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Primus CEO ready to take on Telstra

Although just six months into the role, Primus CEO Tom Mazerski has scored a few major wins for the telco and has set his sights on lobbying NBN Co to get its voice services right for customers who don't want broadband.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Although just six months into the role, Primus CEO Tom Mazerski has scored a few major wins for the telco and has set his sights on lobbying NBN Co to get voice services right for customers who don't want broadband.

Tom Mazerski

Tom Mazerski
(Credit: Primus)

Mazerski took on the role from long-time CEO Ravi Bhatia in August last year, moving to Australia from being president of the US retail and network services unit of Primus' global parent company.

In the past few months, Primus has announced a number of big wins. In January, Primus won a three-year multimillion-dollar deal to provide Payless Shoes' network, and the company also secured a $6 million deal to provide voice, data and managed Wi-Fi services for Hungry Jacks. Earlier this month, the company revealed it had been signed to provide a voice and data network for energy retailer Australian Power and Gas.

Mazerski told ZDNet Australia that his sales team were focused on selling the benefits of its backbone network reaching 66 cities across Australia.

"It was quite a surprise to me when I got here, because I wasn't sure what I would find, the fact that we have our own fibre ring in all major cities throughout Australia. We've groomed those rings, they're technically advanced," he said.

"Our sales folk are out and about explaining to our customers that not only will you get a good price ... a lot of your services will be away from everyone else and exclusively on the Primus network."

Primus was focusing on customers near the company's datacentres or fibre rings that would bill greater than $1000 a month, he said. Particularly those who were looking to remove their private branch exchange phone systems from the office and move to a hosted telephone service.

"We're just getting started. We have a pipeline of orders, a pipeline of customers that range from banking, to gaming, to retail, so we feel pretty good about it."

Primus has deployed 286 DSLAMs across the country, but Mazerski said that Primus was keen on expanding to any area where Telstra had a monopoly, and this meant wholesaling directly through Telstra. He welcomed the competition regulator's recent decision to address the complaints of price squeezing by Telstra.

"The fact that, when I walked in the door, that Telstra was selling retail less than they were offering wholesalers, was odd to me. And if they're correcting that, it's a good thing for the market," he said.

But he said Primus had put an effort into the South Brisbane exchange, which Telstra recently replaced with fibre. He said that Primus had been "very disappointed" that since offering wholesale services to telcos like Primus on the new fibre network, Telstra had charged a higher price, and offered less than what had been available to customers on ADSL2+.

"Just because you change the technology doesn't mean people's prices are changed," he said, resigned. "Those customers are just going to have to pay higher prices."

Given the company's widespread fibre backhaul, and its ability to offer broadband services over fibre in greenfields estates through providers like Opticomm and Fujitsu, Maserski said Primus was "well ahead of the industry" in being prepared for the fibre roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN). And, unlike Internode, he said he wasn't expecting a tap on the shoulder from iiNet CEO Michael Malone any time soon.

"We believe we'll be the first provider to provide a full fibre end-to-end service for customers," he said. "Others are either going to have to build it or lease it, and we're already there."

He said that having the fibre backhaul put Primus in a good position to save on costs and weather an NBN world where, as Internode managing director Simon Hackett said, scale will be key. Mazerski said the main concern Primus had was ensuring NBN Co gets a suitable wholesale voice product that doesn't require a customer to sign up for broadband services.

"The only pricing issue we're looking at now is to get a voice-only wholesale price for them. We think NBN missed it in their assumptions that every customer would have a broadband connection," he said. "Because we have our voice-only platform, we know there are millions of customers out there that are not going to want a broadband service. They'll be pensioners and low incomes."

Paying at least $24 a month wholesale, as it currently stands, would lead to those customers paying higher prices than they currently do just for a voice service, he said, but added that NBN Co was looking at it.

"We're trying to convince NBN that those customers need voice only, [otherwise customers] will be forced to pay for a broadband service they don't want or need."

Despite this hurdle, Mazerski said Primus was moving fast on every new site opened up by the NBN.

"Every time NBN opens up a new market, it's a brand new market for us. A brand new market we've never sold into," he said. "Ten years from now, my goal is to have Telstra's market share at 50 per cent, not 100 per cent, and I have most of that."

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