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France Rules Against Misuse of “Fibre Optic Broadband” in ISP Adverts

Wednesday, Jul 29th, 2015 (9:48 am) - Score 1,766

The debate over whether or not broadband ISPs that don’t sell a pure “fibre optic” (FTTH/P) broadband connection should be allowed to use such terminology in their adverts is nothing new, but a new ruling by the Government of France shows that some countries are taking a stand.

The situation is already well explained in our 2013 article on the subject (Will the Real Fibre Optic Broadband Service Please Stand Up), but it boils down to the fact that most of the superfast broadband services offered over Openreach’s (BT) and Virgin Media’s national networks do not actually take the fibre optic cable all the way to your home or office.

Instead the most dominant methods of connectivity, such as ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) or VM’s 152Mbps Cable DOCSIS, are perhaps better described as hybrid fibre solutions that also mix in a good amount of coax and or copper telecoms cable.

Sadly the use of non-fibre often has a big impact on performance; although this varies depending upon how much non-fibre is deployed (length) and what connection technology is being used. By comparison a pure fibre optic network (Fibre-to-the-Home / Premises) can technically deliver Gigabit (1000Mbps+) speeds to anywhere the cable ends.

The problem is that in the United Kingdom there’s little to no distinction between FTTC, Cable or FTTH/P in advertising, with many related ISPs using terms like “fibre broadband” or “fibre optic” as they see fit. Meanwhile the Advertising Standards Authority ruled a long time ago that this was to be considered an accepted practice.

Should only FTTH/P ISPs be allowed to advertise as "fibre optic" or "fibre broadband"?

  • Yes (76%, 110 Votes)
  • No (21%, 31 Votes)
  • Undecided (3%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 145

But the story in other countries is not always the same and it’s notable that a new ruling by the Government of France, which is a country that suffers from some of the same marketing confusion as the UK, has sought to change how such services are promoted (here).

Broadly speaking the ruling states that ISPs who don’t offer a pure fibre optic connection, where the optical cable runs right into your house or apartment, must add an asterisk (*) wherever “fibre” (or “fiber” if you’re French) is mentioned and describe the connection in more detail. The closest translation we could find for the rule is as follows.

France’s Rule for “Fibre Optic” Advertising

Any advertising message or commercial document of a supplier of services … must, if it associates the term “fiber” to the services of the supplier, whereas the connection of the end customer is not realized in optical fiber, include a notation specifying the physical media of the final connection, starting with the words : ‘final connection in..’

One problem with this is that the French rule actually came about because of a dispute between several pure fibre offering ISPs (e.g. Orange and Free) and a Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) provider, Numericable-SFR. In reality FTTB providers can often also deliver Gigabit services and so the difference isn’t usually as wide as it is between FTTC and FTTH/P.

Many FTTB solutions bring the fibre optic cable to a building, such as a big apartment block, but then deliver the final service into homes or specific offices by using the buildings existing copper or coax infrastructure. Often this is only a fairly short run of non-fibre cable, but it seems in France that’s enough to make all the difference.

Suffice to say that Numericable-SFR is displeased, “In modernized areas such as Paris, the difference between an FTTB and FTTH network represents ten meters of optical fiber, more or less, and this is roughly the distance between a cellar and the second floor of the building!” Meanwhile the UK’s advertising watchdog doesn’t seem to care, despite the fact that FTTC solutions can run on copper that extends to around 2,000 metres (2 kms) and at that range you’ll be into slow ADSL2+ style territory.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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