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Cityfibre Attack Coppersaurus of Misleading Fibre Broadband Ads

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 4,081

Fibre optic network builder Cityfibre has today launched the Coppersaurus campaign, which aims to draw attention to the UK’s “prehistoric broadband” and support their court case to end “misleading” uses of “fibre” terminology in ISP adverts (i.e. when it’s used to describe slower hybrid copper and fibre connections).

As part of all this Cityfibre recently commissioned another Censuswide survey of almost 3,500 UK residents, which found that 78% of UK consumers feel “slowed down and frustrated” by their internet connection (rising to 82% among homeworkers, 87% for young people and falling to 71% for those aged 55+). Meanwhile 56% said their current connection also prevents them from working from home as much as they would like.

Meanwhile two thirds of respondents said they thought broadband advertising rules should be changed, albeit only once they understood the difference between copper-based (e.g. FTTC / VDSL2) and true Gigabit capable “full fibre” broadband services like Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP).

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said:

“For too long the UK has been held back by a deliberate lack of investment by BT Openreach in fibre infrastructure. Although companies like CityFibre are building the networks that will give millions of homes and businesses access to full fibre broadband, providers continuing to advertise copper-based connections as “fibre” is leaving people completely confused about what is on offer.

With the way we work increasingly blending our home and work lives, it has never been more important for people to understand what broadband connection they really get at home. Years of misleading advertising have made this near impossible, which is why the rules must be changed now – this cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. It is time everyone knows the reality of what’s under our streets.”

The argument centres around the fact that pure fibre optic ISPs (e.g. FTTP/H), which run the optical fibre cable all the way to your doorstep, can generally deliver significantly faster speeds (i.e. they can handle 1000Mbps or faster) and are more reliable. Meanwhile hybrid fibre (part fibre) services, like Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC), use a mix of metallic and optical fibre cables, which tends to make them both a lot slower and less reliable.

cityfibre coppersaurus

We should caveat this by saying that Virgin Media’s Hybrid Fibre Coax (DOCSIS) based cable network uses a fairly capable Coaxial copper setup, which is one of the reasons why they’re able to produce much faster and more stable speeds than Openreach’s FTTC network (uses twister pair copper and the lines can be significantly longer = more signal degradation). Virgin’s future DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade will eventually result in Gigabit packages, albeit only on the download side.

In the past, when FTTP/H providers and networks were in the extreme minority, this debate didn’t really matter as much. All this has begun to change over the past couple of years, with a series of big regulatory changes, tax breaks (business rates holiday etc.) and new investment programmes being launched to foster the growth of “full fibre” networks.

Last week also saw Ofcom and the Government outline their plans for ensuring that every home and business in the UK can access a Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) style “full fibre” broadband ISP network by 2033 (here and here).

Suffice to say that related ISPs and builders, like Cityfibre, have now stepped up their calls for the current advertising rules to be changed (allows both FTTH/P and FTTC services to use “fibre” terminology in their adverts). Cityfibre recently secured a Judicial Review on the subject, which hopes to force the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) into taking a second look at the matter after initially shunning it (here and here).

As it stands there’s a good chance that Cityfibre will secure another review of the current guidelines, although that doesn’t mean to say that the ASA will dramatically change their approach in favour of only allowing FTTH/P ISPs to use “fibre” terminology. Equally it will be difficult to unpick something that has long since become established in the consumer subconscious, where the meaning of “fibre” has been diluted over years of use (or misuse).

May I have your attention please.. will the real fibre optic service please stand up?

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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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45 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    How did they get a shot of The Coppersaurus?

    It is very shy and hides in a BT basement only emerging to scare, rumour is one look turns you to copper, those who use the F* word when discussing the last mile.

    *not as Gordon Ramsey uses it.

  2. Avatar FibreFred

    “Help us fightback by telling the advertising regulator to change the rules on using ‘fibre’ in broadband advertising”

    If people are/were bothered. They will.

    Obviously they aren’t.

    Do Cityfibre really think that if this get changed (would this be the 3rd attempt?) they’d see a massive increase in sales?

    I’m not saying it is right to call FTTC Fibre Broadband (even though the first one of the acronym is actually… fibre). I’m saying… I don’t think it actually matters to the consumer so much.

    • Avatar TheMatt

      PR stunt. Sky, Talktalk and a bunch of others tried it years ago. They’re trying to drum up interest by sparking a fight. Even if they loose, enough people will read the paper and go.. duh so my fibre isn’t really fibre… duh… then try to buy cityfibre and find out they can’t….

  3. Avatar Gadget

    I wonder what would happen if the ASA delivered a judgement that said “you can only claim it is fibre if that is the interface delivered to the customer”?

