NBN Co to up headcount as Kaiser appointment slammed

The company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) is expected to announce shortly some “first-release” sites to trial the high-speed fibre network infrastructure and test construction techniques.

NBN Co executive chairman Mike Quigley told a Senate estimates committee that the company will test the impact on the roll out of different demographical and geographical areas of the country.

The work on first-release sites is due to commence during the second-half of this year.

The company will also establish a Melbourne-based network operations centre (NOC), for surveillance and management of the operational network, an integration lab and a data centre.

It will also be issuing a request for tender for the first-release detailed design phase and intends to issue a another request for tender for the construction phase.

“The aim is to validate the network design and qualify the total end-to-end system,” Quigley said. “There is simply no substitute to complete end-to-end qualification in a live environment.

“The NBN first-release sites will be selected to represent the diversity of situations we will be presented with across Australia in the volume roll out.

“We will test the impact on the roll out of different terrain, housing type and density, demographics, climate, existing infrastructure and other local factors.”

Quigley also said he expects the NBN Co’s headcount to swell from 112 to 300 by June.

“Recruiting good people takes time and I am pleased with our progress in this area,” he said. “We anticipate that up to 250 people will be employed to work in [the NOC, integration lab and data centre] and this will be another very important step in taking NBN Co towards its full operational mode.”

While Quigley expressed satisfaction with the NBN Co recruitment process, others have decried the manner in which a former Queensland premier chief of staff was appointed.

Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy came under fire during the Senate session, accused of using his influence to appoint Mike Kaiser, who is also a former Queensland Labor MP, to the role of NBN Co government relations officer with a salary of $450,000 per year.

“I suggested him [Kaiser] as a person of possible relevant experience,” Conroy said.

Quigley revealed at the hearing that Kaiser was the sole candidate and the job was not advertised.

Opposition communications spokesperson, Tony Smith, has lashed out at the admission in comments given to Computerworld.

“This raises serious questions about the NBN Co’s employment and management processes, and the level of political involvement and interference by the Rudd Government,” he said. “It is not the job of the Minister to suggest potential jobs for Labor mates at NBN Co.”

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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