NBN Co restructures to set up new regional business unit

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NBN Co restructures to set up new regional business unit

Combines wireless, satellite and customer ops.

NBN Co is restructuring to separate its regional and remote networks and operations into a new business unit.

The company said that the new regional business unit will be run by Gavin Williams, who was formerly executive general manager of products.

Williams’ new title is chief development officer for regional and remote, and he will report directly to NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue.

The unit will take control of NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks “as well as other customer-facing functions,” the government said in a statement.

It will also “include an expanded community and stakeholder engagement capability to ensure that customer expectations are understood, including across different community segments and business sectors,” NBN Co said separately.

NBN Co offered two reasons for separating its regional and rural operations and assets.

It said the move helped address a “key recommendation in the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review ... to assign responsibility for improving NBN Co’s regional and remote assets to an experienced member of the company’s senior executive management team.”

It also suggested the move would “ensure regional customers remain front and centre as the NBN network build nears completion.”

But the structure could also be helpful for NBN Co’s expected future privatisation, even if that isn't outwardly the aim of the exercise.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed in April last year that NBN Co had taken some preliminary action towards its future sale, which some believe will involve the company being broken up.

The idea of a break-up and sale was recommended in the 2014 Vertigan panel of experts review, and the ACCC has backed that idea.

NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks are both loss-making, and most likely to require future government funding to upgrade. 

Compartmentalising these assets under a single business unit structure could make it simpler in future to ensure that the regional and remote part of the NBN can remain in public hands.

At least publicly, however, NBN Co does not see it that way, and says the restructure is about helping regional, rural and remote users take advantage of broadband and "optimising" the networks already deployed.

An NBN Co spokesperson said the company had “already delivered impressive benefits for regional and remote Australia”.

“This announcement is all about ensuring we’re best positioned to build on that for the future,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re redoubling our commitment to these parts of the country, bringing together technical teams and expanding our community engagement activities to make sure we’re focused on the right areas and taking the right action to lift digital capability.”

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