  4. Avatar Ale

    It really depends what a customer really needs. Having come from a base level of about 3kbs in the 1990s, the average punter just wants their Xbox/Netflix/iPlayer to work properly. Coax and FTTC are perfectly capable of this (~40mbs). Fibre is just a different technology capable of boosting that performance, albeit with a painfully expensive retrofit. For new build fibre makes great sense.

    Until 4K UHD 3D holographic adult movies are freely available, those with an explicit demand for 1Gbs fibre will be a niche minority.

    • Avatar TheMatt

      Netflix requires 25mbits minimum for 4K.

      Youtube says 15mbits.

      Kid wants to download a 6GB game from steam = full bandwidth (for me, 70mbits).
      I have 5 people in my house. They all watch or play stuff. So lets say that all 5 users want to watch a 4K stream .. that’s 125mbit straight away….

      People who think 20mbits is fine for everyone, don’t live in the real world and think their own personal use case applies to everyone. Do you need gigabit ? probably not. Do you need more than 100mbit in 2018 in a household with more than 2 or 3 people … yes.

    • Avatar Chris P

      @thematt

      Do all 5 of you stream 4K at the same time?

      25mbit is peak worst case per stream, it’s possible to watch 4K using less than that peak, it’s possible for 5 people to watch 4K on 70mbs, yes there may be the occasional artifect but that could happen with 1 stream on a gig connection too especially if your on a congested leg of your isp’s network as many VM customers have experienced.

    • Avatar Clifford

      “…it’s possible for 5 people to watch 4K on 70mbs”

      Err NO, just NO

      That would mean each stream would have to be 14Mb or less. I dunno what 4K content you have been watching which is less than 14Mb but it must look a right POS.

    • Avatar Clifford

      Oh and re: Virgin Media

      NO and just NO again.

      Netflix own speed index actually says VM performs better. Are you going to contribute anything accurate?

    • Avatar NeilH

      All very well citing 70Mbps or even 40Mbps as being useful speeds to service a modern household.

      In practice, sub-20Mbps is commonplace for FTTC end-users in the UK. We are around 800 metres from the street DSLAM, and get just 16Mbps these days, as crosstalk from new disturbers gets ever worse.

  5. Avatar Graham Long

    “it will be difficult to unpick something that has long since become established in the consumer subconscious, where the meaning of “fibre” has been diluted over years of use”. What nonsense, if that were the case anyone could call anything what they like provided they do it for a few years. The public are not the stupid dotards that ISP markeing guru’s assume and I can assure you we do know what the difference is between fibre and copper. The ASA is an incompetent outfit that does not do what it claims it does. THE PUBLIC DO NOT LIKE BEING LIED TO.

    • Hi Graham, I appreciate the robust input but my experience is the polar opposite. I frequently come across people who say they’ve had “fibre installed” and usually they’ve only got FTTC or Coax. Just asking around family members can highlight the same confusion, although I like to think that I’ve played my part in correcting their views 🙂 .

      You say that the public are not stupid dotards and I’d agree that many are not, but equally there are plenty who are or who simply don’t feel a need to have a technical understanding of the cables that deliver their service.

  6. Avatar Graham Long

    Yes Mark – Of course people will say their broadband is fibre when it is only copper because they are being BRAINWASHED by the lying ads which the incompetent ASA encourages – and I am sure HMG are also happy with it because we are then BRAINWASHED in to thinking that BDUK is doing a super job despite the fact that less than 4% of properties are directly connected by future proof fibre when it is only antique copper. The ASA (and HMG’s) job is not to make the lies and fraud that ISP’s are committing the norm, but as your picture above states “To make sure YOU CAN TRUST THE ADS YOU SEE” and today you cannot. This is the biggest confidence trick played on the British public since the South Sea Bubble!

  7. Avatar Happy Scott

    Graham – given the majority of folk on FTTC will have the majority of their data back to the exchange flowing over fibre then perhaps it is not unreasonable to call it fibre. I suspect you may disagree. If not fibre, what would you call it?
    In reality the overwhelming majority of people don’t care what is called. Further in the UK where you have a number of hybrid networks the average speeds in the UK would significantly improve if people just ordered what is in front of them right now.
    Finally, FTTP does not future proof you if your operator goes bust….some folk in Yorkshire have experience of that.
    The UK is a global digital leader and the march to more fibre is on BUT in the meantime the UK is in a very strong position and I see no reason why that will change in the short, medium and long term. In fact the only significant risk is non-investment in digital skills and that is the real area we should be focussing on and not whether fibre broadband is fibre all the way or not. For most people asking them to engage in that debate is akin to interesting them in a collection of 19th century postcards of Blackpool.

