Welcome to the first edition of Deacons’ National Broadband Network Update. The NBN will change the face of Australian telecommunications and will impact businesses far beyond the telecommunications sector. The NBN is a massive project and we propose to issue the NBN Update regularly to give you a concise summary of what is happening.

If you would like to read the NBN story from the beginning, Nick Abrahams’ Sydney Morning Herald column on the first three months of NBN progress can be found here – Why the NBN is bigger than Ben Hur. The progress of the NBN since July is set out below:

NBN Co. chair, NBN Co. Board and Tasmanian NBN Co. Chair appointments

  • The NBN Co. Executive Chairman and CEO is Mike Quigley, who served as President and COO during his 35 years at Alcatel, mostly overseas. Mr Quigley was involved in building a residential fibre network for AT&T in the US.
  • The Tasmanian NBN Co. Chairman is Doug Campbell, who was the founder and long-time Group Managing Director of Telstra Country Wide.
  • The NBN Co. Board members are Doug Campbell, Peter Kay (former Freehills CEO), Siobhan McKenna (former McKinsey partner and Productivity Commission Commissioner), Diane Smith-Gander (former McKinsey partner and ex-Westpac executive) and Gene Tilbrook (former Wesfarmers executive).
  • Further appointments to the NBN Co. staff are Tim Smeallie (former telecommunications analyst) as Head of Commercial Strategy, Kevin Brown (ex-QANTAS) as Corporate Services Manager and Christie Bryce (ex-McKinsey) as Policy Adviser to Mr Quigley.

Potential regulation

Telstra

  • New legislation was introduced into Parliament last week which, if enacted, allows Telstra to provide a voluntary undertaking to the ACCC for a structural separation of its retail and wholesale business. If Telstra chooses not to structurally separate, the government may impose a strong functional separational framework on Telstra.
  • Telstra will be prevented from acquiring any additional spectrum for advanced wireless broadband while it remains:
  1. a vertically integrated company;
  2. owns a hybrid fibre coaxial cable network; and
  3. retains its 50% interest in Foxtel.

However, if Telstra provides an undertaking to structurally separate, the Government may remove either or both of the second and third requirements.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures No. 1) Bill 2009

  • Senator Conroy has introduced the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 which requires companies to provide confidential information to the Government about telecommunications infrastructure in the context of a broadband telecommunications network.
  • The Bill allows providers to stop providing confidential information to the Government 10 years after the Bill is passed. The Bill does not contain a provision to compensate organisations for the cost of providing the required information.
  • There have been considerable concerns raised about the Bill and the NBN generally in the Senate. The Bill cannot pass into legislation until debated and passed by the Senate. Last month the Senate, eager to consider the NBN project from a broader perspective, passed an order for the Government to table the reports which led to the cancellation of the original tender process for the NBN.

Tasmania, black spots and regional plans

  • Currently, trenches are being dug and conduits to house the fibre optic cable are being laid at sites around Tasmania with the fibre backbone cabling to be in place by Christmas in the following regional towns in Tasmania – Smithton, Midway Point and Scottsdale.
  • The first to receive funding from the $250 million blackhaul black spots project are Emerald and Longreach in Queensland, Geraldton in Western Australia, Broken Hill in NSW, Victor Harbor in South Australia, South West Gippsland in Victoria and Darwin.
  • Tenders for the black spots project closed on 5 August 2009. The results of this tender have not yet been announced.

Still to be decided

  • The location of the base city for NBN Co. – New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria appear to be the strongest candidates at this time.