Private sector couldn't build NBN: Vodafone CEO

Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow also calls for telco competition review.

The NBN is the only way Australia will achieve national deployment of broadband, Vodafone Hutchison Australia CEO Bill Morrow said this morning at the CommsDay conference.

Morrow spoke as the Coalition revealed its plan to revamp Australia’s rollout of the NBN.

“What this country has done to step out in the lead has been phenomenal,” Morrow said of the NBN.

“The idea of two or three network operators trying to build a network infrastructure like that—they just won’t do it because there’s not enough return to cover the capital they would need to deploy.”

Having “one company, one entity, one government taking the position to be able to roll this out and insist on it being a wholesale model [is] the only way it actually works.”

However, Morrow took no side on the specifics of the government’s approach to NBN.

“A lot of other people” can debate speed of rollout, economic cost and whether it’s fibre-to-the-node or fibre-to-the-home, “but it’s important that we see this as a game-changing environment in Australia,” he said.

As he has in the past, Vodafone’s Morrow painted Australia’s telecom market as lacking competition and unwilling to collaborate. The Vodafone CEO called for a telco industry review to assess the state of competition, and he urged a reduction in the backhaul prices Telstra charges in regional areas.

In addition, government should either eliminate subsidies for market leader Telstra to build in rural areas, or spread them among all the market players, Morrow said.

Building its own redundant mobile base stations in regional areas already served by Telstra is too expensive for Vodafone, Morrow said.

“We have to rise above the balance sheet because there is maybe a smaller piece of the pie” for each market player “but the pie is going to get fundamentally bigger if we do this in the right way.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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