    • Avatar dean

      “Graham – given the majority of folk on FTTC will have the majority of their data back to the exchange flowing over fibre then perhaps it is not unreasonable to call it fibre. I suspect you may disagree. If not fibre, what would you call it?”

      NO it is not reasonable to call it fibre. It is VDSL and nothing more and if a name must be attached the accurate name should be used.

      If with your example we are just talking about the loop from exchange to a persons home then it is entirely possible the person on the end still has more copper than they do fibre in their connection.

      With FTTC, you have an exchange… then cabinet… then premises

      Between the exchange and the cabinet is the fibre cable but between the cabinet and the premises is the copper cable so……….

      What would you call a product where the fibre run of cable from the cabinet to the exchange (or vice versa if you like) is 200m long but the persons home from the cabinet (the copper run in FTTC) is 400M away from it?

      You still want to call that fibre even if the majority of it is copper????

      That’s the problem.

    • Avatar Chris P

      @dean

      The majority won’t be copper and hasn’t been for decades.

      Typically from client device it’s wireless to the router then copper through their phone line or VM coax cable to the cab, then more copper if vm or adds to the aggregator or exchange then fibre for many miles to the isp’s core network and then fibre onwards to the destination systems which again is typically many miles. Even if your 10 miles of copper from your home to the isp’s core kit there will be 10’s of miles of fibre through to the server your getting your data from.

      Fttc is accurate enough. Fibre is ambiguous, unless you have fttp or ftth.

      I’d like to see the term fibre dropped immediately and replaced with fttc or fttp/h or for wireless. The fttx terms are not hard to understand and wireless is distinct enough from WiFi.

    • Avatar Clifford

      Chris p you have not understood what he has said.

      The wires between the cabinet and a persons home are copper
      The wires between the cabinet and the exchange are fibre

      It is entirely possible for a FTTC (cabinet) to be closer to the exchange than it is for a person to be to a cabinet.

      The actual fibre run of cable would thus be less than the run of copper cable.

      Or to put this more simple and to use a very simple example…

      Imagine you live in a road which is say 800 Metres long.

      At one end of the road is the telephone exchange, right outside of the telephone exchange is the FTTC (cabinet) which serves that road.

      The fibre run from that cabinet or node to the exchange is likely to be very short.

      At the other end of the road, IE 800M away is a persons premises or where you live. The cable between that premises and the cabinet at the other end of the road is copper.

      The copper run for cabinet premises in a setup like that will be longer than the fibre run for cabinet exchange, thus trying to claim that product is “fibre” is stupid as there is more copper than there is fibre.

      If you still can not understand that simple example then i can only conclude you do not know how FTTC works.

    • Avatar Clifford

      What you have referred to is how the network and how you visit a site over the network happens which has nothing to do with FTTC or if the service you buy is fibre.

      Your visit in what you describe to a site or network destination would happen the same way on ADSL, and nobody unless you are very stupid would call that fibre.

    • Avatar Chris P

      @ Clifford

      There really is no need to be so rude and to be calling people stupid.

      if you can’t answer without resorting to insults the just don’t bother typing.

    • Avatar clifford

      I did not call you or anyone else stupid.

      I stated 2 things which would be stupid…
      1) That if anyone believes a product which has more copper in it than fibre should be called a “fibre” product then that is stupid.
      2) What you described in how a network request works and how something that maybe halfway round the world is transmitted back, would apply to any product you are using including ADSL and nobody unless they are stupid would try to claim ADSL is a “Fibre” product.

      If you read my post as insulting i can only apologise but nowhere did i call you stupid.

  8. Avatar AnotherTim

    But is FTTP actually “broadband” at all? My understanding of broadband is that it uses multiple frequencies to carry a single signal – hence broadband – rather than the single frequency used in (most) fibre. So if Cityfibre want to be pedantic, perhaps they shouldn’t be calling their offering “broadband”? Should I contact the ASA?

  9. Avatar TheFacts

    The crusade of some people for this is, I suspect, more to do with their dislike of BT/OR for not upgrading their area rather than any real concern of mislabelling.

    Clearly fibre does not carry a broadband signal. ‘a high-capacity transmission technique using a wide range of frequencies, which enables a large number of messages to be communicated simultaneously.’ Now being misused, not acceptable.

    • This argument started in 2008 with Virgin Media’s advertising, before FTTC on BT/OR was even available (heck Virgin’s HFC adverts still come up more frequently as examples than FTTC). No doubt there will be some that link it to a general opinion against certain operators (isn’t there always?) but for many others it will be more about the clear differences in technology and capabilities etc.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “The crusade of some people for this is, I suspect, more to do with their dislike of BT/OR…”

      You are wrong again. Please look up the details, there were plenty of articles on this, including on ISPReview. BT is probably still the largest FTTP provider in the UK.

