NBN Co's latest recruit

Former UBS banker and the man who kept track of Labor's $16 billion education revolution joins NBN Co's board. Meanwhile, Optus chooses Nokia to beef up its networks.

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NBN Co has a new director with former UBS banker and the man who led the taskforce into Labor’s Building the Education Revolution (BER) school stimulus program, Brad Orgill, coming on board.

Orgill’s entry follows the recent recruitment of former SAP Australia chief Tim Ebbeck as the chief commercial officer at NBN Co and both appointments could have interesting bearings on the NBN.

Firstly, both Orgill and Ebbeck have proved their mettle in the public arena over an extended period of time. Orgill spent 22 years at the UBS Group before retiring in 2008 as Chairman of UBS Australia. He was previously CEO of UBS Investment Bank Australia and Head of Asia and Asia-Pacific Equities. Meanwhile, Ebbeck joined SAP in 2003 and was appointed to run the show in Australia in 2008. Since then Ebbeck has reportedly consistently achieved growth rates of up to 30 per cent year-on-year.

So both executives bring substantial financial and operational acumen to the table - but that’s not all. They also bring interesting perspectives that could prove to be decisive for the NBN. Both have publicly criticised the Labor government in the past.  In case of Ebbeck, he has openly decried NBN Co’s lack of focus on wireless technology in the past and has said that the total cost of the project needs to come down.  

Meanwhile, Orgill had plenty to say about the BER and how the project was delivered across the country. The taskforce’s key objective was to see if the program had delivered value for money but Orgill said last year that a Productivity Commission review into the construction industry was needed to uncover the deficiencies in delivery.

Orgill may be seen by some in the Coalition as a Labor ‘yes man’ but his taskforce did raise pertinent questions about the delivery of the BER scheme and similar questions may need to be answered about the NBN roll out.  With the future of the Labor NBN riding on the rollout one can only hope that Orgill’s input will be productive and ensures that further delays are kept to a minimum.

Optus' enhanced networks

Optus has taken another step forward in its 4G strategy with the expansion of its business services on the 4G FDD-LTE network to Sydney and Perth. However, the real focus for Optus is the fact that the operator is doing everything it can to beef up its 3G network coverage. With all the attention on 4G it is quite easy to forget that Optus has managed to pull off one of the biggest refarming projects in the world. Optus is moving spectrum from 2G services to its 3G network to cater for growing data demand on mobile networks and more importantly increasing its competitiveness in the 3G space.

The operator has selected Nokia Siemens Networks as a partner for its key network initiatives. The agreement includes modernisation of the mobile network, refarming the 900 MHz GSM frequency band, and providing infrastructure and services for 4G LTE rollout in Sydney and Perth. Nokia Siemens Networks is the sole LTE core provider for Optus.

As far as Optus Networks’ managing director Günther Ottendorfer is concerned 3G is clearly the “workhorse’ and “will remain so for a while to come.”

“We are following a very clear strategy - we have improved our 3G network and are incrementally rolling out the 4G network to bring greater choice there,” Ottendorfer said.

The 3G network is still going to be the key conduit for the majority of data transported and most of the consumer sector will continue to rely on this pathway. Meanwhile, 4G should increasingly start to make its presence felt in the enterprise space, simply because there is a viable device ecosystem that allows 4G potential to be harnessed effectively. Of course it’s only a matter of time before consumers jump on board the 4G revolution but for now Optus is justifiably spending time and money to ensure that its 3G customers get a more stable capacity with better coverage.

The 4G story will come into focus sharply as the “Digital Dividend” auction gets closer but Optus does have an ace up its sleeve. That ace is the spectrum garnered from the Vividwireless acquisition.

Ottendorfer told Technology Spectator that Vividwireless’ spectrum, of up to 98MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz spectrum band in metro areas, allow Optus to bring higher speed mobile services in Australia.

“The others don’t have that kind of spectrum, and we have shown that if we combine three blocks of that spectrum we can deliver speeds of 200Mbps.”

Optus is currently testing the readiness of the network components, capacity constraints and how 4G works with the 3G network.

“We will take our time doing that and will prepare ourselves to roll that out sometime next year,” Ottendorfer said.

Staying in the telco sector, there were a number of key appointments announced at Telstra, most notably the appointment of former News Ltd executive John Allan to run Sensis.

