Michael Sainsbury
October 15, 2015

NBN leadership a roll-out problem

NBN leadership a roll-out problem

Bill Morrow: Tensions at the top could put the NBN roll-out schedule at risk

The embattled National Broadband Network company has lost yet another senior executive with its chief operating officer, former Telstra executive Greg Adcock, leaving after less than two years.

Mr Adcock’s departure is the latest in a revolving door for senior executives and puts the rollout targets of the group under cloud once more.

He was the key executive responsible for the NBN network design and rollout led the including establishing a new industry partnership model and contract management framework.

Mr Adcock had been brought in to the NBN in the wake of the last Federal election in November 2013 by chairman Ziggy Switkowski when he was executive chairman.

His appointment aimed to steady the business in the wake of major cost blowouts and delays under NBN’s original management team, led by former Alcatel Lucent executive Mike Quigley.

In a brief NBN Co statement issued yesterday, the company’s chief executive Bill Morrow, the former Vodafone executive, thanked Mr Adcock for his time at the company.

The NBN has been subject to a major overhaul by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he was Communications Minister. Many now see it as his possible Achilles heel.

Mr Turnbull was largely responsible for bringing in Mr Morrow, and his renovated business plan means that the NBN will cost as much as $15 billion more than its 2012 revised cost under the Rudd and Gillard governments, but with only a portion of Australian homes getting benefit of ultra high speed fibre-to-the home services.

The Abbott government has also capped government spending on the NBN at $29.5 billion leaving the network with a shortfall of at least $26 billion that is still to be funded by private companies, bank loans or bonds.

InnovationAus.com has learned that Mr Turnbull had been warned repeatedly by experienced telecom executives that the move to mixed technology platforms would incur massively increased costs for the network’s information technology platforms that actually run the networks pipes.

The NBN has been fraught not just with cost blowouts, but also serial delays in planned network rollouts.

People familiar with the company said there has been long-term tension between Mr Adcock and Mr Morrow, who brought in a group of his own executives to the project.

They said that there has been long-held suspicion about Mr Adcock and his weekly rollout briefings in other parts of the executive suite.

The company said that Peter Ryan, previously Executive General Manager Regional Deployment at NBN, would step into” the interim role leading the Network Engineering and Deployment function while a search is undertaken for a permanent replacement.”

When the latest cost blowout was revealed last August, Mr Turnbull said: "The reality is that under the Labor Party neither the company nor the Labor Government actually knew what it would cost or how long it would take to do the project."

He added that he was now “confident that the numbers we have now is right; we know what it actually is costing to do the work.”

But with only a fraction of Australians connected to the network and questions over its funding, the question is now just how much of an election issue the Turnbull NBN could become for a Prime Minister who has pinned his premiership to the mast of technology and innovation.

 

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