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ASA rules on Virgin 'fibre optic' broadband claims
Wednesday 06 February 2008 11:20:22 by Andrew Ferguson

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has published an adjudication relating to a series of radio, press and poster campaigns by Virgin Media which made claims that many have found confusing including its 'super duper fast fibre-optic broadband'.

The ASA received 22 complaints from the public, Sky and TalkTalk on a number of issues. The main ones are:

  • The adverts claimed it was 'fibre optic' broadband when the connection from the street cabinet to the home was co-axial copper wire;
  • The suggestion that the speed does not slow down no matter how far you live from the telephone exchange;
  • Sky challenged whether the ad gave the misleading impression that cable broadband speeds would never slow down, and that Virgin Media customers would always be able to achieve consistent broadband speeds;
  • TalkTalk challenged whether the claim "fastest and best performing broadband" was misleading because it compared ADSL with a 10 Mb cable connection, while the offer described in the small print was for Virgin's 2 Mb cable service. TalkTalk contended that their 8 Mb ADSL service was faster than Virgin's 2 Mb cable service;
  • TalkTalk complained that the add was 'denigratory' as it implied VM was the only broadband company to tell the truth;
  • Both TalkTalk and Sky objected to the comparison which they suggested made it seem as if only 50% of the country could receive services from them;

The use of a fibre/coax hybrid network that supports the DOCSIS standards does give Virgin Media an advantage on its cable access network compared to ADSL which is delivered over twisted pair cable. None of the complaints appear to dispute this, but a common objection is the lack of clarity in describing the network and for the general public there is a real chance they may believe it is fibre all the way to the home. This is particularly confusing for users because of the recent discussions of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services in the news, although we should point out that the adverts ran in mid-2007.

What will come as a surprise to many, none of the complaints were upheld. The adjudication held that the co-axial element of the Virgin Media broadband network was only a small proportion in comparison to the fibre backhaul. This argument could be extended to even ADSL since the local loop (the distance from the telephone exchange to the home) was only a small part of the total ATM network which links the exchange to a central aggregation point over fibre.

The claim that no one offers faster services is not entirely true with some ADSL2+ users exceeding 20 Mbps when we looked at the results in February 2007. It is fair to say that generally ADSL speeds are more limited as only a small proportion of users would be able to get those speeds at this point in time over the ADSL network.

Our main concern here is that with Virgin Media promoting a fibre network the average consumer may start to believe the UK has fibre based broadband akin to a fibre to the home (FTTH) infrastructure available to 50% of households. This is not about a battle between ADSL and cable technologies. It is about trying to ensure a public that already finds broadband confusing is not misled and confused even more when true fibre to the home services appear. We are pleased to see VM pushing the boundaries of broadband forward, making better use of a network they have had available to them for quite some time, and that can only be good for the broadband population as it forces ADSL suppliers to up their game.

Comments

Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
Watch out for TalkTalk and the rest to start promoting their own fibre backbone networks.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
"forces ADSL suppliers to up their game."

The focus on headline speeds and ridiulously low prices has crippled the broadband of the vast majority of the users in this country. Further pressure to increase speeds, and directly degrade services more, is hardly "good".
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Yippee another perfectly valid complaint that a ball-less organisation fails to uphold. I wonder what REAL fibre services will be called by some when they arrive.... "Top secret alien based area 51 wired supery dupery rupery dupery supery connection" maybe! May as well with the bozo people in charge of complaints in the UK.
Posted by jrawle over 9 years ago
The point that should have been upheld is, "the misleading impression that cable broadband speeds would never slow down, and that Virgin Media customers would always be able to achieve consistent broadband speeds". As many VM customers know, speeds are often well below the maximum. They also have ridiculously low usage caps, after which the speed is severely throttled.
Posted by if_42 over 9 years ago
This is a ridiculous ASA ruling
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
Meh. A stupid ruling but then the ASA is legally toothless anyway. They can't compell advertisers to change their copy anyway. They rely on a voluntary code of conduct. Considering that we're talking about marketing departments it's amazing that the system works as well as it does.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
Of course it has nothing to do with a Super Rich person trying to buy a Bank that is being bailed out with Taxpayers money? big Business wins again as always. When will people realise that "Unlimited" refers to the power of the Pound (£). I will still NEVER have Virgin in my house for £5.00 a month!
Posted by KarlAustin over 9 years ago
Yet again, the ASA pass up an opportunity to do the right thing. Add this one to their allowance of "unlimited" - "Because they mean time spent online", yeah, right.
Posted by meldrew over 9 years ago
Pots, Kettle, Black comes to mind. Sky are forever trumpeting their packages for Sky TV subscribers but you can only have one if they have LLU'd your exchange. If not you pay an arm and a leg.

