass bands and well orchestrated pop music....all genres. Les has played trumpet since the age of 14 (now 78). He played professionally in his younger years. Although classically trained he played professionally in all genres of music from opera, ballet, symphony concerts, big band jazz and for famous touring celebrities, Petula Clark, Vicki Leandros, Cilla Black etc. The discipline and hours of practice required of a serious classical musician surpasses that of any other profession. No doctor, surgeon, architect, mathematician, scientist would put in as many hours practice every day to hone their skills as a dedicated performing musician. Fact. 


There is little doubt that the discipline required to practice several hours every day helped Les attain greater heights in his professional life too and it was music in particular that drove him to do something to revive his own hearing after a mammoth 16 hour operation to remove a tumor under his right ear. As a result of the operation Les lost 80% of his hearing in the right ear . 


Les is not an audiologist. He is a retired satellite communication engineer having worked 17 Years for a U.K based telecoms operator, Econet Satellite Services, renamed Liquid Telecom.  

Les has a strong technical background covering frequency spectrum, bandwidth, modulation schemes, amplification, attenuation, etc, etc


Les was employed as the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of Econet Satellite Services in London. His responsibilities included the planning, tenders and deployment of satellite ground based infrastructure at the Brookman Park Teleport North London, the Lagos & Port Harcourt teleports in Nigeria and the upgrading of the Lesotho Telecom teleport from an analogue based network to an IP based network. Les negotiated the original 140Mhz space segment contract with EuropeStar on a satellite initially called Stellat-5. Stellat-5 was eventually taken over by Eutelsat and renamed AB-3. 


Some 20 years ago Les introduced VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) to the company having planned the satellite network to run on an IP based platform. The result was that Econet Wireless International was the first company in the World to transport GSM mobile traffic over satellite on IP. 

The effect was profound. At that time all other telecom companies were using traditional E-1 (2048Kbps) trunks capable of carrying about 30 simultaneous voice calls. With the introduction of VoIP and the associated compression algorithms the company was able to carry 300 simultaneous voice calls over an E-1 with improved voice quality too. This brought the company operating costs down by a factor of 10 resulting in a much more competitive and profitable company.

Furthermore, by introducing variable data rate modems Les was able increase the data rates far beyond traditional E1 (2Mbps) data rates and in so doing eliminate the guard bands required between carriers while also reducing required ground infrastructure. Lastly, bandwidth upgrades could be done in the dead of night with hardly any down time.

Further bandwidth savings were made by employing high density modulation schemes.


During the interim years Les found himself in a 'Research and Development' roll working on Virtual PBX and Call Centre Platforms, Virtual Desktop, virtual Servers and Cloud based platforms embracing low cost thin client solutions. This included the development of a proprietary thin client software platform. Les prepared many reports on communication drone technology having had an aviation background in his earlier years.


In later years Les was involved in negotiations & procurement with various satellite manufacturers to design and construct a design specific satellite for the Econet group. That entailed several trips to the US, Canada and Malaysia with the group chairman and owner Strive Masiyiwa. 

Mr. Masiyiwa is a charismatic pioneer in the Pan African Telecoms arena and certainly one of Africa's best known Telecoms and philanthropic personalities. He is frequently referred to as the 'Bill Gates of Africa'. If you have not yet heard of Strive Masiyiwa please Google him. Mr. Masiyiwa is a devote Christian and Les spent many hours with other colleagues drawing inspiration from this great man..


Les tells me he was recently very honoured and paid a great compliment by Mr. Masiyiwa who said in a recent Facebook post, the following;   'Probably the best engineer I ever worked with was a South African guy called Les Cullen. He was already in his 60s when I first hired him, and he worked for me well into his 70s. In every way, Les was like a 26-year old! His curiosity was insatiable. It always seemed that every day he was trying out a new idea or reading about a new idea'.


Les drew a great deal of inspiration from that and now in his latter years he is on a quest to 'help people communicate better'  



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