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Survey Finds Confusion Over UK Broadband and Full Fibre Jargon

Monday, Sep 26th, 2022 (10:49 am) - Score 4,776
copper vs fibre coppersaurus

A new Censuswide survey of 2,001 UK adults (aged 16+) that have broadband, which was commissioned by ISP Zen Internet and conducted during May 2022, has found that 32% of respondents still aren’t confident they can define what “full fibre” is – that’s up from 28% when the same question was asked in 2021.

Overall, the survey noted how 28% of respondents had indicated an “increasing lack of confidence in keeping up with industry jargon“, with 67% believing there is too much jargon in the broadband industry. Similarly, while 68% were still confident they could correctly define “full fibre“, only 33% of those were actually able to do so when presented with possible definitions (Zen doesn’t state what definitions were presented as options).

NOTE: Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

The best-informed group, at least when it came to correctly understanding the term full fibre, were those aged 55 or over, with 37% of that age group able to do so vs only 29% of millennials. Just for the avoidance of doubt, full fibre is typically a type of broadband connectivity (FTTP) that involves running a high-capacity optical fibre cable (carrying data using light signals) directly to your home from the local exchange.

However, over the past decade a lot of ISPs have confused consumers by describing significantly slower hybrid fibre solutions, such as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) or G.fast, as “fibre broadband” technologies. But in reality, the final connection from ‘cabinet to home’ is done via thin copper lines, which are less reliable and much slower (subject to aggressive signal degradation over distance).

Paul Stobart, CEO at Zen Internet, said:

“As more people spend time inside their homes in the colder Autumn and Winter months, households will be battling for bandwidth more than ever. It’s important that consumers understand what they are paying for when it comes to their utilities, including broadband. Prevailing misconceptions and growing confusion amongst consumers could be holding them back from getting the most out of their connectivity. This shows a pressing need for providers to help educate customers’ broadband literacy, as well as stripping out the unnecessary jargon, so consumers can have the confidence they are making the most of their services.”

Last year’s report (here) from the Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) called for various changes to be introduced to tackle such issues, such as clearer labelling of products (i.e. to help highlight the advantages of full fibre) and more advertising campaigns. But so far, we’ve seen precious little movement on its recommendations.

Having said that, most people do understand the basics of advertised speeds (download and upload) and full fibre happily delivers in a game where marketing departments relish being able to promote ever bigger numbers.

The picture at the top stems from CityFibre’s unsuccessful 2018-19 campaign to challenge the problem of misleading advertising via the ASA (here).

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Graham Long says:

    The key ASA decision was “it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection to consumers’ homes as “fibre broadband”. This is like saying that when the M5 becomes the A38 at Exeter, because part of the road from Bristol to Plymouth is a motorway, it is not misleading to describe the whole route from Bristol to Plymouth as a motorway. No wonder we have the lowest implementation of full fibre in Europe when it is legal to rename copper as fibre!

    1. Avatar photo ItsAdam says:

      I agree, I make complaints to the ASA about it All the time, seems someone at BT is giving kick backs worth a fortune.

      It is neither super fast nor fibre.

      Most people get faster 4G data speeds than they get with their BT broadband (whichever wholesaler supplies it).

      Seriously, I can get 140mbit on 4G+ in my phone at my computer, BT would offer me from 35-42mbit depending where I go.

      God help anyone with no Virgin / Hyperoptic etc.

  2. Avatar photo BOOT OUT THE CONSEVATIVES says:

    Harley suprising really is it after BT spent years and millions of pounds on TV advertising telling people that broadband down doorbell cable was fibre

  3. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

    Not confusing – ADSL/FTTC/G.fast/Vermin Mediscum – Broadband

    FTTP/H/B = Full Fibre – if there is copper it’s Broadband to me

    1. Avatar photo John says:

      It is all broadband but delivered using different methods.

    2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      ‘FTTP/H/B = Full Fibre – if there is copper it’s Broadband to me’

      I have some bad news regarding FTTB.

    3. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      There’s copper from the ONT to router in most FTTP installations, so that isn’t fibre to you either?

      Most people don’t care, they’re only bothered about price and download speed.

