December 11, 2020

‘Fibre’.... Confused?

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Confused? Research by the FTTH Council Europe has found that consumers are still being confused by the use (or abuse) of the term “fibre” in broadband ISP advertising, which can just as easily refer to slower hybrid connections (e.g. FTTC using copper and fibre lines) as it can a “full fibre”(FTTP) service.

I already have full fibre broadband….


No, you probably don’t.


With only 14% of UK properties benefiting from Full Fibre broadband, there is lots of confusion about what you’re paying for and what you’re getting.


France, for example, only allows ISPs who deliver fibre into the home or premises to use the term ‘fibre’ in their advertising, whilst Italy has introduced a labelling regime to give more clarification whereby technologies with differing characteristics are colour coded.


The problem with misleading ‘fibre’ broadband advertising goes beyond setting expectations regarding speed and reliability that cannot be delivered; the confusion also means that consumers may not be aware of the benefits that could be obtained by switching to a full fibre solution, and therefore may decide not to switch.  

These consumers are missing the benefits of an infrastructure which has a range of characteristics that may be central to future services delivery.

The council states that unless consumers understand the wider implications of different technologies there is “no mandate to promote the objective of fostering investment in, and take-up of, fibre networks.”

Relatively few UK properties have access to a full fibre (FTTP) network, but as the availability of full fibre broadband increases (due to companies across the UK, including Lightning Fibre investing heavily in a full fibre infrastructure upgrade in Eastbourne andHastings)  more interest (and need) has been created in solving this issue of confusing advertising.

Is it right or fair for significantly slower and less reliable services, including FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet) packages, to promote themselves as “fibre broadband” products?

Disappointingly, thus far, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) has resisted all attempts to change their stance. The ASA previously found that “fibre was not a priority identified by consumers when choosing a package; that those consumers did not notice ‘fibre’ claims in ads and that they merely saw it as a shorthand buzzword to describe faster broadband”.

The FTTH Council disagrees with the ASA, their findings conclude that “Consumers often think they have fibre access when in fact they do not”.

The study found that the strongest and most effective interventions in the market to correct this have been driven by the National RegulatoryAuthority (NRAs) or Digital/Telecom Ministry of the country in question rather than the Advertising Authority.

Arguably the meaning of “fibre”has been irreversibly diluted over a decade of use (or misuse) by slower hybrid(part) fibre services.

The clearest and most user-friendly approach could be the introduction of a labelling scheme, similar to the traffic lights introduced in Italy and the current labelling applied for energy efficiency, whereby technologies with differing characteristics would be colour coded. This would enable customers to clearly compare broadband services in terms of their performance and, potentially, environmental characteristics.

Image Credit: Credit: Bigstock/kenny001

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