Surprise group wins $4.7bn NBN deal

The Federal Government has awarded its $4.7 billion National Broadband Network contract to a secretive consortium backed by the wealthy Packer and Murdoch families.

Note: This story was an April Fools' Day joke. The NBN winner is expected to be announced next week.

The Federal Government has awarded its $4.7 billion National Broadband Network contract to a secretive consortium backed by the wealthy Packer and Murdoch families.

Steven Conroy

Stephen Conroy (Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)

It was crucial that we awarded this contract to players with strong commercial experience in the Australian telecommunications market

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy

The group, led by heirs Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer, also has close links with Optus and plans to build a fibre-to-the-home National Broadband Network to service 100 per cent of the population and compete strongly with Telstra. The deal was announced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy at a Canberra press conference this morning.

"It was crucial that we awarded this contract to players with strong commercial experience in the Australian telecommunications market," Conroy said. "Messrs Murdoch and Packer have the capital to back their bid, with technical backing coming from Optus and a strong management team already in place."

Conroy said work on the new network would begin immediately, with 100Mbps speeds to be delivered to some homes in metropolitan areas by the end of 2008. "As we promised during the election, we're bringing high-speed broadband to Australia," he said.

The deal leaves rival bidders like Acacia, Acia Netmedia and smaller players out in the cold, although Optus will retain a line-in to the funding courtesy of its relationship with the surprise consortium. The SingTel subsidiary will take a small stake in the new Packer/Murdoch giant.

Speaking alongside Conroy in Canberra, Packer said the group had headhunted well-known technology executive and entrepreneur Jodee Rich to lead the new consortium, which would be known as "One.Tel". Fellow Australian technology luminary Brad Keeling will act as the executive team's liaison with its board.

"They're visionaries, they're excellent managers and they've kept the share price up for all the companies that they've managed," said Packer.

Packer said it wasn't only the consortium's business expertise but also its revolutionary business model that would entice customers on to the new broadband network.

"Their staff are going to stand around on Bondi Beach with a bunch of application forms and pay people $10 to sign up," he said. "There won't be any access fees to the network, no minimum spend, and there won't be any fixed term, so of course there won't be any way of ensuring that these customers will stay with the network, except for great and innovative marketing techniques that will attract the high-spending Generation Y demographic."

The fledgling company has established a new office in downtown Sydney.

"They've got this massive fracking fishtank with live lobsters in it and a new pastel paint scheme that's out of this world," said Packer. "Not only that, but they've hired 2,000 British backpackers to staff the state-of-the-art call centre and a crack squad of social media experts who are remunerated on a pay-per-Twitter basis."

The Dude (Credit: Universal Studios)

Murdoch told ZDNet.com.au by telephone that One.Tel had hired a design firm to create a new mascot for the company.

"It's this guy they call 'The Dude'," he said. "I've never smoked marijuana, but if I was planning to inhale, this would be the guy I would want by my side. He's got long hair, a laid-back attitude and the bloodshot eyes that will position our brand image perfectly in the marketplace."

Conroy expressed confidence in the future of the Federal Government's relationship with the company. "I've got no doubt they'll safeguard our assets and deliver a strong return on our investment," he said.

According to insider reports, one bidder pipped at the post for the lucrative NBN contract was popular ISP Dodo. Text leaked from Dodo's NBN submission show some of founder Larry Kestleman's strategy: "We are a 'can-do' communications company — hence the name, 'Dodo'."

Kestleman was also planning to introduce technology that would make it easier to reach customers deep in the bush; technology he referred to in the submission as "Deep Dodo".

Happy April Fools day: Did you fall for our story?

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All