NZRFG Chair and CEO resign, constitution changes

Enable and WEL Networks out, Unison in; Vector and Northpower not telling

The CEO and chair of the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group have resigned from the fibre consortium following Crown Fibre Holding's decision to award the bulk of the Ultra Fast Broadband build to Chorus.

The NZRFG's original membership was 19 lines companies and independent fibre companies, and it was formed to coordinate a national bid for the government's fibre broadband rollouts. But its members only won around 25 percent of the UFB rollout and the group failed in its bid for the Rural Broadband Initiative.

NZRFG chief executive Vaughan Baker, who took the role on secondment from consulting firm Voco, has left the role. His name and profile is now back on the Voco website. In addition Steve Fuller, the CEO of Enable Networks, has resigned from his position as NZRFG chair and withdrawn his company's membership.

Baker says the group met last week to discuss its future and change its constitution. “Upon establishment of the NZRFG, our objective or purpose was to collectively pursue the tenders, so out of necessity we had to change that,” he says.

“We’ve amended it (the constitution) to look for opportunities for jointly advancing our individual respective fibre objectives.”

Baker says although he is no longer the NZRFG chief executive he will remain in contact with the group and will continue to consult to its members.

“The members who want to pursue those opportunities will remain (in the NZRFG) and those who don’t won’t, and I can’t speculate as to the intent of an individual member.”

Enable and WEL Networks out

Fuller says Enable Networks didn’t see it was necessary to belong to the new NZRFG, which he says will assist regional players in developing their broadband investments.

So why not stay and provide a leadership role for companies that have yet to achieve a fibre rollout as extensive as Enable Networkst?, Computerworld asked.

“I guess Enable Networks has got an incredible journey ahead of it and it’s important we focus our attentions on serving our community first and foremost,” he says. “Hadn’t looked at it from that perspective (providing leadership to other companies), that may eventuate if the need arises.”

Enable Networks is currently working on its governance structure, with a new board that includes an independent chair yet to be announced. Fuller says the way each of the four LFCs are governed (Northpower, Ultra Fast Broadband, Enable and Chorus) is likely to be different.

WEL Networks chief executive Julian Elder, whose electricity company led the successful central North Island bid to partner with the government in the LFC named Ultra Fast Broadband Limited, says his company intends to withdraw from the NZRFG.

“We’re a LFC [Local Fibre Co] now and so we will certainly be withdrawing. I don’t really know what else is happening.”

Elder says Ultra Fast Broadband Ltd has appointed a chief executive but he is not in a position to announce who it is. Ultra Fast Broadband Ltd will roll out fibre to Wanganui, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Hawera and Tokoroa.

Northpower and Vector – no comment

The other successful member of the NZRFG participating in the fibre rollout, Northpower, would not comment on the NZRFG.

Also not directly commenting on the status of the NZRFG is Vector, the Auckland lines company that sought to become the government’s partner in Auckland and Wellington, but which lost out to Chorus.

“We’re involved in discussions on many levels about new opportunities available to us, we don’t wish to get in specifics at this stage,” external relations manager Sandy Hodge said, via email.

When asked about the future for Vector in fibre broadband rollouts, Hodge replied. “Clearly, the landscape has changed. It’s now going to be an all-fibre world without a vertically integrated monopoly and this presents many more opportunities for Vector.

“We are especially looking forward to Crown Fibre and Chorus being transparent with their plans; specifically, outlining where the build is happening, when the build is happening, finalising the wholesale access arrangements and clarifying when and how will the new fibre access products become available. Vector is looking forward to continuing successful growth of its fibre-only business in this improved competitive environment.”

Unison in

Meanwhile Unison, which led the failed bid by the CentralFibre consortium to partner with the government in the Hawkes Bay, Whakatane and Pukekohe, has retained its membership in the NZRFG.

“We are continuing our plans and our fibre activity and are interested in working with other like-minded groups,” says Unison Fibre general manager Nigel Purdy.

He says it’s too early to tell if Unison Fibre will be a competitor or a partner with the Chorus LFC in the Hawkes Bay area.

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Tags nzrfgvaughan bakernz regional fibre groupsteve fuller

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