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Changing of the guard

01 Oct 2011

When Paul Reynolds leaves New Zealand next year his legacy as Telecom’s CEO will be that he saved the company from spiralling into irrelevance.That’s what would have happened if the telco had stuffed up its bid for inclusion in the Government’s Ultra Fast Broadband scheme. Reynolds also did a good job mopping up the mess that was the disastrous launch of the XT mobile network in 2009.Those achievements probably warrant the approximately $25 million the affable Scotsman will have pocketed for his efforts by the time he steps down in a few months’ time. Winning the UFB work has come with a heavy cost for Telecom – a mandatory carve-up of the company into two separate businesses.Last month saw the Government approve the split and we learned more about how those two businesses – the so-called 'New Telecom' and 'New Chorus' – will look following their de-merger later this year.One question still remaining is who will replace Reynolds at the helm of New Telecom. There is certainly plenty of speculation. Interestingly, the frontrunners appear to be company insiders, or former executives, from the Telecom era of Reynolds’ predecessor, Theresa Gattung.If Reynolds’ replacement does turn out to be a former Gattung lieutenant, let’s hope it’s someone who sincerely believes there’s gold to be made from selling inspiring and enabling telco services rather than a seat-warmer.New Telecom deserves a leader capable of leaving a positive legacy as the telco sector steps into an exciting new era.UFB firstsCommunications Minister Steven Joyce is becoming an expert cable-layer. In early September he helped Chorus staff lay the first fibre as part of the Wellington UFB roll-out, and the week before he was in Auckland giving their colleagues a hand to do the same for the first deployment in the City of Sales.Back in July, UFB deployment contract winner Ultrafast Broadband Ltd announced it had run fibre past the premises of the first customer on its network. The customer, it admitted, would still need to wait for 'a few months' before the technology was in place to enable the connection to be lit.Government-owned ISP Orcon is the latest to claim a UFB first, through a press release in September proclaiming it had connected the first four schools, in Northland, to the network.Amongst the four connections is Manaia View Primary School, which was in the news back in December last year when it notched up an earlier milestone – as the first school to receive new fibre cabling as part of the UFB project. This was an event celebrated by Joyce at the time.So we seem to be having a lot of celebrations over some very early milestones. But why not? As Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett said of the schools connection: "This is about the transformation of the telecommunications marketplace, not just the infrastructure, and it’s an exciting time to be in our industry.”What can we make of all this? Life is short. Business is hard. So if you do achieve a ‘first’, by all means, tell the world and celebrate.