Vocus Managing Director & CEO: nbn’s new approach is a big step forward

Posted on February 03, 2020

Vocus Managing Director & CEO Kevin Russell offered an opinion piece on the weekend of 1st February, which was featured in print and online in The Australian newspaper.

In an industry where major reforms usually occur over years or even decades, a lot happened in a period of just 48 hours last week.

Two major announcements from NBN have completely re-shaped the market environment of the Australian telecommunications industry – for the better.

First, NBN has proposed a solution to make efficient use of existing competitive infrastructure, rather than wastefully overbuilding it.

Second, NBN will re-establish itself within its wholesale-only mandate, immediately ceasing the practice of entering direct contracts with Enterprise customers.

As a result of these changes NBN will consult with industry on how to best utilise existing fibre, and how its industry engagement team can educate the market in support of competition – rather than as a competitor.

These two changes re-affirm the fundamental role of infrastructure investment and competition in delivering the best outcomes for consumers.

NBN deserves credit for taking decisive action to address industry’s concerns. There was clearly something wrong when the entire industry – incumbent and challengers alike – found themselves in a rare moment of alignment against NBN’s Enterprise activities. But NBN’s consultative approach shows the company is able to play a constructive and strategic role in the future of Australia’s telecoms industry.

Now is the moment for industry to collaborate and shape its own future. To do this, we must recognise two immutable facts: One, NBN is not going away – and there is nothing to gain from re-prosecuting history. Two, the private sector has invested billions in competitive infrastructure assets which are also not going away – and these investments should be respected and utilised. When industry works collaboratively to reconcile these two facts, we will be able to forge a future which promotes investment, encourages competition, and delivers for consumers.

There is a critical role for the Government to clarify the role and purpose of NBN. Industry’s discontent with NBN’s Enterprise foray was a direct consequence of a lack of policy direction. NBN’s behaviour was driven by unrealistic revenue requirements, regardless of the implications for the industry as a whole. With the rollout nearing completion and NBN now an established part of the Enterprise landscape, NBN’s Statement of Expectations should be updated to provide it with clear policy direction that will promote the long-term sustainability of the industry.

It is time to move forward. With settings coming into place for industry to work with NBN as partners – rather than competitors – the market is rich with opportunities. Industry can invest in competitive infrastructure with confidence and be rewarded for taking risks. Industry can forge partnerships to deliver for customers – both with NBN, and with each other. And industry can focus on delivering for our customers, who deserve a better experience and greater value from their chosen provider.

Vocus has the goal of being the challenger our customers deserve and our people are proud of every day. As Australia’s specialist fibre and network solutions provider, we are here to work with the industry to establish an environment that is sustainable for the long-term and delivers for our customers.