NBN’s chief executive, Bill Morrow, will depart the organisation by the end of 2018.
NBN released a short statement this morning saying that Morrow had informed NBN’s board and the federal government of his intention to step down.
“I believe that as the company prepares to confront the new challenges ahead, this is the right time to hand over the reins for the next phase of this incredible project and for me to plan for the next step in my career,” Morrow said in a statement.
“The country has been fortunate to have Bill lead this extraordinary project,” the chair of NBN’s board, Ziggy Switkowski, said.
“While we will be sorry to see him leave, Bill has built a resilient, performance-driven organisation which will build on his legacy,” Switkowski said.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that I have decided to leave nbn to pursue the next chapter of my career,” Morrow said in a note sent to NBN staff.
“I have informed our Chairman that I will leave at the end of this calendar year. The next nine months will allow our Board of Directors to conduct an extensive search for my replacement while we remain focused on lifting the customer experience and reaching our three-quarter network completion milestone.”
“At times my role at nbn has been challenging, relentless, and yes, sometimes frustrating but never has there been a time that I wasn’t proud to be a part of the nbn team,” Morrow wrote.
Morrow said that NBN’s achievements had included 14 consecutive quarters of exceeding targets, connecting 6.5 million homes to the National Broadband Network and growing annualised revenue from $60 million to $2 billion.
“These are fabulous measures of your success, but what raises the goose bumps is knowing who you are, how you work together, and what you stand for,” the CEO wrote.
“There are many reasons why I feel this way but a few proof points include our engagement score lifting from the low 40s to the 70s putting us in the top quartile of companies down under; our voluntary turnover rate of employees improving and remaining the best in our industry; and the confirmation from third party surveys which show how our culture is underpinned by a set of deeply embedded and shared values.”
Morrow last year announced a restructure of NBN as the company shifted emphasis from “network build” to “network operate and optimise”.
In a statement communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield and finance minister Senator Mathias Cormann thanked Morrow "for his outstanding leadership of NBN Co over the past four years"
“Under Mr Morrow’s guidance, the National Broadband Network has met all of its operational and financial targets,” the ministers said.
“When Mr Morrow commenced in the role, the NBN was available to around 300,000 premises.
“The network is now available to more than 6.4 million homes and businesses across the nation with more than 3.7 million already connected. More than 100,000 premises are being connected every month.
“The project remains on track and on budget with the 2020 completion date firmly in sight.”
The ministers said the extended notice provided by the CEO will enable NBN’s board to “to undertake a thorough domestic and international search for his successor, and facilitate a smooth transition within the executive leadership team.”
NBN said it would conduct a global search for a new CEO.
“We recognise the challenging task Mr Morrow has grappled with in implementing the Turnbull government's multi-technology mix,” said Labor’s broadband spokesperson, Michelle Rowland.
“But let's be frank about the issues - the long-term economics of the NBN are a mess. This sits squarely on Malcolm Turnbull. 2018 is an opportune time to exit."
Morrow joined NBN in April 2014. Prior to joining the organisation he served as chief executive of Vodafone Hutchison Australia — the joint venture between Vodafone and Hutchison Telecommunications that trades as Vodafone.
Morrow replaced NBN’s inaugural CEO Mike Quigley, who stepped down in 2013.
After the Coalition ousted Labor in the September 2013 election, then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said there would be a “total change of management culture” at NBN. Turnbull brought in Switkowski to take charge of the board of the government-owned company.
Switkowski and a new-look board oversaw Morrow’s recruitment. The chief executive was tasked with overseeing the shift away from the Labor-backed blueprint of an all fibre to the premises (FTTP) fixed-line network to the government-favoured “multi-technology mix” (MTM).
Whereas the all-FTTP network was expected to, at launch, make available speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to all premises in the fixed-line footprint, the Coalition instructed Morrow to deliver a minimum of 25Mbps to all households and 50Mbps to 90 per cent of premises.
The MTM approach has been a source of controversy, particularly the use of fibre to the node (FTTN) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC). FTTN relies on a significant amount of copper wiring and can deliver variable speeds depending on factors including the quality of the copper lines and the distance of a household from a node.
Australia’s biggest NBN retail service providers (RSPs) have been forced to offer compensation to tens of thousands of customers in relation to FTTN services. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took action against RSPs because they sold services to customers with phonelines that were not capable of achieving the theoretical maximum plan speeds.
NBN in November announced that it would temporarily halt sales of HFC services due to problems encountered by end users. NBN has previously indicated it planned to use HFC to hook up around 3 million households.
NBN chief customer officer, residential, Brad Whitcomb, said last month that the company would provide an update on the resumption of HFC sales in April.
More recently NBN has begun rolling out fibre to the curb (FTTC). Like FTTN it uses copper wiring for the ‘last mile’ connection to a household; however, it the lengths of copper involved are far shorter and there is no requirement for a powered node.
Morrow said last year that NBN was “aggressively looking” at how to cut FTTC costs in order to use it in some areas that would otherwise receive HFC or FTTN. Around a million homes are currently expected to be connected with the technology.