NBN's new Mr Fix-It

Vodafone Australia boss Bill Morrow's reported appointment as NBN Co CEO is an astonishing move that adds a new dimension to the NBN strategic review and Vodafone's future.

The reported crowning of Vodafone Hutchinson Australia boss Bill Morrow as the new boss at NBN Co is an astonishing bit of news that adds a new dimension to the release of the NBN strategic review.

Not only do we get a look at the template that will dictate the shape and form of the Coalition's NBN, we also get to meet the captain taking the helm at a project that has had more than its fair share of turbulence.

Then again Morrow is no stranger to dealing with turbulence. In fact, his renowned acumen as a troubleshooter could just be the tonic NBN Co needs to fortify itself for the road ahead.

He weaved his magic at Japan Telecom, which became Vodafone KK, and was subsequently sold to Softbank for a cool $US15 billion. And from the looks of things things at Vodafone Australia were on the mend as well.

The telco might still be bleeding customers but telco analysts are unanimous that Vodafone Australia can still make it work, provided it rehabilitates its network in time for when the public is willing to forgive and forget its sins of the past. Taking the lead on tackling roaming costs, tempting customers back with a double data play, are all initiatives that came into the picture under Morrow's term.

But could his sudden departure potentially undo some of the goodwill? Morrow's reported move to NBN Co could prove to be a tremendous disruption for Vodafone Australia, given that its turnaround is still very much a work in progress.

Morrow was always on the list of head-hunter Egon Zehnder's list, ever since Quigley’s announcement in July, but it must have been an almighty bout of negotiations to persuade Vodafone to let him go.

To be fair to Vodafone, Morrow's task at the telco is far from finished.

From a public perception viewpoint, it's reasonable to assume that critics won't hesitate to point out that fixing Vodafone may have proven to be challenging enough for Morrow to persuade him to jump ship. But leaving Vodafone behind for NBN Co? Morrow may be a glutton for punishment, or perhaps the telco industry's Mr Fix-It is ready to make his mark at a grander scale.

There's no doubt that Morrow has the drive and the nous to take on this challenge. He has a thorough understanding of the industry and while his contribution to the NBN debate has so far focused on opening up NBN infrastructure to mobile operators, he should be capable of looking at the bigger picture.

When it comes to access to NBN-owned infrastructure, that deal is pretty much a given. The negotiations with Telstra and getting a handle on the construction outsourcing process, that will be the big picture stuff that may prove more challenging.

As for Vodafone Australia, its turnaround man has now purportedly moved on to a bigger, arguably more complex, challenge. But can the telco's parent companies rustle up another sharpshooter who can keep Morrow's initiative in play?

If not, then it all points to some very serious changes for Vodafone Australia.

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