nbn co CEO Bill Morrow to step down at end of 2018
nbn co CEO Bill Morrow has announced he will step down at the end of the year after serving in the role since April 2014.
Morrow, the former CEO of Vodafone Australia, has overseen the expansion of the nbn from passing 300,000 premises to 6.4 million, with 3.7 million premises activated and 100,000 more connecting every month.
The nbn co board has revealed it will conduct a thorough national and international search for a replacement, and said Morrow’s extended notice will give time for a smooth transition within the executive leadership team.
But telecoms analyst Paul Budde said Morrow is arguably leaving at the worst possible time, considering the upcoming federal election in 2019. “With a new government there would be an opportunity for a fresh start for the nbn, with a clear vision of what the national social and economic value of the infrastructure is for our country,” he said. “Based on that, a business and investment model could be developed.”
Budde, who has been a vocal critic of the Coalition’s downgraded multitechnology mix model for the network, also criticised Morrow for failing to push back against the policy.
“When the current government took over in 2013 and dramatically changed the nbn, most of those involved in the original plan were disappointed and the new, downgraded version of the project was swiftly classified as a second-rate solution. Most of the predictions made at that time regarding what the consequences of the downgrade would be have eventuated; five years later the project is riddled with technical and financial problems and is not delivering what the people expect of a modern digital infrastructure,” he said.
“It could perhaps have been argued that from a telecommunications expert’s position he should have been more upfront about the problems that were inherently linked to the political task that he was given. But instead he followed the political party line.”
Morrow’s successor will need to address the major problems with the current build and may need to develop a new business and investment model, Budde said.
“There are basically two choices here: [either] write off half the value of the nbn and try to find a new investor/operator (privatisation), [or] finish the job properly with FTTH/FTTC and even fibre to the 5G mobile tower (and find an extra $30 billion to finish the job before privatising the nbn).”
It will be important for the incoming CEO to know what the future direction of the nbn will be, and nbn co has the option to either only fill the position temporarily until there is more clarity about its future, or to appoint someone tasked with exploring the status of the project and making recommendations to the government about the project’s future direction.
“If the latter is the case, for the sake of the country let us hope that this will be a bipartisan decision — otherwise we could possibly start all over again after the next election,” Budde concluded.
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