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Lord Smith – FTTP is Too Niche to Stop FTTC “Fibre Optic Broadband” Ads

Friday, July 1st, 2016 (12:34 pm) - Score 1,010

Lord Smith of Finsbury (Chris Smith), who is Chairman of the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Agency, has put down another complaint against ISPs that promote slower hybrid-fibre FTTC (VDSL) connections as “fibre optic broadband“. Apparently it’s because pure FTTP/H lines are still too “niche,” but he acknowledges that this may change in the future.

The row has been going on for years and stems from the fact that a pure fibre optic line will always be able to deliver significantly faster and more reliable speeds than a service which has some metallic copper cable in its mix, such as in the case of BT’s hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL), G.fast or Virgin Media’s coax using DOCSIS lines. See our article – Will the Real Fibre Optic Broadband Service Please Stand Up.

Back in 2008 the ASA effectively ruled that FTTC and cable (DOCSIS) technologies could describe themselves as “fibre optic” or “fibre broadband“. At the time the ASA took the view that the copper coax element of Virgin’s network was only a small part of their fibre optic fed network (in theory you could apply that sort of logic to some ADSL or even wireless based networks too).

Some would say that this has resulted in a legacy of confusion, which might have made it harder for consumers to identify the advantages of one approach over the other. But this is likely to become more of a problem now that BT and Virgin Media have both announced major deployments of FTTP/H services, which could help to push related coverage to 4-5 million premises by 2020.

A number of recent ASA complaints have since attempted to overturn or adjust the watchdog’s position (here and here), but none have succeeded. Most recently the Upottery Parish Councillor, Graham Long, informs ISPreview.co.uk that he too began such a complaint against BT’s FTTC advertising in February 2016 and unsurprisingly the ASA rejected it.

Graham Long told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Today, companies like Gigaclear and Hyperoptic are demonstrating that the market for fully fibre broadband provision is growing rapidly and that it is possible to deliver it in many areas funded entirely from commercial investment. BT are receiving £1.7B of public subsidy to deploy FTTC whilst encouraging the public to believe it is fibre to the property. This has enabled BT to sweat their copper assets.

At a meeting last week attended by Bill Murphy, BT’s MD for NGA and my MP Neil Parish, BT had the gall to say that Openreach capital investment in 2015 was the same amount as it was in 2008, because of the 2008 banking crisis! BT certainly do seem to have the ASA and OFCOM singing to their tune. The ASA’s strapline is “Legal, Decent, Honest, Truthful“. By condoning BT’s deceitful fibre optic broadband advertising, the ASA have abandoned honesty and truth. They have therefore also abandoned their primary responsibility. The ASA is not fit for purpose.”

However Graham didn’t give up and continued to pursue the matter through the ASA’s official complaints procedure, but unfortunately this too has now hit an all too familiar wall. In its reply the ASA noted a “lack of significant change” in the coverage and uptake of FTTP/H services around the UK.

The FTTP/H service, delivered from various ISPs, currently covers around 600,000 UK premises passed (educated guess), with Openreach delivering roughly half of those. Admittedly that’s a lot more than it’s had in the past, but overall the national impact remains small, for now.

The ASA further concluded that “consumers interested in a ‘fibre-optic’ service would primarily be concerned with the improved speed and performance that could be delivered in comparison to an ADSL service, rather than being concerned with obtaining the most technologically advanced fibre-optic product available at any cost.

ASA Statement to Graham Long (8th June 2016)

“While we appreciate that the market will have subsequently developed further and uptake may have increased a little, we note that the provision and take up of FTTP services is very low and consider that it still represents a niche service that the majority of consumers will not be aware of, or familiar with.

In light of the lack of any significant change in the availability and uptake of FTTP in the UK since the ASA Council’s previous ruling, we consider that there is little merit in continuing with a formal investigation to review the issue again, when it is very likely that Council will reach the same conclusion. In essence, we consider that the use of ‘fibre-optic’ to refer to a FTTC service is unlikely to mislead, as consumers are likely to expect a ‘fibre-optic’ service to deliver faster speeds than an a standard ADSL service.

I appreciate that you will be disappointed with this decision particularly given the increase in alternative providers who wish to differentiate themselves from the major ISPs, however, we have to make our assessments on how the average consumer, who will clearly not be as informed as you are regarding these services, will understand the claim.”

Graham then proceeded to raise his complaint directly with the ASA’s Chairman, Lord Smith, who reviewed the decision before ultimately agreeing with the ASA’s original findings. Lord Smith said that the ASA “does not dispute that an FTTP network will deliver a superior service,” but that their decision was still based on “reasonable grounds.”

However Lord Smith does acknowledge that the “marketplace will change” and “consumer expectations will change too,” which he suggested would eventually lead to a situation where people need to choose between FTTC and FTTP rather than today’s market where the choice on Openreach’s network is more between FTTC and ADSL.

Sadly Lord Smith doesn’t appear to acknowledge the forthcoming roll-out of 300-500Mbps G.fast technology to “most of the UK“, which will add another dynamic to the argument. On the other hand he has signalled that the ASA’s position could change in the future, when FTTP/H solutions can reach a more significant number of consumers. So the battle continues.

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Mark Jackson
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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31 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts says:

    Why not say ‘fibre to the home broadband’?

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      What’s wrong with FTTC?

  2. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Perhaps we should halt all broadband roll-outs until we can agree what to call it.

  3. Avatar Paper Boy says:

    I have “fibre optic” broadband.

    In my line, there is 75 metres of fibre, 1300m of copper cable.

