Turnbull pays tribute to Thodey

Communications minister said Telstra CEO, who steps down from the role in May, is a "thought leader and skilled executive"

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has lauded Telstra CEO David Thodey as a "thought leader and skilled executive".

Telstra announced this morning that Thodey would leave the CEO role on 1 May.

Thodey "led Telstra through a period of profound technological, structural and political challenges," the minister said in a Facebook post.

"[U]nder David’s leadership Telstra discarded the mindset of a contented incumbent and became more agile, innovative and customer-focussed," Turnbull wrote.

Thodey this morning described the lengthy negotiations over the National Broadband Network with the government and NBN Co as one of Telstra's biggest challenges during his tenure.

The negotiations took place under a Labor government, but the agreements had to be re-negotiated in line with the Coalition's vision for the NBN after it took power in 2013.

"The government had decided to proceed with the build of the NBN," Thodey said.

"We had to go through a number of negotiations and understand how that would work in terms of their build and that transition, and the relationships were not open and transparent at that time," the CEO said.

Thodey said that at the time there was little trust between Telstra and the government and with regulators and other industry participants.

"So it took time to go through building that trust, but also the complexities of a rebuilding of a national bit of infrastructure that had been privatised," Thodey said.

"There were so many regulatory considerations, legal considerations, commercial considerations, that it was just very complex and it took us … two and half years."

After the Coalition government came to power in 2013 it switched the rollout of the NBN from relying primarily on fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) to mostly based on fibre-to-the-node.

Utilising FTTN meant the government needed to negotiate a new agreement with Telstra to gain access to the telco's copper network, which would be used to deliver the 'last mile' connection to premises.

The new NBN blueprint also relies on agreements struck with Telstra and Optus for the telcos to hand over their HFC networks.

Telstra has named Andy Penn, the telco's chief financial officer, as Thodey's replacement. He takes over as CEO at the start of May.

"Of course no company – or country – can 'future-proof' itself against the intensely competitive and rapidly changing economy we all now inhabit," Turnbull wrote.

"I wish Andy Penn the best in his new role. He’s a very experienced and capable executive with a keen understanding of how to seize the opportunities provided by a connected, converging global economy."

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Tags Malcolm TurnbullDavid Thodeynational broadband networkTelecommunicationsTelstraNBN

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