Cisco's local chief Les Williamson today said it was too early to say what role the networking titan could play in the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project, and that he would honour NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley's request for contact via industry representative bodies.
Cisco MD: Les Williamson
At Cisco's annual Networkers customer conference, Williamson would not be drawn on discussions about Cisco's potential for supplying equipment, such as core routers, to the NBN, preferring instead to stick to downstream technologies that would support, for example, education and healthcare services in a fast broadband world.
"I think it's way too early for Cisco to be making a clear statement about engagement [on NBN]," Williamson told ZDNet.com.au today.
"Where the commentary is going at the moment is very focused on residential and access delivery," Williamson told media earlier. "I think that discussion is going to evolve to an outcome-based discussion [around] what are the service delivery models for health and education for the broader society, and what are the architectures that are going to be needed to deliver on that."
While other companies, such as Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks have issued statements around the suitability of their technology for the NBN, Williamson cited discussions between the Federal Government and Telstra over its possible separation as the impediment to him discussing Cisco's potential role in the new network.
"I think the public discussion between the [Federal] Government and Telstra is the next thing that would limit us from getting too specific around it," said Williamson. He added, however, that it was on the company's radar, given that the NBN was potentially a "fairly large infrastructure spend".
Some industry sources have said that while Cisco has not been a purely telco provider, it cannot be ruled out of a race being publicly contested between networking companies, Huawei, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Siemens Network and NEC. NBN's Quigley has said that the NBN Co would select two primary suppliers for the fibre network in order to minimise the risk of interoperability problems. It's been estimated that networking equipment will make up around a third of the total cost of the network.
Williamson denied he was cautious over Cisco's potential involvement in the NBN, and said that he would engage with the NBN Co, as Quigley publicly requested of the industry as a whole, via select industry groups. Cisco is understood to have sent a number of executives to the closed-to-media event last week at which Quigley made the comments.
"My chairman and CEO John Chambers knows Mike. You know, he's a respected player in the industry. They've had contact, and I think that Mike was on the record as saying that he wants to hear through industry groups, not through individual approaches. We've been playing that role from the get-go. I'm a member of the AIIA and other industry groups," said Williamson.
Despite the economic downturn, and importantly, the Federal Government's Gershon review, which saw local IT services firms suffer as agency budgets stalled, Williamson said growing government spending on its equipment helped see the supplier's Australian revenues increase for the year by 20 per cent on the last.
Cisco's earnings reported to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for the year to 27 July 2008 had revealed a drop in revenue over the previous year of 7 per cent, falling to $888.8 million. With the 20 per cent increase Williamson has claimed the company has made since then, its revenues would have reached just over $1 billion.
"Gershon said less money should be spent on day-to-day and what's called non-prodcutive areas, but they never said anything about not increasing spending in productive areas," Williamson said, noting the government's $13 million TelePresence deal with the Federal Government, awarded earlier this year, was a prime example.
Having locked down several major deals over the past year for its TelePresence video-conferencing equipment, Williamson and Cisco have been heavily promoting the technology; though, he did not announce any new customers today. ZDNet.com.au, however, understands that Coca-Cola Amatil's recent deal with Telstra does include provisions for the future deployment of Cisco's Telepresence units.
Liam Tung travelled to the Gold Coast to attend Cisco Networkers as a guest of Cisco Systems.