    4. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      Well, even if there is a little bit of copper somewhere (as there probably is in the SPF+ connectors or something) – it does not affect speeds – especially not in a leased line – and so who really cares. That was my point


      It’s when you rely on Copper such as FTTC/G.fast then it totally sucks.

  4. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    Just took a quick look at BTs current VDSL copper-line offers:

    Unlimited Fibre Essential Plan
    Unlimited Fibre Plan

    It claims this: Fibre from BT 91% UK coverage.

    So yes, this company is still actively misleading consumers here, and the ASA has miserably failed to do its job!

    Who in the right frame of mind who do business with such a company?

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      really get a grip please

    2. Avatar photo Chris Sayers says:

      That’s about what I was going to say, I’ve been banging on about the ASA for years, bunch of …..

    3. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

      I totally agree with you all UK ISPs should do what New Zealand does. If you go on a New Zealand website they clearly label there packages as ADSL VDSL HFC and Full Fibre

  5. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    This is further proof that what the government needs to do is like the Analogue TV switch off of 1999 and just force everyone to upgrade to FTTP whether they think they want it or not. Ask anyone now if they’d rather have Analogue TV and not a single person would say yes. Ask anyone in 1998 before the switch over was forced and the vast majority would say “I am happy with Analogue TV”.

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      Bit different with a new TV antenna and set top box, to masses of roadworks and installing mil3s of fibre where it doesn’t exsist or are unable to reach.

    2. Avatar photo Geoff says:

      Wrong!!! I would definitely say “please can I have my analogue TV signal back”. With a weak analogue signal it can still be watchable even if slightly degraded whereas with digital it is either there or not and in this area (not a remote rural area) it is frequently not. There are many premises that would need substantial wiring changes to accommodate FTTP as my recent forced changeover to DV showed.

    3. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      This forced switchover *is* already happening, whether you like it or not.

      Firstly: the switchover from analogue voice (PSTN) to digital will be completed by December 2025. There will be a national stop sell of analogue voice connections from Sep 2023. This applies to 100% of users, no exceptions. Those on copper lines will have to use digital voice over FTTC or ADSL.

      Secondly, once an exchange area reaches 75% FTTP penetration, then a copper stop sell is applied. This means that when it comes to making any change (e.g. upgrading speed or switching ISP), anyone on a copper-based service *must* switch to FTTP if it is available at their address. Come December 2026, this will apply to about 85% of the population.

  6. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    I agree they want everyone to go VoIP by December 2025 that includes ADSL ADSL2+ ( fibre to the cabinet VDSL VDSL2 G.FAST) and Full Fibre aka FTTP/H/B. Even Virgin Media with there HFC Network watch stands for hybrid fibre coaxial. And by 2030 Openreach want to switch off copper ADSL VDSL G.FAST all together that would only FTTP/H/B would be Avenue.

    1. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

      I agree they want everyone to go VoIP by December 2025 that includes ADSL ADSL2+ (Fibre to the Cabinet VDSL VDSL2 G.FAST) and Full Fibre aka FTTP/H/B. Even on the Virgin Media with there HFC Network watch stands for hybrid fibre coaxial. And by 2030 Openreach want everyone to switch over from the old copper network by 2030 switch off copper entirely ADSL VDSL G.FAST all together that would only mean FTTP/H/B would be Available.

    2. Avatar photo ItsAdam says:

      With the quality and up times of a lot of BT wholesale users, having a VOIP system is risky… That said, the landlind is dead.

      This shouldn’t apply to commercial customers at all, if there is a broadband outage (often the case with bt) or a power cut, emergency calls cannot be made. Thus I think law to keep one line per building atleast wouldn’t go amiss.

      .. Unless you have a mobile.

  7. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    The only reason I know all this I was speaking to Openreach engineer because there upgrading my local Village in Fife Scotland. And he said they may take the old Copper network down to sell it. And they may not.

  8. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    You said Anthony Analogue TV was switch it off in 1999 correction Sky was the first to launch Digital TV in 1998 the Sky the first broadcaster to end Analogue TV. but then Analogue terrestrial TV was still on but at started switching off Analogue in 2007 to 2012 region-by-region basis. Then Telewest followed suit in 2001 with Telewest active digital now known as Virgin Media. There actually 3 parts to Digital switch over 1 TV 2 Broadband copper to fibre-optic last but not least Analogue radio to DAB but they have a date set for Analogue Radio switch off yet.