PS I feel smug having cancelled Sky Sports and I don't miss it one bit!
Posted by SimonKemp over 9 years ago
So, they've got away with it! Not sure how. Perhaps Sky shouldn't have lodged a complaint themselves - it might have given Virgin's adverts a dignity they didn't deserve - but the ordinary members of the public who were outraged by Virgin's antics must feel cheated by the ASA.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
roll on BT, talk talk etc. claiming they also have fibre based services.
Posted by therioman over 9 years ago
Virgin Media didn't wait long to start promoting the Fibre part again:

http://allyours.virginmedia.com/sites/hatetowait/index.html?vmsrc=vmhpld

Today's top advert with Virgin...
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
Presumably the original claimants can appeal or seek Judicial Review?
Posted by chrisac over 9 years ago
the whole broadband synario in the uk is a complete farse, the asa are not worth a toss, ofcom are at best worse than the asa, i have just given up,my bt line will only support 0.5mb,with any service provider, and after nearly 12 months on the virgin media 20mb service, i have kicked this into touch and gone to the lowest tier, as on 20mb i was averaging 3-5mb as my ubr has been waiting to be upgraded since may 2007 with no date in the pipeline,
Posted by chrisac over 9 years ago
end bit of my last post...
yet vm are quite happy taking my money for the 20mb service but will not supply it,
it got so bad , i managed to the broadband manager who was honest enough to tel me that the whole network was nackered and not just in my area, and needed fully upgrading, but we have no money to do it, i had to make a stand i could no longer keep paying for something i wasent getting, i am now on 10mb service, at the 2mb price and getting 0.5 - 1mb at best, so who do we customers goto for help, ofcom arnt intrested, neither is anyone else
Posted by chrisac over 9 years ago
one final point,
why does the asa , ofcom or even the government do somthing about, the way all of the broadband providers blaitently lie to the public, and how can virgin media keep blaitently keep bragging about how they can supply a few customers down kent way with 100MB service, when they cant supply most of the country with 2MB service without major problems,
Posted by chrisac over 9 years ago
maybe we are not blowing hard enough down the coax, as this is what i got told

to do last year , the tech suport on the phone said, unscrew the cable from the

modem and blow down it several times as hard as you can.....all our cables are

full of water.....its causing us loads of problems
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
It seems to me that people are very quick to point the finger at there isp and say caps ,congestion , poor tech support ..the fact of the matter is you can pull spots off all broadband providers for one reason or another but virgin media are ahead of the game with fibre to the kerb ..this will cost bt or the gov millions if it ever happens
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
vm are about to launch docsis3 with 100mbps being tested in 3 areas in the south.. even tho 50meg is the speed they are going to be offering ..ubrs are being fitted in known black spots and when analogue tv is scrapped this will triple the amount of bandwidth available
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
...

No, the point of the article is that VM do *not* have fiber to the curb (to the *cabinet*). Moreover, the claim that broadcast analogue TV being scrapped somehow helps the VM cable network shows precisely the extent of your shilling for VM here.
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
Most of this mess is down to the pervading mentality of keeping prices low. ISPs compete to offer the cheapest service they can. Ofcom encourages competition in the workplace based on pricing.

And the punters in their houses just lap it up.

You read a discussion about someone fed up with their current ISP and looking to move and there's nearly always someone gloating about an even cheaper alternative.

