NBN Co is set to announce a panel of software providers for its operational and billing support systems by the middle of next month, with vendor Alcatel-Lucent likely to play a key role in the tender.
The project, in motion since February 2010, will comprise both tailored and off-the-shelf packages that will fit over multiple environments to suit NBN Co’s suite of fibre, fixed wireless and satellite wholesale products as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The company is ramping up for a fast implementation once the tender process has been completed, with up to 400 people from both NBN Co and eligible panellists deploying the majority of required systems before full wholesale prices are implemented on 1 July this year. A full deployment is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
“This is going to be a very fast put it on the ground compared to most software projects,” NBN Co head of corporate services and procurement, Kevin Brown, told Computerworld Australia
As part of the deploy, ment, some interim systems already in use by the company will be scaled up to suit increased demand from mainland NBN customers.
Brown confirmed that the company has also been in negotiations with Alcatel-Lucent to provide and install Comptel operations support systems (OSS) as part of the project.
The support systems are valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, adding to the almost $2 billion and 60 tenders in contracts already accounted for by NBN Co so far. Brown conceded that the systems were not designed to last the life of the NBN, but that the company was buying in high volumes to keep costs down in the short term.
“Our final support maintenance model is also what we’re working through at the moment, which is where the tail of the cost comes from,” he said.
“We’re trying to get the trifecta here - integrated so it works, which most multi-domain software packages struggle with despite the promise. Get it so that it enables our partners to interface with us easily and cheaply, and to operate it and maintain it cheaply.
“We are absolutely keen to achieve all of those three objectives and I’d have to say at the moment, we think we can get there.”
NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, identified ongoing issues surrounding implementation of the systems following the Federal election in August last year. While Quigley said he “would have loved” to implement an existing OSS/BSS (business support system) for the network, the final NBN systems would have to be tailored specifically to the unique network.
Brown reiterated Quigley’s comments.
“Because nobody has done this before, we’ve actually got to get it to work and put it absolutely under the pump to make sure it all works,” he said.
Approximately 60 to 70 per cent of the final suite of systems will be taken straight off the shelf but Brown said a high level of customisation and tailoring was still required, the level of which is still to be decided by the company.
Alcatel-Lucent involvement attracts concerns
Alcatel-Lucent’s likely contract win is one of several lucrative deals the networking vendors has already signed with the company, including part of a $1.5 billion deal to provide fibre splitters and optical network terminals. However, the relationship between the companies has continued to face strain as both Quigley, and chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, held senior roles at Alcatel-Lucent prior to their current positions.
The executives have recently become embroiled in allegations of potential responsibility for a bribery scandal at Alcatel during their tenures.
However, Quigley continued to affirm he treated relations with the company as a conflict of interest and stepped away from such negotiations.
“Neither Mr Beaufret nor myself took any part in the choice of Alcatel as a supplier of fixed lines,” he told media at a press conference last week.
“We’d left the company but nevertheless there was a perception that because we had both been senior members of the company. I’m clearly involved in areas where I don’t see any conflict of interest or any even perceived conflict of interest.”
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