Switkowski to lend expertise to NBN Co
Incoming communications minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to make a series of board appointments to NBN Co, including former Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowski, as part of an overhaul of the broadband group.
It is understood Mr Turnbull approached executives from the telecoms and construction industries in the weeks leading up to the election to boost NBN Co's board, which he described as lacking skills in building and running a complex broadband network.
"While I have no criticism to make of any of the individuals, it is remarkable that there is nobody on that board who has either run or built or been responsible for building or managing a large telecommunications network," he told the ABC. "And given that is the core business of NBN Co, that is a singular deficiency."
NBN Co has been under pressure to accelerate the roll-out of fibre optic cables as the company struggles to meet deadlines in building the country's largest ever telecoms network.
David Kennedy, director of research at consultancy Ovum, said it did not come as a surprise that Mr Turnbull was considering appointing people with more experience to the NBN Co board. "There were two specific things that he [Mr Turnbull] said the board needed: they needed more telecommunications expertise and more expertise in civil work."
The costs of construction and engineering are responsible for the bulk of the estimated $37.4 billion price tag attached to the national broadband project.
The new Abbott government proposes a 60-day review of NBN Co's progress.
Mr Switkowski is regarded as the favourite to succeed outgoing NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley. A trained nuclear physicist, he led Telstra during its privatisation process, during which the company was sold in three tranches to private investors.
Some analysts predict Telstra will fare better under the Coalition's alternative broadband network model. The core of the Coalition's alternative version of broadband is to roll out fibre to cabinets on streets but not to homes, using Telstra's copper wire for the "last mile" connection to homes.
"We view the Coalition policy as more favourable for the incumbent telecom operator, although there's no immediate change to our medium-term cash flow forecasts," said Justin Diddams, a Citi research analyst. "Over the long term the market structure and competition implications are less onerous for Telstra compared with the Labor policy."