Stories by James Hutchinson

Huawei pours $250K in RMIT for future hires

Networking vendor Huawei has contributed $250,000 to training facilities at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) as part of its memorandum of understanding with the Victorian university.

NBN first release sites to trial telehealth

Two of the first mainland release sites under the National Broadband Network (NBN) will receive telehealth monitoring units in coming months, as part of a $4 million trial conducted by NSW Health.

Judge orders Optus to correct misleading ads

Optus has been ordered to issue corrective advertising relating to its ‘Think Bigger’ and ‘Supersonic’ plans for hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) plans, and will pay civil penalties for misleading advertising of the plans.
Commenting on the his decision to find the Optus ads to be misleading, Federal Court judge, Justice Perram, said the ads failed to properly inform potential customers that their broadband speeds would be throttled to 64 kilobits per second (Kbit/s) -- or “sub-broadband” -- once they reached their monthly data quota.
Justice Perram also found the telco failed to properly cease potentially misleading advertising of the plans, despite later adding a speed throttling disclaimer to the ads.
“I am far from convinced either that Optus’ recent cessation is anything other than opportunistic or that it signals some newly obtained underlying comprehension of the need to avoid such tricky behaviour in the future,” the judge’s finding reads.
As a result, Justice Perram ordered an injunction be placed upon the telco for advertising in a similar manner for three years. While the ACCC argued five years is necessary, Justice Perram ultimately decided in favour of Optus which claimed potential “changes in environment” mean the injunction should be shorter.
The legal proceedings — first brought against Optus in September — question a total of 11 ads across online, print, television and billboards which advertised the cable plans were four times faster than “standard broadband”. The network is capable of downstream speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, but this is capped to 64Kbps once the user reaches their monthly download quota.
Labelling the Optus plans the “digital cousin of the baker’s dozen,” Justice Perram found customers could potentially be misled by the data quotas accompanying the plans.
However, Optus was granted right to use speed throttling on customers exceeding their quotas, with Justice Perram finding the consumer would not have “any illusion about the tiresome consequences of exceeding the usage limits”.
Corrective advertising will be ordered from the telco to rectify any potential misleading over the plans in question. Lead barrister for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Neil Williams SC, called for Optus to increase the font size of its speed limit disclaimer “clearly and prominently” to be the same as the peak/off-peak information.
Details of the corrective advertising and any civil penalties are to be determined by Justice Perram on Friday.

Telstra management shake-up sees 950 jobs culled

950 executive and middle management roles are set to be cut at several of Telstra’s capital city offices over the coming months as the incumbent telco attempts to simplify business structures in what it has labelled ‘Project New’.
The first step of the $290 million business project will see Telstra restructured around the same local management model employed at Telstra Country Wide in June, which at the time saw 46 redundancies. Under the new model, 950 middle management roles will be replaced by 33 local managers responsible for 5,000 shops and dealers owned and operated by the company. Telstra Country Wide will be folded into the wider retail network.
In an attempt to rebrand itself as a “sales and marketing company” instead of the peak engineering telco enforced by former chief executive, Sol Trujillo, Telstra will consolidate product innovation and management under the Chief Marketing Office, to be overseen by current chief technical officer, Hugh Bradlow. Telstra Operations, on the other hand, will take care of product delivery.
“Change is always difficult, even where it is made in a way which is focused on improving service to our customers,” Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, said in a statement.
According to Thodey, the telco hopes the consolidation of duplicate roles will “clarify job accountabilities, eliminate unnecessary steps in company processes, and substantially simplify decision-making”.
Those affected by the management shake-up will be provided with redundancy entitlements of up to 80 weeks pay depending on their length of service.
Assistant secretary to the Victorian branch of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), John Ellery, told Computerworld Australia that the union - which represents the majority of Telstra employees - had not been warned of the job cuts.
The latest job cuts follow threats from the company to axe 900 jobs in May, resulting in a staff strike at the time. The telco ultimately axed 345 middle management positions in a separate round to this week's announcement.
However, Thodey flagged more jobs were to go at the telco’s recent Investor Day.
“[Project New] is about simplifying the business, and we are going to restructure every part of this business as we go forward,” he said at the time.
Telstra has denied reports a total of 6000 jobs are likely be made redundant over the course of the next three years, but has so far remained uncertain as to exactly how many will go.
“The roll-out of Project New will result in an increasing in redundancy expenditure as we start to simplify the business.”
The project will ultimately involve 500 employees to implement 27 programs with an aim to reduce spending on third parties, improve online customer service, improve the productivity of its field workforce, simplify its prices and cut costs, according to Thodey.