    • Avatar Clifford

      “The crusade of some people for this is, I suspect, more to do with their dislike of BT/OR for not upgrading their area rather than any real concern of mislabelling.”

      Why would it just be a moral crusade against BT when neigh on every ISP is misnaming their products?
      What a very strange thing to say.

  10. Avatar Philip Wright

    The display is outside Milton Keynes Central Railway Station.

    Pretty impressive up close

    • Avatar FibreFred

      That much copper might attract scrap dealers 🙂

    • Avatar who cares

      Or the local gypsys…

    • Avatar Clifford

      It is the best use of a Openreach cabinet i have ever seen regardless 😉

    • Avatar Gadget

      @Clifford if it is an Openreach cabinet there should be some serious questions about how it came to be in possession of CityFibre in that state with a few old telephones, blocks, circuit boards and cabling arranged ontop of it.

    • Avatar un4h731x0rp3r0m

      Perhaps Cityfibre bought used it from Openreach. Maybe one of the many cabinets Openreach sited in a stupid place which were removed. Or a cabinet that has been involved in an incident with a car which also seems to regularly happen.

      Then again i did not think Openreach made their own cabinets, so dunno why it would matter where they got it from, unless you are saying they stole it.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Gadget

      Those cabinets are available off the shelf from more than one supplier. You can order them for next day delivery. Anyone with a credit card can.

      The rest of the scrap is pretty much what anyone pulls out when they strip out an office building.

      So I am not sure what the fuss is all about.

    • Avatar Gadget

      just highlighting how wrong the statement from Clifford was……some might say it was provocative

    • Avatar clifford

      Sounded to me more like you stating cityfibre had done something wrong by having a cabinet.

  11. Avatar Steveocee

    How does Virgin’s most recent offer stand up to this? New installs deliver service to the property using fibre but then convert from fibre to coax for the last few inches. An interesting one for sure. One I’m sure will get a lot of scrutiny and splitting of hairs.

    Roll on full FTTP for everyone!

  12. Avatar chris conder

    Hi Happy Scott, the failed ‘fibre’ project in Yorkshire was only FTTC as well. All that happened was BT overbuilt them (think that’s when they invented plusnet) and their product wasn’t superior enough to stand the deluge of BT marketing. This is why we have an ASA. It just isn’t doing its job, that is what this post is all about.

    • Avatar Chris P

      BT didn’t invent Plus Net, they purchased them.

      A simple wiki search reveals all

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plusnet

      “The company was founded in 1997 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and became a public limited company (plc) in July 2004 when it was floated on the Alternative Investment Market. On 30 January 2007, Plusnet was acquired by BT Group, but it continues to operate as a separate business. By December 2013, it had over 750,000 customers across the UK.[1]“

      “Plusnet’s origins go back to 1 February 1997, when Choice Peripherals, a PC computer-peripherals company launched Force9 Internet. Heavily involved in early Plusnet was founder of Choice Peripherals, Paul Cusack (Chairman), who later went on to create the hardware retailer Ebuyer, and Lee Strafford (Managing Director), who later went on to lead Plusnet through most of its development up to the sale to BT in January 2007.”

    • Avatar Gadget

      Chris – this article here https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/09/bt-signs-gbp22m-superfast-broadband-rollout-south-yorkshire.html seems to suggest that there was very little overbuilding by BT, and that most build took place after SYDR ceased operation

    • Avatar Happy Scott

      Hi Chris was thinking more about the £120m failed FTTP project

  13. Avatar Sausages

    In order for a pork sausage to be advertised as such, it needs a minimum of around 35% pork in it. Don’t see anyone here looking to lobby the ASA on getting the definition overturned. I smell desperate vested interest, rather than ideology or genuine concern over public misunderstanding.

    • Avatar un4h731x0rp3r0m

      I think you will find its actually 30-35% of a sausage must be MEAT for it to be called a Sausage.

      For it to be called a PORK sausage the content of pork must be something like 40-45%

      Regardless the percentage of meat in a sausage will be higher than any other singular ingredient (things like water, salt, fat, starch, rusk etc).

      Which is the complete opposite of FTTC where copper NOT fibre can be the larger percent IN SOME PEOPLES connection from home to exchange.

      A good attempt at an example, complete failure but i see what you were trying to attempt.

  14. Avatar charlie

    I’ve been saying for years that it’s not fibre optic broadband service if the last leg is still the copper local loop!

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