Alcatel's Quigley wins NBN chair

Long-time Alcatel-Lucent veteran Mike Quigley has been appointed executive chairman of the National Broadband Network Company and is expected to eventually be its chief executive officer and managing director.

update Long-time Alcatel-Lucent veteran Mike Quigley has been appointed executive chairman of the National Broadband Network Company and is expected to eventually be its chief executive officer and managing director.

Mike Quigley

Mike Quigley
(Credit: Alcatel-Lucent)

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the move in Tasmania today, saying Quigley was an example of an Australian executive who had reached the top of his profession globally, and was now able to bring the benefit of that experience home.

"The government is continuing the process to appoint other directors to the board of the company, and expects to be in a position to make further announcements shortly," the pair's statement said.

"It is anticipated that one of those directors will, in time, also be appointed as non-executive chairman, with Mr Quigley continuing as managing director and chief executive officer."

Quigley will start immediately and be actively involved in the NBN Implementation Study. A consultant has yet to be appointed to carry out the study, which is due to be handed down in early 2010.

56-year-old Quigley has spent virtually his entire career — 36 years — with Alcatel-Lucent, which is one of Telstra's key suppliers in Australia. He rose to dizzying heights as the company's president and chief operating officer in April 2005, and was a key player in the integration of Lucent Technologies into the Alcatel business.

However, he quit the company in August 2007, as he was sidelined into a secondary role. Speculation arose in late 2008 that Quigley would be brought back into the company as its chief executive; however, he was ultimately passed over, with former British Telecom CEO Ben Verwaayan instead winning the role.

Rudd and Conroy noted that during the course of his career, Quigley had led the development and integration of large scale fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) and fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) implementations for some of the largest US carriers.

Quigley is believed to have been residing in Australia for the past couple of years.

He has previously played a role in the ongoing, multi-year negotiations between Telstra, its rivals and the Federal Government over the details of how a National Broadband Network would be built.

In May 2006, six months after Alcatel-Lucent won billions of dollars of work with Telstra to assist in the construction of what would have been a fibre-to-the-node NBN, Quigley took a strong stance against a proposal by Telstra's rivals that would have seen such a network cooperatively built.

At the time, Alcatel-Lucent was seen as trying to assist Telstra to get a favourable deal with the government on its FTTN NBN plans.

"To think that we could do this, fast, with a consortium of companies ... it would be awfully difficult," Quigley told the press three years ago. "It's not the way I've seen it done anywhere in the world."

At the time, Quigley encouraged the government to regulate the telecommunications industry with a "light touch", saying increased regulatory intervention in the sector worried him.

"Nobody's saying that they need to have investment certainty — it's a risky business," he said. "But networks won't be built without regulatory certainty," he added, citing examples from the United States.

The Alcatel executive said it was "not simple and straightforward" to separate telcos' wholesale and retail arms. Such a model had yet to be proven, he said, and it was likely that smaller telcos would not invest in infrastructure as long as they could buy wholesale services from a larger telco.

The man
According to background information provided by the government, Quigley was born in Kent, England in 1953. However, he is an Australian citizen, and is married with three daughters.

Educated at the University of NSW with a science degree in mathematics and physics, and a Bachelor of Engineering (with honours) in electrical engineering, Quigley's early career with STC (before it was acquired by Alcatel) was in the area of research and development and technical management.

He then rose through the Alcatel ranks, before eventually leading the supplier's Australia and New Zealand division. Then, a switch to the company's US office: in 1999 Quigley became COO and then president and CEO of Alcatel USA.

In 2003 Quigley became president of Alcatel's Fixed Communications Group in its headquarters in Paris, responsible for infrastructure products, including network switches and optical communications systems. He was eventually promoted to president and COO of the company globally, taking a lead role in its merger with Lucent. Quigley will remain a non-executive director of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute.