NBN imports Canadian HFC cable expert as CTO



news The National Broadband Network Company has appointed a new chief technology and security officer who has extensive experience running a HFC cable network but little with other forms of network deployment, in a move which mirrors the Coalition’s changed focus for the company’s network rollout.

In a statement issued this morning, NBN Co announced that it had appointed Dennis Steiger as its new chief technology and security officer. Up until January Steiger was the chief technology officer of Canadian telco Shaw Communications, where the executive has worked since June 1994. Previous to that point Shaw was a senior engineer with Canadian telco TELUS. Steiger will join NBN Co on 21 July.

“As NBN Co prepares to move to the Multi Technology Mix NBN, Mr Steiger brings to the company more than 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications and technology industries and extensive experience working across different access systems technologies,” NBN Co said. “Mr Steiger will report to Chief Operating Officer Greg Adcock.”

Steiger will replace previous NBN Co chief technology officer Gary McLaren, a respected executive who joined NBN Co in September 2009. McLaren was outed from NBN Co as part of an extensive management reshuffle in April that also saw the company’s head of commercial Kevin Brown, chief financial officer Robin Payne and master network architect Peter Ferris leave the company.

Shaw Communications is one of Canada’s largest telcos, and provides telephone, Internet and television services primarily over its HFC cable infrastructure. The company is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, but also provides services in British Columbia and other areas of Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario.

Under the Coalition’s current broadband policy, which has been modified drastically since the Federal Election, NBN Co is likely to acquire the HFC cable networks owned by both Telstra and Optus, entrenching the strength of those networks and making them the default mode of network access in much of Australia’s metropolitan area.

Shaw’s current product set is broadly consistent with products expected to be launched over the HFC cable infrastructure once NBN Co gets access to it. The company offers broadband plans with speeds of 10Mbps, 25Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 250Mbps, but with only relatively slow upload speeds consistent with the technical limits of HFC cable infrastructure; for example, the 250Mbps plan offers upload speeds of just 15Mbps.

It does not appear as though Shaw or Steiger personally has significant direct experience deploying the Fibre to the Premises, Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Basement options which NBN Co is using for the remainder of its rollout.

This morning, NBN Co also announced it had taken the extraordinary step of hiring one of the most senior executives of media organisation News Corp Australia to be its new chief financial officer, in a move which appears destined to bolster theories about the Coalition’s close connections with the Murdoch publishing empire — and especially with regard to links with pay television giant Foxtel, which is jointly owned by News Corp and Telstra.

Steiger’s additional security title also comes as Delimiter had recently received an anonymous tip to the effect that NBN Co was seeking to dismantle its Principal Security Office and redistribute the security-focused staff who worked in the division through other departments within NBN Co.

Yet another appointment which signals the future direction of NBN Co — into HFC cable. Things could not get clearer at this point. Again, I am sure Steiger is a highly competent executive. But he certainly appears to have specialised highly on HFC cable technology during his career.

Image credit: Dennis Steiger


  1. The number one group of people in the entire world that I can think of that should have less power are North American cable industry executives.

    There’s literally no other group that deserves power less at this point in history. I cannot think of a single group, can you? Especially with all this Open Internet™ let’s kill net neutrality Fast Lane™ shit going down in the US at the moment.

    Yet here we are.

    • “There’s literally no other group that deserves power less at this point in history. I cannot think of a single group, can you?”

      Er, fossil fuel companies? :-P

      But that’s waaaaay off-topic, so we won’t go there.

      I do agree, though, that cable companies have an exemplary track record of screwing over their customers in absolutely mind-boggling ways.

      I got caught out by one of them, who also provided the local phone service, when I was working in the States for a while a decade and a bit ago. The cost to make a voice call from the US to Australia was dozens of times the cost to call from Australia to the US. I made the mistake of thinking a 10-minute call would only cost a few dollars… luckily my employers over there were understanding, and got the company to rescind the multi-hundred-dollar charge by threatening to take ~20 business accounts away from them.

  2. In other similar news, the head of roads and transport has been replaced by a man with extensive experience in overseeing the construction of gravel highways. They are faster to build, cheaper and you can drive nearly as fast on them, so this is a great idea

    • I think the intent is more about “How can we use DOCSIS, the HFC rollout and flimsy technical excuses to maximise the return for Telstra and Newscorp and who better to ensure the ensuing fuckery of the average Australian than a North American cable exec?”.

      “You want to have a uniform wholesale product across most the nation? Well, we’ve reduced FTTH’s capabilities to HFC levels to ensure that. You’re welcome :)”

      “Oh, and lookie here, we’ll have a multicast product on VDSL to emulate the spectrum allocation on HFC in the interest of consistency. Oh, what’s that, most of the HFC spectrum is taken up by FOXTEL whose network we just extended for free after having given them a wad of money? Well, let’s give them free multicast. To be consistent, you know. We did get multiple billions in assets in this whole renegotiation and they asked for this on top of money.”

      • From wiki:

        “In December 2010, Shaw filed complaints with the CRTC to have competing internet video services such as Netflix classified as broadcasters under Canadian law. In the same month, Shaw introduced usage based billing on internet plans and lowered plan caps an average of 25% while introducing overage fees of $1 to $2 per gigabyte. On February 8, 2011, Shaw agreed to put a hold on usage based billing for its services.”

        Sounds like just the man.

  3. yes, my honest opinion

    treason (noun) – “he crime of betraying one’s country”
    – see Turnbull, Malcolm

    You know, if you are knowingly and deliberately sabotaging the economic future of an entire country, it seems appropriate to me

      • As a member of the commonwealth, you need to be plotting or actively moving against the Queen for it to be treasonous. Our current laws have no provision for activities against the welfare of the state to be considered treasonous.

        • of course, silly me.

          Any laws useful in this circumstance? Or politicians are pretty much unaccountable and just laugh at us from up on high?

          The whole let the people speak by voting out the bad parties thing only works when there is a good option?

        • Our Laws, what about British Laws and Commonwealth laws, there must be some law from the 15th century or later that can be applied.
          A public Petition to the Queen or the Privy council.
          After all it is a coup d’etat by Rupert Murdoch using his media empire and power with a compliant obedient government that no longer serves the Queen or the Nation.

          People whinge about the cost of the NBN, Rupert will have his hands so deep in Australia’s pockets he will be ripping us off many billions a year for ever, yet allowing us nothing in return.

          The Queen must be supplicated to dissolve this corrupt government

  4. If anybody had any lingering doubts about just how dead the real NBN is at this point, this morning’s announcements should have completely obliterated them. A News Corp stooge and a Canadian cable executive put into some of the highest positions at NBN Co, and that is in addition to the already highly placed former Telstra executives like Ziggy. It’s abundantly clear at this point that Turnbull is doing everything possible to ensure that Australia does not get a widespread FTTH network at any point in the next 10-20 years. If anything, these recent appointments just make his and the Coalition’s intentions that much more blatant: mediocre-to-terrible internet for the vast majority. 15mbit uploads on a 250mbit download plan? Go get F*CKED.

    The dream is dead everybody. Time to move on (or out – god know’s Australia’s not got much going for it these days).

  5. I could imagine the phone call “Hey Steiger want a job rolling out HFC?”
    “WTF people still do that? You want to pay me how much?! I’m in!”

  6. Renai, if you get the chance, can you ask Malcolm what he is going to do with two HFC networks that basically overbuilt each other? (There were lot’s of jokes about it at the time.

    Will the Optus one just be for redundancy maybe?

    I haven’t seen anyone ask him, so there doesn’t seem to be an answer currently.

    • “can you ask Malcolm”

      I’m not on his friends list any more ;) Plus, I think this is more of a question for Bill Morrow, who I will ask it of next time I get the chance.

      • Cheers mate.

        So it’s actually NBN Co that’s buying the Telstra/Optus networks, and not the government? Does that mean it’ll come out of the “$29.5b” bucket?

  7. If we add to this recent comments by David Thodey that Telstra does not want to relinquish control over their HFC or CAN networks, which the NBN will be reliant on, and that they’re already having issues powering the few nodes they already have in place for the trial, what are we left with?