  9. Avatar photo ItsAdam says:

    I’ve unfortunately sent multiple complaints to the ASA over the years about BT (and even wholesale providers after that failed) with absolutely no joy.

    It is entirely misleading, most people will buy their “superfast” “fibre” at 32mbit thinking they’re getting fast Internet.

    The problem it is neither superfast nor fibre, this is a clear mis sale of goods.

    It’s like buying a Double Quarter Pounder and then getting a Cheeseburger… People would soon moan then, but with the technical mis selling they don’t.

    Honestly it should be banned and companies using it should be fined.

    ASA are fed up with me no doubt, I urge all to make a complaint. It should be all full fibre or nothing.

    The connection type should be based purely on what’s going in to your property *with ensuring that connection is available at the exchange.

    The other thing to annoy the hell out of me (which I feel is worse since the technical capability is there, but the supplied hardware is not) is that Virgin Media sell Gig1 at 1130mbit,but send you a superhub 4 through the post which only has a 1000 port, meaning 950 max speed.

    Imagine then giving ya superhub 5s which have a 2.5GbE port to customers on 50mbit and 100mbit packages and then going, whoops we don’t have any more!

    Atleast BT sell it at 900 and gifts people that 40-45mbit more.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      Could be worse Adam.

      I have a 1Gbps leased line -and even with Cat 7 directly through to the supplied router I can’t get more than 941 both ways.. I always thought I would get at least true 1000/1000 each way (after seeing Snazzy labs mention the same thing in their LL video) and I have 10Gbps on my Mac apparently . I am not really disappointed as the connection is awesome but I thought if any connection could do that it’s going to be a Leased Line. Apparently there is 60mbps overhead from what my ISP told me

      I wish my overhead was 1145mbps – No sarcasm I really do. From what I can tell my supplied router is a few hundred to a few thousand depending on where you look – the VM hub is cheap? I’m only asking as i’ve never had VM so don’t have any experience on their hub

  10. Avatar photo Gary H says:

    Flawed survey where did they find these people, It’s quite clear to even your average Joe in the street that fibre broadband doesn’t come to your house over fibre and even if it’s not clear then actually it doesn’t make any difference as you’re too dumb to understand all that technical jargon… The ASA said so.

  11. Avatar photo Wonky Donkey says:

    The problem is the advertising standards agency. I don’t know if the ISPs paid them off, or if they’re just genuinely incompetent calling copper “fibre”. For years BT/OR put up signs saying “Fibre is here” …. on the outside of copper twisted pair cabinets.

    Any other industry would have been raked over the coals for basically lying and misleading customers. So was ASA bought and paid for by the ISPs ? or just incompetent? take your pick. The result is the same.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      Most are – and I swear most of the yearly “award” events are down to whoever can bung the most cash.. sometimes the results are jaw dropping especially for those who have suffered yet their provider gets “best everything’ awards

      Like Plusnet – and giffgaff – i’ve worked at both – how the hell they get anything is a true mystery. i left giffgaff after a year because I was sick of being told to lie to people daily

      The ISPA and the ASA are just bent- run by even bentier people

  12. Avatar photo Andy Mitchell says:

    Someone should do a survey about what the word WiFi means to them. BT need to knock it off with their misleading adverts.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      yes there are so so many surveys to be done – all about words that need to go – Like “unbreakable wifi” – yeah because it’s hard to say “4g fallback” which is actually what it is.

      It’s so unbreakable it says in the small print it can take up to 4.1 minutes (or 246 seconds) to kick in – which for most people is going to feel kinda “broke” for a while

      BT – Bent twats Bunch of Tossers, you pick

  13. Avatar photo Dave says:

    Well it will all be alright soon. When all these twisted pair companies
    get the huge windfall of CPI +3.9% and .gov for some weird reason dont
    stick them with a windfall tax they will be able to get everyone on to
    fully full fibre at a nominal cost within a year……….. LOL

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