Wise-up folks! We are getting what we are paying for.
Posted by meldrew over 9 years ago
Cable sounds great for Internet but there are zillions of TV channels out there on satellite that you can't get by cable. ManU ManC Chelsea and Liverpool are all FTV from Turkey this weekend. Besides, if I want cable, already at the kerb I have to have both my lawn and drive dug up to get it to the house!
Posted by rygar1 over 9 years ago
The lies VM get away with just amazes me. Even if only a few hundred people can get faster than VM 20Mb via BE it makes VM liars (I'm sure many more can get faster). Their latest lie: "we'll be offering incredible speeds of up to 50Mb. Copper wire couldn't even begin to cope with speeds like that" VDSL? OK, you need to be within 500 mtrs of the exchange but "Couldn't even begin" is the statement they're using. I hope they plan on some big network upgrades to provide more capacity when the release 50Mb otherwise it will be a total joke.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
The one thing if anything they should had been punished on is... quote "The claim that no one offers faster services is not entirely true with some ADSL2+ users exceeding 20 Mbps"
Even if that number is small it still means virgin dont offer the fastest.. I myself use LLU and on average with no tweaking get 16Mb if i want i can push that to 20Mb and just over if i tweak SNR levels, sure stability drops, but when was virgin stable for many customers.. Also i dont get throttled in peak time... Virgin full of hot air liars.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
To dawn_falcon isnt the cabinet on the curb ..the fact is your probably no more than 2 or 300 metres away from the CAB where you have a single run of copper coax with no aliminuin and numerious joins to contend with ..my brother is with be and lives 235 metres from the exchange and gets 17meg not 24 .i'm a network engineer and everybody i've been to on vm's network get exactly the speed the line has been set to
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
As for getting throttled lets say on a 2meg service maybe the 60 or so mp3 tracks you can download between 4pm and 9pm arn't enough or a 4hr voip call at 64k ..quite frankly if this isnt enough you should be paying more ..and you can get both line and bbi for £20 ..i wish i lived in a cabled area
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
There is a distinct technical difference, 2doorsbob. And some people might be fortunate enough to live in one of the minority of VM areas where there is sufficient capacity on the local UBR, but most of the VM subscribers are not so fortunate.

When I was on VM I *never* recieved more than 20% of the stated speed, which was cut by two-thirds again during peak times after downloading 27.1MB! Add to this packet loss, high pings...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote "i'm a network engineer and everybody i've been to on vm's network get exactly the speed the line has been set to"

Of course you are and of course they do, now where did i put my goose that lays golden eggs.... damn the flying pig just swiped it again. Honestly to claim virgin provide the speeds they claim their service is capable of to everyone is damn right hillarious, virgin staff have even admitted to individuals in areas they cant... You are living in a fantasy world if you think up and down the country everyones connection on their 20Mb service maxes at that rate.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Oh and your brothers line must be well naff if he is 235metres ACTUAL length and gets 17Mb. I live much more than double that distance and still get 16Mb with ukonline with no tweaking... Have you not used your network tech skills to advise him his line must be poop? He should be up closer to 20Mb by my estimate.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
carpetburn what exactly can he do about his line quality ..start digging the road up and lay nice copper..i dont think so ..ip and dns have been manually configured any tweating with snr will result in lower sync speeds but i'm sure you already know that.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
dawn_falcon i'm sure there is a differance if we wish to split hairs ..fibre to curb and cab still brings the exchange closer to you in a sence ,and as your not with vm anymore why do you still feel like moaning about them ..dont you have anything better to do ..maybe theres already been improvements but you wouldnt know coz you havent got a connection with them anymore
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
I mainly work in shops in the south yorkshire area networking till's and internal comms most of vm's 2 4 and 10 meg connections i've seen all ran to within 1 or 200k of the speed they where paying for ..not seen all that many 20meg connections but all ran over 16meg ..i see vm's techs on my rounds and they tell me parts of london are being worked on aswell as parts of edinburgh..like i said in previous post mbrs are being added ..but tell this what other fixed line service can gave you 16meg 4 or 5km away from the exchange
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
my comment wasnt actually to attack VM it was to attack the ASA in suggestion that providers can include backhaul in fiber calculations, to be fair to VM they have a FTTC local loop which they should be able to exploit in advertising, if DSL competitors want equal advertising rights they free to invest.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote "carpetburn what exactly can he do about his line quality"
hard to say some of the first steps he could take to improve speed without having line stats but on a 235metre line they should be top notch.
Please also stop insisting what virgin state is the speed you will get, this isnt true and continuing to say so is misleading people... Even Virgin medias site itself describes all their broadband packages as UP TO.. just like nearly any broadband over a phone cable nowadays is advertised as.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Virgin have contention and capcity issues in areas like anyone else and for someone in a badly hit area they wont get anything like 20Mb or even 10Mb.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
all i'm quoting is fact based on my experience with vm connections ..vm connections will run better over distance than any adsl connection ..its my good fortune not to have come across a bad one ..i certainly would be happy with 15 or 16 meg out of 20 but its each to there own i suppose
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"all i'm quoting is fact based on my experience with vm connections ..vm connections will run better over distance than any adsl connection"
SIGH! And all Dawn_Falcon, myself and many others are saying are their experiences based on FACTUAL use of the service also. As to it running better, thats not strictly true either for the customer, if the service is contended to kingdom come and has capacity issues in a certain areas the customer wont see the benefit. In cases its possible a adsl service over a phone line would perform better for some.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
its fiar to say vm connections in lets say london and other known areas like edinburgh indeed are suffering from capacity issues due to being densely populated and very popular in the above areas but whos to say your not going to get the same problem with any other isp else
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
opps excuse typing error forgot to remove else
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
2doorsbob - No, there are UBR overload issues in the vast majority of urban centers VM serves.. check the Cable Forum website's forum sometime.

