Photo: The National Broadband Network is facing widespread criticism over slow internet speeds. (Supplied: NBN Co)
Labor's original all-fibre rollout for the National Broadband Network was too ambitious and costly, making mixed technology using copper a pragmatic move for the Government, according to a top executive from Germany's Deutsche Telekom.
Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, chief technology officer at Deutsche Telekom, said Australia's plans for the NBN were closely observed, then rejected, when Germany began a similar fibre-to-the-home rollout in 2012.
"We looked at Australia's NBN and thought, wow, great idea, 95 per cent fibre to the customer. However, it's very ambitious and so, for that reason, we thought it best to have a variety of technologies to use," Mr Jacobfeuerborn told the ABC.
"We tried to do the same and we found out, well, this will not work for Germany.
"We found out immediately going to the household was physically a challenge because with 41 million households (in Germany) you have to go underground and you have to dig. There is no way to do that in just a few years."
Mr Jacobfeuerborn, who is visiting Sydney for a global broadband futures conference partly funded by NBN, said Deutsche Telekom was absorbing Australia's lessons from the NBN by following a similar multi-technology mix including copper wire from the old Telstra network.
The cautious comments from the German telecommunications giant come amid a growing controversy about the viability of Australia's NBN, with concerns that the use of "mixed" technology, including copper, is creating a digital divide.
A recent investigation by the ABC's Four Corners program revealed that land values are potentially exposed, with a street in Dubbo split between the faster fibre-to-the-home and the slow fibre-to-the-node or street corner.
Deutsche Telekom in heated German broadband debate
Like Australia, Mr Jacobfeuerborn said the rollout of national high speed broadband in Germany has been highly controversial and a political hot potato.
"Absolutely. Because in Europe politicians say we must have fibre-to-the-home," Mr Jacobfeuerborn said.
"But from my perspective we are having the wrong discussion. We shouldn't talk about the technology we should talk about what the customer gets in the customer experience."
External Link: Peter Ryan interview with Bruno Jaconfeuerborn
Deutsche Telekom has pushed back against pressure for an all-fibre network in the face of concerns that its current rollout using mixed technology is unable to achieve promises of high-speed broadband.
In the wake of recent elections in Germany four parties, including Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats, have urged a national broadband upgrade by 2025 at the cost of $US23 billion.
However, Mr Jacobfeuerborn said it was possible to retrofit or upgrade a broadband rollout if new, less expensive technologies improve speeds.
"Absolutely, because if you build a house and find out that something is not working as it could or should be for budget reasons or architectural reasons then, of course, you have to find a way to broach that," Mr Jacobfeuerborn said.
Instead of a focus on all-fibre, Mr Jacobfeuerborn said any rollout needs to be about an economically viable and cost-effective delivery.
"If you see the size of this country (Australia) that is even more important," he argued.
"For that reason it's even more important to say which technology can I use. It is not one size fits all."
In response to the criticism about slow speeds from fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), NBN Co recently announced it was trialling fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) technology, where fibre is delivered to the driveway and then on current copper wire to a household or business.
While FTTC is less expensive than full fibre, NBN Co has signalled any extension from a trial could delay the overall rollout.
Mr Jacobfeuerborn will speak at a conference partially funded by NBN Co, along with executives from Britain's Openreach, Cox Communications from the United States, Korea Telecom and Chorus in New Zealand.
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