    If I were to describe a vegetarian food item as containing 7% vegetables & 93% meat I’d be (quite rightly) pilloried for it.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      They should have done it like in France, or other countries, and only only allow genuine fibre lines to be called ‘fibre broadband’. I wonder why no one has gone through a legal court over this, there should be some suitable laws for this to the effect that genuine FTTP providers are protected against Virgin and BTs false fibre claims. Or dare I to say, perhaps there are even some EU laws on this, before the Brexit kicks in?

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “I wonder why no one has gone through a legal court over this”

      Because no-one is so dull and boring and lets it rule their lives?

    3. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      Come on Fred, in a country of over 60 million people, you would have thought there would be at least one! 🙂

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      True true 🙂

  4. Avatar Confused dot com says:

    Does that mean my 3g phone has fibre braudband even tho it never gos faster then 6meg as the transmitters have fibre connections dont they?

  5. Avatar Shonk says:

    Its all a pile of crap and they need to stop it and call it what is is vdsl2

    Im 75m from the exchange

    On dialup in 1996 i used to get 5.2k downstream 3.3k upstream on a k56flex modem
    that can be classed as fibre as the pop was located in my exchange, and was fibre from the exchange onwards

    with adsl2+ i used to get 24 megabit down 1.3 megabit up that can be described as fibre, as its fibre from the exchange onwards

    and ofc since 2013 i have had 80 megabit down 20 megabit up on FTTC with my cab being some 40m away

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “with adsl2+ i used to get 24 megabit down 1.3 megabit up that can be described as fibre, as its fibre from the exchange onwards”

      No because the exchange onwards isn’t a product you buy, you get a product from the exchange to your home.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The product is what you get in the home.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      From the exchange

    4. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Which could be 20 miles away.

    5. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Do you have a point? Usually it’s worth making it sooner 🙂

    6. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      I am very much in the “fibre should mean fibre” camp. In my view, the ASA is just making itself a laughing stock in the industry. What they are basically saying is that it is ok to tell lies as long as most people don’t understand and/or care too much.

    7. Avatar karl says:

      We also have the
      “super fast”
      “ultra fast”
      and what i guess will be next “hyper fast” nonsense.

      I wonder if in 10-20 years we will still think any of it is “super” 😉

    8. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I love how you think that was me Deduction, I’ve never complained to the ASA about anything just like I’ve never “grassed you up” to Mark when you’ve been trolling on here. But hey… if it gives you comfort keep believing.

    9. Avatar karl says:

      You thinking i am someone else has been gone over…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/06/talktalk-ceo-dido-harding-donates-gbp220k-bonus-charity.html#comment-167439

      I do not know why you think i meant you in the ASA story. I mentioned no individual or any names.

      I do not think you have reported me either. I have not broken any rules, so there is no reason for you to bombarded the poor site admin with complaints. Or any reason for him to do anything with them.

  6. Avatar LYNDON says:

    Does the end user need to know the method of their broadband delivery?
    Just sell packages:

    Up to 17
    Up to 38
    Up to 52
    And so on.

    1. Avatar cvb says:

      The point is that with FTTP the speed you get is the speed package you buy, and everyone no matter where gets that speed: all the time
      I should know, I’m on a Gigaclear FTTP line.

      With VDLS/FTTC as we all sadly know you get “UP TO” some speed rating depending on umpteen things including how far and how cr*p is you line quality.

      All the comments and arguments above were put on the original complaints which included AAISP CEO – so it was not a load of idiots putting in the moan to the ASA.

  7. Avatar FibreFred says:

    “The point is that with FTTP the speed you get is the speed package you buy, and everyone no matter where gets that speed: all the time”

    Sorry that’s not true

    1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      You are, of course, correct here Fred. What the chap should have said is that the basic “connection” speed to the “exchange” (or whatever) is the same wherever, not the achieved throughput, which depends on a whole load of other factors.

  8. Avatar fastman says:

    The point is that with FTTP the speed you get is the speed package you buy, and everyone no matter where gets that speed: all the time
    I should know, I’m on a Gigaclear FTTP line. — so Gigaclear service can only be brought from Gigalclear — limited if any Wholesale offering – very bespoke (is not acual broadband in then truest sense of the world its provisioned as dedicated Ethernet) and its only available to a few people !!!! — you have just confirmed why the ASA have ruled as they have

    1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      “is not acual broadband in then truest sense of the world its provisioned as dedicated Ethernet”

      Huh??

    2. Avatar karl says:

      Yep i dunno what he is on about either or his point considering he is one of the BT mob that have previously stated people with naff broadband speeds could have a lease line from BT. Why he suddenly wants to define what “broadband” is and be wrong about that also is anyones guess.

      Oh and as to the rest of the dribble… http://www.gigaclear.com/wholesale/

  9. Avatar fastman says:

    karl def not dribble

    so how many service providers on their platform any how many of them have the average broadband subscriber heard of that —

    digital region had wholesale platform and look what happened to them

    1. Avatar karl says:

      I fail to see how it matters how many providers gigaclear wholesale to. If you want to put personal opinion numbers on the matter you could argue no big suppliers wholesales to enough ISPs. None of them including BT wholesale to everyone. What is enough is nothing more than personal opinion.

      What ever number you think is “enough” to wholesale to is irrelevant. Im sure seeing as the gigaclear site i linked to states clearly ‘We are actively looking for wholesale ISP’s to join our network. If you would like to find out more information please email………..’ You will find they are more than happy to wholesale to more organisations. So even more puzzling why you are moaning about them in that regard.

  10. Avatar 3G Infinity says:

    and what does he know about technology – he’s not an engineer!

  11. Avatar fastman says:

    3G whos not an engineer —

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