You were plain wrong about FTTC, and you're just shilling now.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"whos to say your not going to get the same problem with any other isp"
My exchange in terms of size is a good average compared to others up and down the UK I dont suffer from contention issues with my ADSL2+ service... Virgin cable on the other hand in this area is hopeless... someone just 2 doors away from me on their 20Mb service never saw rates above 4Mb, I on the other hand see 16Mb and higher on my ADSL2+... Again i say their servive is no different to any other if it suffers capacity issues in areas it performs poor.
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
well all i can say is let there 3 million customers deicide for themselves
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"well all i can say is let there 3 million customers deicide for themselves"

All i can say is are you sure that figure is just cable subs and not their adsl subs also?
Posted by michaels_perry over 9 years ago
I am a VM ADSL user, but we only get around 2.5 Mbps at best. BT say the line will only handle a max of 2 Mbps. When we first had ADSL we got 3.9 Mbps. So someone is throttling the line speed deliberately.
The argument about FTTC is spurious but by definition it is Fibre To the Cabinet, irrespective of where the cabinet happens to be. FTTH, Fibre to the Home replaces the final coax link with fibre, so maximising the data rate possible. In theory, FTTH can exceed 1 Gbps (but only seen in the lab so far).
Posted by bruhaha over 9 years ago
Virgin have lied to me in the past. I don't see any reason why they should not lie to me or indeed others in the future.
Posted by Graysonrw over 9 years ago
I've never had any problems contacting customer services and on the few ocations i have had to contact them they have done there best to resolve any problems.
I feel that the action taken by Sky and Talk Talk is more to do with the fact that Sky and Talk Talk are in direct compatition with Virgin and they will do anything to drag the name of Virgin through the mud. You only have look at what Sky did with ITV and the take over that Virgin was trying to do to see Sky's would stop at nothing to ruin Virgin's name.
Posted by chrishoops over 9 years ago
Graysonrw ....you work for Virgin don't you?
Posted by Threadbear over 8 years ago
Would be handy to have a word count. I keep editing and trying to post but just get Your comment is too long.
Posted by omi69 over 8 years ago
Graysonrw, don't take this the wrong way
but you either work for virgin or hav'nt tried other broadband offers. I'm a virgin broadband user & have been fooled (as many have) by their marketing and there ads about thier offer. I have the XL broadband and the speed that I download from 4pm till 5 or 6pm is aprox 300kb/s, and from then till midnight goes down to 60kb/s.....
Posted by omi69 over 8 years ago
I have a secure network and check my router address constantly for any intruders, and Sky are bigger than to try put Virgins name in the mud, as all those complaints are 120% true and ads ARE misleading, and Sky no better than try put "Virgins name in the mud". Virgin will always be virgin and Sky will always be Sky no matter what, its the missleading that counts
Posted by omi69 over 8 years ago
forgot to add that I rang up before registering and asked specificly about the peek time downloads and uploads and was told it would'nt go down that much as it did with my other 4 providers that I was with
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
and the farce continues 2 years later, with virgin adverts all over the web saying they deliver 'fibre optic broadband' for a fiver. Their backbone is fibre, but so is everyone elses, the end delivery is through copper so it isn't fibre to the home, so it isn't fibre broadband. IMHO.
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