Outgoing NBN boss faces rollout scrutiny

By AAP Newswire

As he continues to face tough questions about technology rollouts, Bill Morrow has admitted it's a difficult decision to walk away from the national broadband network.

The outgoing CEO, who will leave the organisation at the end of the year after nearly five at the helm, paid tribute to his staff when he fronted a Senate committee in Canberra.

"I have never seen a harder working group of people," he told Tuesday's hearing.

"This please know has been a difficult decision."

But Mr Morrow will see out his tenure still facing a grilling from Labor about the rollout of the network using pay TV cables.

Senators quizzed the chief executive about the future of the hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) and the development of fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) technology.

He repeatedly said questions of forecasts were a matter for the next corporate plan, which was being developed and will be released around July/August.

Mr Morrow's appearance at the hearing coincided with the announcement the rollout via HFC will slowly recommence later this month after it was paused.

A staged resale of wholesale HFC services to retailers will kick off from April 27, after it was frozen in November in order to make upgrades and improvements.

Initially about 1000 premises in Melbourne and Sydney will be released but from July NBN expects the rollout to increase to about 100,000 premises per month.

It is also increasing the planned fibre-to-the-curb rollout, with an extra 440,000 homes and businesses to receive the new technology.

It takes the total planned connections closer to 1.5 million homes and businesses by 2020.

Labor welcomed that announcement saying the company had spent a year trying to "resist reality".

"Today's announcement is an admission that the long-term economics of fibre are superior to those of Turnbull's beloved copper and HFC," the opposition's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said in a statement.

Mr Morrow conceded he liked the curb technology, but it was more expensive than others like HFC.

"I like how (FTTC) balances not having to dig up someone's front yard," he said.

"But it is more expensive than HFC."

He did admit scrapping HFC and replacing it with fibre-to-the-curb was one option he presented to the communications minister during a briefing about two years ago.

But he denied it was a "proposal".

Minister Mitch Fifield stood by the HFC technology, saying every technology type has had its own challenges.