Tenders need NBN clauses: Alcatel-Lucent

Companies bidding to provide telco services for large corporations have yet to factor in the National Broadband Network (NBN) into their bids, according to Alcatel-Lucent.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Companies bidding to provide telco services for large corporations have yet to factor in the National Broadband Network (NBN) into their bids, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

Geof Heydon, vice president of digital economy for Alcatel-Lucent, said he had recently spoken to a bank in Australia which had gone to tender for new carrier services for its entire company. The bank had been in contact with Alcatel-Lucent because it wanted to find out how to encourage tender respondents to think about the NBN.

"We got all these tender responses from all of the suppliers of our services and none of them mentioned anything about the NBN. So clearly we've asked the wrong questions of them and what should we do to get their view of how the services we're talking about in the next five years," he quoted the bank as telling him. "We want to hear how this is going to be able to influence what we're going to buy."

He said this example just showed that the banks had begun to see that the roll-out of the NBN was going to change their business model, and that it was up to carriers to factor this in to their long-term plans. Heydon said the banks needed to get the idea across that communication services were less about bank-to-bank communication and more bank-to-consumer communication in the NBN world.

"[The bank] hadn't really engaged on the subject of things that they were currently doing between head offices and branches. They hadn't extended that story. You know, we want to extend that to the home. Into people's TVs, into their PCs. It's not just about iPhone apps, it's about what happens when that application is just as accessible on the TV," said Heydon.

"They're not asking those questions because they don't know what questions to ask. It's a pretty tough thing because the language of the future digital economy will be a pretty different language."

Heydon said that the biggest barrier to educating businesses and the public about the NBN was the lack of understanding about the structure of the industry outside of the industry itself.

"There's a big education gap right at the moment. Hardly anybody outside of the telco industry understood the structure of the telco industry before, so what it's changing to is even more of a black mystery to people outside of the industry," he said. "I find myself explaining many times how it was before I explain how it will be, because people didn't know enough, because they didn't need to know."

With a hung government in play, and a coalition opposition indicating it would be unlikely to keep the fibre-to-the-home network rolling out if it seized power, there is no way to know whether the project will be completed. However, this instability should not prevent companies from factoring in high-speed broadband availability in their long-term plans, Alcatel-Lucent's ANZ managing director Andrew Butterworth said.

"NBN and NBN Co are really focused around fixed-line access. If we see a change in government and a change in policy around driving that, it might change the timeline or technology options but we will see the emergence of high-speed broadband in a fixed and wireless sense," he said.

"I'm excited about what NBN is trying to do, but the ultimate end game is there [if the government changes]. The politics is causing uncertainty but I think they should be asking those questions and get clear about how they want to change their business."

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