NBN nabs new CTO from Nokia

Ray Owen will join NBN from his role as the Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania managing director at Nokia.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

NBN has filled its chief technology officer position, left without a permanent replacement since the departure of Dennis Steiger in May.

Joining the company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network across Australia is Ray Owen, who was most recently Nokia managing director for Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Prior to Nokia, Owen held a number of roles in Motorola.

"We are delighted to welcome Ray to NBN and look forward to his vast experience in the global telecoms industry in helping us deliver the best possible network for Australians," NBN chief strategy officer JB Rousselot said. Owen will report to Rousselot.

Nokia Oceania head of corporate affairs Tim Marshall said Owen left on good terms and Nokia wished him well.

"Ray has done an outstanding job as managing director of Nokia's Oceania business, where he has grown our market presence over the last two and half years and led a very successful integration with the former Alcatel-Lucent organisation," Marshall said.

"It's always sad to lose a valuable leader and colleague, but of course we're very pleased for Ray and the opportunity for him to further his career."

On the technology front, NBN has recently commenced construction of its fibre-to-the-distribution-point network in Melbourne, and is mulling over whether to launch a third satellite.

Elsewhere, NBN has found itself involved in an ongoing stoush with retailers over the cost of bandwidth on its network.

At the start of this week, NBN CEO Bill Morrow hit out at allegations the connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) charge and use of copper in its Multi-Technology Mix are to blame for Australians seeing unsatisfactory speeds when connected to the network, and instead said it was the result of an NBN "land grab" forcing retail service providers (RSPs) to cut costs somewhere.

"The RSPs are between a rock and a hard place," Morrow said.

Morrow said retailers were involved in a land grab for market share, where pricing was the focus, and not speeds or quality of service.

"If an RSP doesn't price their product high enough to recover their costs, they may be forced to cut corners that could affect the quality of the services being offered," he said.

"If an RSP isn't purchasing enough CVC capacity to offer the quality expected, that is a conscious choice to do so."

Morrow revealed the average bit rate per user on the network was approximately 1Mbps.

"Under our pricing model, that could be doubled to 2Mbps for each end user for around an extra AU$5 per month," he said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it would prefer for NBN and its retailers to come to an agreement on the contentious CVC charge, but will intervene should the parties be deadlocked.

"The ACCC acknowledges the ongoing industry concerns about NBN Co's pricing, particularly the level of CVC prices," the regulator said in a discussion paper published on Wednesday.

"The ACCC considers these concerns have the potential to impact competition in downstream markets and end-user experiences. Further, there is a risk that these concerns will continue and may even be magnified as the NBN rollout continues and usage increases."

Earlier in the week, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield directed ACMA to conduct research into customer experience on the NBN.

Fifield said ACMA will look at all the technologies in NBN's multi-technology mix, and use its powers to collect information from industry.

"21 industry participants including retailers, wholesale providers, and NBN Co Ltd will receive notices seeking a range of data on issues such as fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping, telephone number porting, and more," he said on Tuesday.

The company is also having to deal with a number of churning customer issues, with Aussie Broadband telling ZDNet it was escalating 30 percent of its HFC connections to NBN.

In response, NBN said it was processing orders as quickly as it could, and was creating a new team to investigate the issues.

"We acknowledge there have been some delays in the HFC rollout due to high end-user demand and the complexity involved in connecting some premises to the NBN HFC network," an NBN spokesperson said.

"With respect to churn, in some cases this is taking longer than we would like. In some instances, this has been exacerbated by previous tenants taking the NTD with them when they leave the premises."

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