NBN who's who: people behind the dream

Summary:The National Broadband Network — a massive undertaking which needs a stellar team behind it. We delve into the team, telling you where they came from and what makes them tick.

Powering the network

A number of key executives are responsible for the actual technology going into the NBN, keeping the network and its computing infrastructure running. With pedigrees stretching into every major telco — and with many of the NBN Co recruits having worked with each other in the past — the group comprises a dream team of expertise.

Steve Christian, head of network operations, is a long-time telecoms veteran, having worked as managing director of Optus' networks business for many years and in the industry — initially at US carriers including BellSouth and US West — for nearly 40 years all told. However, there are inconsistencies around his tenure: Christian's own LinkedIn page has a five-year gap between a gig with US West cable TV and internet spin-off US West in 1998-to-2000 and in 2005 starting with Australian telco Optus, while a 2008 Optus press release noted that Christian had started with the telco in 1992. His plan had been, according to the release, to spend a comfortable retirement sailing and spending time with family in Mission Beach, Queensland.

Assuming that's the correct story and the LinkedIn inconsistency is just an oversight, that makes Christian an extremely experienced operator which Optus credits with having been "instrumental in managing the investment in and growth of Optus' mobile and IP networks". The fact that he would eschew a cozy retirement to help build the NBN certainly suggests a real commitment to helping the effort succeed — or an irresistible pay packet.

Head of network operations, Steve Christian (Credit: NBN Co)

Christian was building networks when chief technology officer Gary McLaren was still proverbially in nappies, but McLaren still packs an extensive range of industry experience underpinned by dual bachelor's degrees — engineering, in 1985 and law, in 2001. His careers extend from Telstra and Siemens to a position with now PowerTel-owned Request Broadband.

More recently, McLaren ran mobile payments provider Utiba and worked with telecoms consultancies iProvide and McLaren Williams, where he cites engagements with a virtual who's who of the industry: Alcatel-Lucent, Siemens, Optus, AAPT, Nextgen Networks, Telecom Fiji and others. McLaren served as deputy chair for the Communications Alliance's Network Reference Panel for 11 years, focusing his role as NBN lead consultant before commencing as NBN chief technology officer (CTO) in September 2009.

McLaren's breadth of experience on technical, legal and regulatory matters puts him in good stead to not only drive the company's technology, but to liaise productively with executives in the all-critical regulatory space. His Twitter page went mysteriously quiet in July 2009, just before he commenced with NBN Co, but before then he described himself as a "specialist in commercialisation of new technologies and services".

The company's information strategy is being headed by chief information officer (CIO) Claire Rawlins, who was appointed in November 2009, bringing a wealth of past experience. She most recently guided technology transformation projects at AAPT, but has also previously served in a variety of executive positions including managing director of BT Group Technology, chief operating officer (COO) for IT with US telco Qwest, CIO for Online Markets with boutique investment firm Dresdner Kleinwort, and roles with financial-services players BNP Paribas and Lloyds TSB. Rawlins has both the financial clout and the executive experience to bring NBN Co a top-notch information architecture with solid roots in financial realities.

Topics: NBN, Networking, Tech & Work


As large as the US mainland but with a smaller population than Texas, Australia relies on ICT innovation to maintain its position as a first-world democracy and a role model for the developing Asia-Pacific region. Award-winning journalist David Braue has covered Australia’s IT and telecoms sectors since 1995 – and he’s as quick to draw le... Full Bio

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