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.

And then the rest

Those at very top echelons aren't the only ones driving NBN Co onto its fibre future. We trawled through NBN Co's employee list and found a number of other interesting staff handling everything from billing to the company's basketball team.

The broadband market has come a long way since Landry Fevre — NBN Co's general manager of media and commercial strategy — was conducting broadband surveys as IDC's telecommunications and consumer markets research director. Just consider the results of the 2005 survey in which 70 per cent of respondents were on 256Kbps broadband connections and almost nobody was using voice over internet protocol (VoIP). Times have changed significantly since then, but Fevre seems to have had his eye on the future for some time.

He noted in 2004 that "industry cooperation and consolidation will be common market characteristics" for next-generation networks and that "successful players will be those nimble enough to embrace a new go-to-market model, one that is user-centric and less technology-driven". Even back then, in the depth of the Howard administration, he couldn't have been describing NBN Co more aptly.

Tony Cross, general manager network architecture and technology, knows his way around fibre-optic networks: as general manager for access technology, he was instrumental in building up Telstra's Velocity business, which is laying fibre throughout new housing estates. He also helped drive Telstra's recent upgrade of its hybrid-fibre coaxial network to 100Mbps throughout Melbourne. He played a key role in negotiating Foxtel-related commercial issues between Telstra and News Corporation and planned a Telstra legacy IT upgrade that reduced operating costs by $250 million per year.


Matthew Lobb, an ANU and Oxford-educated telecommunications specialist whose previous stints included providing policy advice to Queensland MP Craig Emerson and NSW Minister for Transport and Roads Carl Scully. Lobb has also had a role as wholesale regulatory manager and effective monopoly apologist with Telstra, and has now taken up the mantle of general manager for industry engagement with NBN Co.

Lobb currently acts as NBN's representative on the board of directors of industry group Communications Alliance. That position puts him at the table with the likes of Alcatel-Lucent's Ric Clark, Primus Telecom's Roger Nicoll, Telstra's Warwick Broxom, SingTel Optus' Gary Smith, and representatives of every other major communications player.

Then there's Kevin Morgan, who joined NBN Co as a systems architect earlier this year. His more than 35 years' telecoms experience includes 20 years in IT architecture and design roles, with prior gigs at Telstra, Optus and AAPT. Morgan is an expert in business support systems (BSS) and operational support systems (OSS), having expertise across a broad range of fixed and mobile services. As NBN Co gears up to build out its Melbourne network operations centre, he'll likely work alongside the likes of Peter Ferris, general manager of design and planning to figure out what goes where.

Ferris, for his part, has come from being general manager for network technologies with 3 Mobile. He's also held technology planning roles at Optus, where he spent 15 years. An adjunct professor of telecommunications with Macquarie University, Ferris has also done extensive additional work in people management.

A long-time basketball coach and hands-on manager, he's popular with his direct reports: premises planning manager Stephen Middleton, who worked with Ferris at Optus, calls him "without doubt the most technically adept manager I have ever had the pleasure of working with ... enthusiasm and drive combine with intense company loyalty to yield a senior manager who is definitely not one of the 'yes' men... Peter can inspire an auditorium or a team to unusual feats of delivery".

Middleton has years of experience in application design, access technology planning, consumer access management and more. His specialties include fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-home access architectures as well as IPTV, middleware, applications and more. Middleton brings "excellent technical and business analysis, especially when dealing with new and emerging technologies", one-time manager Steve Christian wrote of the time he spent with Middleton at Optus.

Also on the team is Greg Tilton, general manager of systems architecture and technology. Tilton taught Masters in Telecommunications courses at Melbourne University from 2002 to 2007, and has headed technology strategy at a range of organisations including DGIT, SingTel Optus, AAPT, PowerTel, Request Broadband, Telstra BigPond and more. Tilton occasionally presents at industry conferences such as this year's CommsDay Summit, where he discussed the process of provisioning OSS/BSS systems at NBN Co.

Pricing architect Dieter Schadt previously worked as a senior advisor and principal consultant at Henry Ergas' now-defunct firm Concept Economics, vice president at CRA International, and in pricing and finance manager roles at Sensis and Telstra.

Schadt lists his specialties as value management, business strategy, cost modelling and telco regulation — all critical to helping make NBN Co's numbers add up — and has enough to offer that Quigley looked past Concept Economics' scathing 2009 cost-benefit analysis, which found the costs of the NBN outweighed its benefits.

One part of NBN Co that cannot remain unfinished is billing — an area due to be worked on by Steve Nichols, the company's billing development manager. Nichols, a Swinburne University graduate who most recently acted in business analyst roles at Telstra and AAPT, previously led billing operations for Request Broadband.

Nichols might well also put up his hand in organising NBN Co staff bonding days: in his spare time, he maintains a calendar of adventure-race events via his AdventureRace venture for like-minded individuals keen to do a bit of endurance racing, mountain biking, orienteering, kayaking, trail running and rogaining.

Adrenaline sports aren't the only thing going on at NBN Co. Commercial strategist Nadeen Jayasundara, plays on NBN Co's basketball team in the NSW Corporate Games competition alongside Peter Ferris, Gareth Simmons (general manager of commercial networks) and several others.

The name of their team? The NBN Co Broadbanders. Stop laughing. No word on whether Telstra has fronted up a team too — but if so, perhaps there's a better way to resolve all the back-and-forth over the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Regardless of whether the match ever happens, however, it's clear that Mike Quigley has assembled his own Dream Team and is rushing a full court press to get the NBN well underway.

(All executive headshots are courtesy of NBN Co.)

Topics: NBN, Networking, Tech & Work


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