Australian NBN Co clarifies costs and govt contribution

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley is becoming clearer on the costs involved in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), confirming A$27 billion as a “precise” peak government injection equity figure. However, the former Alcatel-Lucent chief operations officer told Computerworld Australia that NBN Co’s business case was yet to be finalised or delivered to Government.
Quigley’s new stance, revealed at a recent Australian Computer Society event, comes just a week after he told an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) lunch that government equity would be “south of $30 billion”.
“Our business case requires equity funding by the Government of around $27 billion,” Quigley told the ACS. “This is not the total capital costs, as we expect to raise debt, without Government guarantees, of at least $10 billion.”
Quigley said that, in addition to government equity and debt funding, internal revenue generation from active parts of the network would also play a part.
However, given the NBN Co is currently leasing access to its wholesale fibre network at reduced rates, it remains unknown whether its internal revenue is enough to pay back equity, leaving the total cost of the NBN rollout closer to $37 billion than the $43 billion initially proposed.
Quigley wouldn’t reveal how much less the rollout would cost if its $9 billion deal with Telstra is finalised next year, but said it would be “quite a deal to the overall business case”.
The $27 billion peak government injection figure is just a billion more than stipulated in the NBN Implementation Study, authored by consultants at KPMG and McKinsey & Company, and released in May. The study found the Government would reach its peak equity injection by 2015, with expectations that NBN Co would be able to repay as much as $20 billion of the injection by 2024.
Though Quigley appears more comfortable with the new equity injection figure, he told media that the business case was not completely finished, and that it would only be delivered to Government once NBN Co has the opportunity to integrate the Government’s finalised response of the implementation study into the case.
“We never finish the business case,” he said. “Our business case is constantly updated as we get more information, we just keep tuning it and honing it. As you would expect, if the Telstra deal is consummated, that makes quite a deal to the overall business case.”
Australian Communications minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates hearing earlier this year that the business case would remain commercial in confidence, and would not be released to the public.

Alcatel-Lucent cuts Australian staff

Alcatel-Lucent has cut 100 staff from its Australian operations, citing an uncertain telecommunications industry.
The decision — amounting to nearly ten per cent of its local employees — came at the same time as the company announced an $85 million deal with NBN Co to supply gigabit passive optical network (GPON) and Ethernet aggregation equipment for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The Australian branch of the company dropped 200 staff last October, at the time also pointing to uncertainty in the sector.
A spokesperson said the company was “currently reviewing costs and rebalancing workforce requirements for the second half of 2010” but that it would not “impact our delivery capability”.
“This year we need to respond to uncertainty over a number of previous years across the Australian telecommunications market, as we all get ready for the opportunities and growth ahead,” they said in an email.
Australiasia chief technical officer, Ric Clark, recently told Computerworld Australia the local telecommunications industry was largely held in check by NBN Co and the rollout of the NBN.
“Things are pretty tight at the moment,” he said. “We're battening down the hatches for the moment in anticipation of something finally happening with the NBN.
“The only people that are really hiring in our industry is NBN Co itself, they've got a real mixed bag of people out of virtually all of the vendors and a number of the telcos.”
Some of that uncertainty is partially derived from whether the NBN rollout will continue under future governments. The Opposition has already promised to scrap the project but is yet to outline an alternative broadband plan.
While the effect was uncertainty, Clark said the NBN would continue to provide a “net benefit to the industry”.
The company posted a €515 million ($735 million) loss globally for the first quarter of 2010, with its networks segment hit hardest at 13.1 per cent loss.

Paperless offices 'a fallacy': HP exec

The dream of every environmentally-conscious organisation - the paperless office - has been "somewhat of a fallacy" according to Bruce Dahlgren, HP'ssenior vice president of managed enterprise solutions, imaging and printing group.

Azure gets closer with Australian launch

Microsoft has launched its Azure cloud platform in Australia, letting developers deploy applications on the company's datacentres in North American, Europe and in the Asia Pacific.

CTO slams defence ICT wastage

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the Australian Department of Defence has slammed its ICT policy as not best practice.