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Tudehope named Comms Ambassador at 2018 ACOMMS, with Fifield/Stanton speeches hitting home

Macquarie Telecom Group CEO David Tudehope has been named 2018 Australian Communications Ambassador for helping shape the competitive, regulatory and consumer environment of the telecommunications industry in Australia.

Tudehope founded Macquarie Telecom in 1992 as a provider of voice services and has guided the company’s development to become a fully integrated carrier; supplying voice, mobile, data networks & managed hosting solutions to business and government users in Australia and Asia.

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Communications Alliance CEO John Stanto

“David was a pioneer in the early days of the liberalisation of the Australian telecommunications market and remains a highly influential customer and industry champion,” said Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton. “The ACOMM Awards represent the pinnacle of achievement for the Australian communications industry and I congratulate all the winners and finalists in the 2018 ACOMMS.”

Both John Stanton’s speech and returning Comms Minister Mitch Fifield’s address didn’t pull any punches.

Mitch Fifield:  Well thanks John, and thanks to the band for playing Gold, which is one of my absolute favourite Spandau Ballet tunes.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s good to be back, and thank you indeed, John and Michael, for the invitation. Can I also acknowledge my colleagues, Michelle Roland, Ed Kusic, and Steven Jones.

Ladies and gentlemen, since I last spoke at the 2017 ACOMMS, it has been a big year in the telco industry. So I thought I’d start with a year in review.

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Communications Minister Mitch Fifield

We’ve had the USO Review; the Regional Telecommunications Review; the Online Safety Act Review; the Copyright Infringement Review; the ABRA Review; the Review of New Spectrum Legislation; the Review of Carrier Powers and Immunities; and last, but not least, the big daddy of them all, the Consumer Safeguards Review – so big that we had to split it into three parts.

Now I have heard, I must admit, a few grumbles with the industry suffering from review fatigue, so tonight I’m pleased to announce a Review Review. It will review the number of reviews conducted by the Government, to ensure that there aren’t too many reviews. Consistent with all previous reviews, public consultation will commence on the 24th of December and close on the 1st of January.

Always important that all voices are heard.

It’s also been a productive year for the Government, which has added a significant number of new acronyms since my last speech in 2017. And if you were to judge a minister by the number of new acronyms produced, I think I’m doing okay.

In December, we introduced the USG – but don’t worry, the USO isn’t going anywhere for a while yet. At least that is not until the RTERC has tabled its report known as the RTR. And, rest assured, this report will include feedback from the ICPA, the B4BA, the BIRRR, and ACCAN, about issues such as the NBSP, the RBBP, STS, and HCRC. Our review of CP&I led to the LIFD changes, but further reforms will be discussed through the new P&I reference group known as the PIRG.

And in the single greatest boost to the number of acronyms in the portfolio, NBN has released a new WBA. This document contains so many acronyms that it actually comes with its own separate dictionary which is no less than 86 pages long. To put this in perspective, NBN’s acronym dictionary is around the same length as the Australian Telecommunications Corporation Act of 1989. And it’s almost as interesting to read.

But I don’t want to leave you in any doubt, this is a reforming government. We’re not just here to introduce new acronyms. We’re also reforming existing acronyms.

So, through our Telecommunications Reform Package, or TRP in Parliament, we’ve introduced SIP rules, which were previously known as the IPOLAR. Now, yes, as part of our red-tape reduction agenda, we have replaced a five-letter acronym with a three-letter acronym which will deliver an immediate productivity benefit each and every time it is used.

The ACCC, to their credit, chipped in as well renaming the BPMR, the MBA – a 25% reduction in acronym letters. Rest assured, this is a Government delivering the important reforms this industry needs to grow and prosper.

But it’s been a big year for the industry, and for the rollout of the NBN. One of the big ups was NBN’s hugely successful focus on 50 pricing changes which, as you know, offered 50 megabyte per second connections at the same price as 25 megabyte per second connections, and threw in some additional CVC capacity for free.

Unsurprisingly, telcos and consumers rushed to take up the offer, and this was an important lesson in the most effective way to get users to take up higher speed services – you have to give it away for free. So what that means is that the economics of the NBN are looking as rosy as ever…

Ratings agency Standards & Poor’s recently issued a report saying that a write down of the NBN appears inevitable. And I take some comfort in the fact that this is the same agency which gave AAA credit ratings to subprime mortgages in the immediate lead up to the Global Financial Crisis. So, if Standard & Poor’s say the NBN is in bad shape, then maybe, potentially, looking much better than anyone realises.

Now one of the reasons that S&P believes the NBN’s economics are in trouble is, obviously, the anticipated rollout of 5G. 5G networks, they say, can steal market share from NBN, reducing its ability to make a return on investment. That’s what S&P say.

So, naturally, this was a source of concern for me, so to help shore up NBN’s business case, government intervention is required to undo the problems which government intervention has created. We will do whatever it takes.

First of all, I’m here to announce,  that we’ll be delaying the auction of 5G spectrum from November this year, until the NBN is profitable – so probably sometime in the 2030s.

Secondly, we’ll introduce a tax on mobile operators competing with the NBN. We’re going to call the Metropolitan Broadband Scheme, and it will work in tandem with the Regional Broadband Scheme to dissuade anyone from competing with the NBN.

But, in all seriousness, it has been an important year for NBN and I acknowledge Ziggy Switkowski and Stephen Rue in the audience. Since I last spoke at the ACOMMS we’ve gone from 2.4 million active premises to over 4 million – users I should say. We’ve gone from 5.4 million premises ready to connect, to more than 7 million. And I can’t let this opportunity pass without paying homage to the man who made it all possible, Bill Morrow. Bill should be remembered – although he is still with us. He should be remembered as the man who executed one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in Australia’s history. So, Bill, a grateful nation says: Thank you for your service.

It’s also been a big year for the telcos. Optus, we know, was hoping to get lots of media coverage for its video streaming of the World Cup – not the kind of coverage it received.
I did give some heart to Optus earlier in the year when I announced reforms to the Universal Service Obligation, or USO, but what I didn’t announce at that time was that USO would stand for Universal Soccer Obligation. So we are going to be putting a new levy on the NRL, the AFL, and the ARU to make that possible.

But I think is if there is one thing that the industry has taught us is to avoid schadenfreude towards your rivals when they suffer issues. Optus, we know, had Floptus; Vodafone had Vodafail; and even Telstra had its problems this year. It’s just that they didn’t get a catchy name for them.

While Telstra did struggle with its own network outages on several occasions, Telstra was not delivering anything nearly as important as the World Cup. Thankfully for Telstra, far fewer people were outraged by their outages, or maybe they just weren’t able to lodge a complaint.

Telstra also recently made the front pages with the announcement of the T22 strategy, a vision for the company over the next four years. Part of the strategy, as you know, is to create InfraCo – a new separate business unit of containing Telstra’s fixed-line network assets. And I very much look forward to Telstra’s gymnastics in explaining to the market how easy it will be to structurally separate the company, given the last 10 years telling everybody that structural separation would be a value destroying, technically challenging exercise to achieve. I’m just saying.

Now, just looking around the room I don’t think I’ve left anyone unscathed, so let me move on. Tonight has been described often as the Telco Industry Logies – just without the celebrities and any interest in watching it.

But we do genuinely have great finalists for tonight’s awards from categories such as Commitment to Customer Service, Community Contribution, and, of course, this year’s Telco Ambassador. And, this year also marks the sixth anniversary of the Telco Together Foundation, the not-for-profit that brings the industry together in support of Australian in need.

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