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INCA Launch New Quality Mark for UK Alternative Broadband ISPs

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 (10:55 am) - Score 328
inca gold standard

The Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) has today announced the launch of their new “Gold Standard Quality Mark Scheme“, which aims to highlight alternative network (AltNet) broadband ISPs that adopt the best practices in performance, design and operations.

INCA states that the new scheme is an attempt to tackle the “confusing marketing messages from broadband providers” and as such it adopts an agreed set of definitions (e.g. “Full-Fibre“, “Hybrid“, “Wireless” and “Wholesale“) covering technology, performance and customer service.

For example, members of the scheme will be expected to support Ofcom’s Broadband Speed Code of Practice and complaints handling (ADR) rules and the ASA’s advertising guidelines for broadband providers (e.g. displaying average speeds). On top of that they must also, as a minimum, comply with the Broadband Delivery UK and EU definition of Next Generation Access networks (EU Guidelines 2013).

Various other requirements must also be met and some of them are specific to different technologies. For example, fixed wireless broadband ISPs can only be accredited if they’re able to offer speeds of more than 30Mbps and conduct themselves as a “good neighbour” in order to minimise interference between similar networks (UKWISPA’s alternative quality mark does this too).

We also note that the “Hybrid” category covers FTTC, FTTN, DOCSIS 3.0 and above technologies, while “Full-Fibre” includes both FTTP connections and FTTB; even though in some FTTB setups there may still be a small bit of copper between the end-user and final optical terminal.

Malcolm Corbett, INCA CEO, said:

“In a sector where not even the Government and regulator can agree on what ‘superfast’ means and where the advertising watchdog allows copper connections to be called fibre, it is not surprising that consumers and businesses often don’t know what connection they’re getting when it comes to broadband.

There is also a need for the industry, government and Ofcom to work on standards for cross-platform switching between different networks, to increase consumers’ choice of service providers and drive down costs. Currently there are no guidelines for what this type of switching platform should offer, making the process inefficient.

The INCA Gold Standard Quality Mark Scheme clarifies the information being made available to consumers and encourages a higher quality of broadband across the UK.”

The joining fee for the scheme is £500 +vat (on top of INCA’s existing membership fees) and the same again for annual renewal, which could discourage some of the smallest ISPs from taking part. We suspect that those ISPs who routinely describe hybrid services as “fibre optic” may also give it a miss.

INCA members wishing to receive the Gold Standard Quality Mark will then need to go through a validation process in order to confirm that they abide by the “best practice” criteria. At the end of all this a successful candidate will be awarded with a logo, which can be used across their branding.

At the time of writing only two ISPs (“Gold Standard Founder Members“) have already adopted the new mark, WightFibre and Hyperoptic, but others are sure to follow. INCA added that the new standard has been created in collaboration with the Local Government Association, Federation of Communication Services, UKWISPA, Confederation of Aerial Industries and FTTH Council.

A copy of the Draft Standards can be found online, although we note a small mistake in that “superfast” is described as the “term given to broadband speeds of over 24 Mbps (ADSL2+ speeds).” The mention of ADSL2+ is incorrect since ADSL2+ can only theoretically offer up to 24Mbps and doesn’t go faster (in the real world 20Mbps is about the best you could ever expect).

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

    Hi Mark,
    That was meant to clarify that 24 Mbps was ADSL2+ and so Superfast was faster than ADSL2+. I can see what you mean, though, so have tweaked the wording:

    Superfast: Term given to broadband speeds of over 24 Mbps (faster than ADSL2+ max speed).

    If you have a look at the speed names table, you’ll see that the meaning of superfast as being either 25+ Mbps or 30+ Mbps (depending on source) and ADSL 2+ being 24 Mbps maximum (so not superfast) is given with references https://www.inca.coop/quality-mark/speed-names

    Best Regards, Mike

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