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Broadband ISP Speed Guidelines Extended to UK Mobile Broadband Adverts

Monday, August 6th, 2012 (11:41 am) - Score 509

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP / BCAP) has today announced that UK Mobile Broadband operators will soon become subject to the same guidelines that were recently introduced to tackle misleading promotions of fixed line broadband ISP speeds.

The “Help Note“, which was first introduced on 1st April 2012 (full summary), required ISPs to give consumers a more honest account of their expected service performance. The rules came about after several studies, such as Ofcom’s broadband speed report (example), showed that a “significant number of consumers were not achieving anywhere near the ‘up to’ speed advertised“, said the committee.

Summary of the Key Guidelines

* An ISP should be able to demonstrate that its advertised speeds are achievable by at least 10% of users.

* Speed claims must also be accompanied by a warning, which references the fact that a significant proportion of subscribers receive a speed that falls considerably short of what consumers might reasonably expect the service to offer.

The new speed guidelines were initially only intended to apply to fixed line broadband ISPs, at least until the CAP/BCAP could review the situation for mobile data services. Thankfully that work has now been completed.

CAP / BCAP Statement

Following the public consultation that led to the new guidance, CAP and BCAP were concerned that further work was required to ensure that the new guidance did not unfairly impact on mobile providers as a result of the significant technological distinctions between their platform and those of fixed line providers.

In making the revisions to the Help Note, CAP and BCAP have worked closely with the mobile industry and Ofcom. The objective was to maintain the original principles of the Help Note, but to ensure that they could reasonably be applied to the specific circumstances of mobile data services.

As stated above, the updated Help Note doesn’t appear to have made any significant changes to the original principles and has instead added new information that is designed to help mobile operators adapt to the same guidelines.

For example, when testing service speeds, Mobile Broadband operators are told to “test network performance in a wide range of locations representative of where users access mobile [data] services, including indoor and outdoor locations and areas of different signal strength“. Mobile operators must also consider the users distance from mobile masts and any other “environmental obstructions“.

In reality the updated rules probably won’t affect mobile operators too much as most of them don’t advertise a specific performance, which is because to do so would be technically almost impossible as the end-users environment is always changing. But several do state the theoretical top speed of their mobile hardware (e.g. Smartphones and USB Modems/Dongles) in a way that could cause confusion (e.g. HSPA / 3G modems might be able to do 21Mbps+ downstream but you’re unlikely to get even close to that).

The ASA/CAP/BCAP has given Mobile Broadband operators a further three month period of grace to allow them an opportunity to implement any changes to their advertising and related business practices. The new changes will then formally be introduced from 1st November 2012.

Sadly the ASA still has no real power to punish operators beyond asking them to remove a promotion, which usually occurs after the advert itself has already run its course.

CAP/BCAP’s Updated Help Note
http://www.copyadvice.org.uk/Ad-Advice/Help-Notes/Speed-claims-in-broadband-advertising.aspx

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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