Key challenges ahead for new NBN Co CEO

Switkowski predicts no shortage of scrutiny from Conroy, public

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski says new CEO Bill Morrow is still enthusiastic on day three of the job.

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski says new CEO Bill Morrow is still enthusiastic on day three of the job.

Bill Morrow has formally taken the reins of NBN Co as the company undergoes a controversial transition to a multi-technology National Broadband Network.

"At this significant juncture in the evolution of NBN, we have a leader with I think the right mix of emotional intelligence, vision and energy for the job," NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski said today at the CommsDay conference in Sydney.

Switkowski had been serving as acting chief executive and said he was pleased to pass the baton to Morrow, who left another CEO job at Vodafone Hutchison Australia.

"I know he is extremely enthusiastic about the task ahead, at least on day three," he said.

"Most of all, he recognises we're not just building the network. We're creating the circumstances that will further the digital economy and close the digital divide."

Switkowski added that he expects Morrow “won’t suffer from any lack of attention” from media, the public and former communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy.

A first major test for Morrow will be the renegotiation of the NBN Co's contract with Telstra so it can transition from universal fibre-to-the-premise model to the new multi-technology scheme favoured by the Coalition government which will involve a combination of FTTP, fibre-to-the-node and HFC.

Telstra's lead negotiator, Tony Warren, said he was upbeat about reaching a fresh agreement with NBN Co.

"All sides are working very positively," said Warren, Telstra group executive of corporate affairs. "These are very constructive set of discussions. I say that most genuinely, and I'm still optimistic a deal can be reached in a reasonable timeframe."

Tony Warren leads the NBN contract renegotiation for Telstra.
Tony Warren leads the NBN contract renegotiation for Telstra.

Telstra will adapt the deal to the multi-technology model that NBN Co seeks, he said.

"We will happily do that, obviously working within the framework of protecting our fundamental value to shareholders like last time."

Warren added that an important issue for Telstra is to stress its commitment to "achieving structural separation through the progression migration of fixed services as part of the NBN mark two deal."

Renegotiation aside, Warren said he hopes to improve the migration process to NBN for customers.

"All of us – regulators, NBN Co, industry – have so far not delivered a consistently positive experience for customers when it comes to switching to the NBN," he said.

"End users frequently experience delays and disappointment when they try to switch to the fibre network.”

Switkowski said NBN Co understands the need to “vastly improve delivery against our service level commitments.”

He said NBN Co is working to cut in half the average time it takes to complete a new connection, from 30 days last month down to 14 days starting October.

Warren said NBN Co has improved performance connecting users recently, “but their efforts have not been helped by the fact that there is currently no single framework with clear responsibilities as people migrate from one network to another.”

Warren called for an industry process, led by the Communications Alliance, to streamline the connection process. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) should have a “backdrop” role focusing on competition issues that may arise.

“This will mean a shift away from a traditional regulatory structure. Migration issues are overwhelmingly operational, technical customer service type issues. As such, our view is that industry ... is best placed to drive the solutions and improve operational efficiency.”

Warren rejected the call by Vodafone for NBN Co to provide mobile services.

“Recently we’ve seen calls for greater government intervention in the mobiles market, either through intervention in the market directly or through a role for NBN Co as a mobile network operator,” the Telstra executive said.

“These calls, quite frankly, are crazy and completely ignore the state of the Australian mobile industry.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags governmentNBNTelstranbn conegotiationBill Morrowrenegotiationziggy switkowski

More about Australian Competition and Consumer CommissionAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionBillHutchisonmobilesTelstra CorporationVodafone

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