Allan left News Ltd in June this year after a stint as the chief operating officer of The Australian, where he was involved in the development of the newspaper’s digital strategy.  

Telstra has also appointed a former IBM executive, David Burns, to lead its Network Applications and Services (NAS) group in Australia. Burns, who replaces Paul McManus, will report to Telstra's chief operating officer Brendon Riley. McManus, who is on his way to build Telstra's Asian NAS business from Hong Kong.

Kogan comes of age; Tarazz and AusPost become partners

Ruslan Kogan is back in the news and his business, which started out in a garage, has now clocked up more than one million in sales in one day.

"We actually sold 3 times more in one day -- yesterday -- than in our entire first year of trading,” Kogan said in a statement.

"I wonder when our first $10 million day will be? Watch out Terry and Gerry. We're coming!"

 Love him or hate him but Kogan is certainly doing something right.

Online retailer Tarazz has secured Australia Post as its exclusive shipping partner. The Victorian retailer which describes itself as “Australia’s gateway to a world of retail brands” has partnerships with US retailers such as Walmart, Champs and Buy.com.  

According to Fairfax papers, the group is also in talks with US brands such as Macy's, Banana Republic and J. Crew, with future tie-ups with British luxury brands to follow.

Speaking of Australia Post, the company’s has welcomed two new directors, Susan Bitter and Talal Yassine, to its board.

Bitter is currently the chief operating officer of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, a director of the Medical Indemnity Protection Society Limited and of the Industry Superannuation Property Trust, where she is chair of the audit compliance committee.

Yassine, an Order of Australia winner, is the founder and managing director of Crescent Wealth and was previously the chief commercial officer and co-founder of Better Place Australia.

 Meanwhile, Multiplex heir Andrew Roberts’ online retail ambitions have reportedly suffered multiple blows.

According to The Australian Financial Review , eFINITYGroup, owned by Robert’s investment company AR Management, has been forced to shut a number of bricks and mortar stores and slash jobs, with sales at its three e-commerce sites - MyCatwalkcom.au, ThreadPeople.com.au and BabysGotStyle.com.au.- taking a hit.

Mobile Embrace's APN partnership; Freehills chooses Fujitsu

Listed mobile and digital communications company Mobile Embrace has entered into a partnership with APN New Zealand. The agreement includes nzherald.co.nz, APN Regional titles in New Zealand as well as The Radio Network (TRN).

The deal will see APN utilise Mobile Embrace's cutting edge mobile technology platform, commercial expertise and market leading creative and production services.

Law firm Freehills has chosen Fujitsu to provide hosted services in its Australian data centres for the firm’s business-critical e-discovery applications.

Under the terms of the deal, Fujitsu will provide hosted Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) for Freehills’ e-discovery application out of a local Fujitsu data centre. Fujitsu will also provide management up to and including the operating system layer, including patching, anti-virus and monitoring environment services, and a link to Freehills’ existing co-location environment at a second Australian Fujitsu data centre.

The appointment builds on Fujitsu’s existing successful relationship with Freehills, where it has provided co-location services to Freehills for the past three years.

Independent mobile advertising network, InMobi, has acquired mobile app management and distribution solutions provider Metaflow Solutions. The Metaflow team will relocate to the new InMobi London office.

In appointment news, local ICT services and solutions provider Dimension Data has appointed Haydn Faltyn as general manager of its ITO (IT Outsourcing) practice. Faltyn will report into Director of Services, Duncan Brown and has overall responsibility for strengthening the go-to-market strategy around ITO, managing existing client satisfaction and driving further new growth around the services-led model.

Huawei’s mLab has successfully completed the industry’s first simultaneous GSM/UMTS/WiFi service test. According to the Chinese telco equipment maker, the test marks a significant step forward in the development of convergent solutions for mobile and Wi-Fi networks. Such solutions considerably improve the experience of end-users when switching between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

Huawei first launched its convergent solution for mobile and Wi-Fi networks in 2011 and it has now been integrated into Huawei’s small cell solution AtomCell.  

Melbourne-based tech accessories designer StudioProper had teamed up with US photography equipment designers, Tether Tools, to create a new iPad and Galaxy Tab system.

The Wallee Connect Lite, offers configurations for mounting and integrating the iPad and Galaxy Tab into the photography and film workflow.

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