    One conclusion is that they will not be able to go ahead with their MTM NBN and will have to revert back to the original FTTH model due to these difficulties and the fact that finding a buyer outside of Telstra for the NBN will be almost impossible given that Telstra will retain ownership of the infrastructure the NBN is reliant on.

    The other is that they will go ahead with the MTM and sell it to Telstra when the time comes without even bothering to look for the best price for the network because, lets face it, who else in their right minds would be interested in buying the NBN under those conditions?

  8. Telstra & Foxtel will buy the NBN with a new joint venture Comcast Australia.

    Is anyone interested in a SavetheNBN micro party for the next Senate election?

    • There are already several parties that support the NBN, Pirates spring to mind, and there’s always the Greens…

  9. No disrespect at all to the incoming CTO but this appointment is absurd. On what planet is it acceptable to hand the most complex CTO role in the country to a Canadian CTO with no experience in this country. What Morrow is saying is that there are no CTO’s in Australia that can do this role. When he removed the previous CTO in his first week there was no indication that a new CTO would be recruited. Was it even advertised or is this another example of handpicking a foreign executive? How does the CTO even get a visa (457?) with any number of sufficiently qualified local CTO’s? There is ample HFC experience here, it did not need to be sourced from North America. Every day it becomes clearer that Morrow is out of his depth in this role – he is completely misreading both the publics interest in the right solution as well as how it should be delivered.

    • When your a cowboy like Tony, you can do cowboy things like hire people for whatever you want regardless of experience.

      Take Sophie Mirabela for example, even though she’s only ever been a politician and lawyer, she got a job on the board of a government corp that builds submarines…

    • ^ Spot on.

      It reflects poorly on NBN Co and the government of the day when roles are outsourced to international folk rather than appropriately skilled Australians.

      I would be interested in knowing if NBN Co falls under regular government guidelines for transparency in hiring and firing people. So far there has been none.

  10. Yes and the equipment will all be Motorola and Cisco . Members of good standing of the US Military/Industrial Club

  11. ahahaha. oh god.

    We’re hiring people with experience in stuff the NBNco doesn’t even own (or lease) and may never be able to get at. And news corp execs.

    Well played.

  12. 3 Months ago some installers were installing an aircon, they were all planning to do coax jointing and cabling courses as they had been advised there would be a great demand for coax rather than fibre.

    Ears to the ground.

    Poor Fella Australia

    • We could consider you thought wrong
      Read back over the other NBN articles, the team we now have is a serious concern for Australia’s future

      • Appears my reply to your comment disappeared too

        What I was saying is NBNco is being prepared to be sold off. With likely wining auction bid being Foxtel / News Corp

        The stratergy is to stack everyone on the board whom either from foxtel and telstra. Wait one year then announce that NBNco will be divided up to the highest bidder or floated on the stock market

        A similar thing happened at Internode in 2009 during a “restructure” and every day MM / SH were talking. Until 2011 when the company was ‘ready’ to be taken over by IIborg

  13. The article above should be updated. Shaw actually offer FTTH as a service to greenfield locations. It has been building that out since 2010 with speeds of 1gbps down and 50 mbps up



    Also, HFC is not a bad option either, with DOCSIS 3.1 around the corner. There will be a possibility of doing up to 10gbps asymmetrical or symmetrical depending on how it is deployed (RFoC) as an example.

  14. The Optus DOCSIS 3.0 HFC network (after some abnormally woeful network speeds around Sep-Nov 2013, fixed via an investment in server upgrades late November) has been spitting out downloads consistently fast during 2014 for subscribers to the optional Speed Pack — around 100Mbps, for short periods even up to 130 Mbps.

    Sadly, as is well known, the upload speeds rarely reach 1.5 Mbps and never the nominal 2.0 Mbps. I expect that Telstra’s HFC network is similar (?).

    However if you look into DOCSIS 3.1 enhancements it becomes apparent that far higher upload speeds are possible with HFC. See for example http://www.multichannel.com/news/news-articles/docsis-31-speeds-ahead/374179 talking about implementations starting around 2016-2017. So it seems that HFC has quite some potential.

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