Virgin Media are promising to avoid claims of unachievable speeds for its National Broadband product. This is the service that is available if you live in a non-cable broadband enabled area, and is provided using DSL over the phone line like most other broadband providers.
The new marketing for the national products will set out the speed as being "the fastest broadband we can give you" which is largely limited by the distance to the local telephone exchange. The cable broadband service, which it calls fibre optic broadband, will still be listed as providing an "up to" speed based on the product purchased as these are not affected in the same way as the technology limited ADSL based products.
"Many consumers are confused by speed claims that are, at best, misleading and, at worst, disingenuous. I hope our National Broadband Speed Promise will help people choose the product that's right for them and set a new standard of transparency for the whole industry."Neil Berkett (CEO), Virgin Media
The new national broadband range will also increase speeds by using ADSL2+ technology which will in time allow Virgin to provide more services such as television over the broadband connection to areas where it hasn't been able to before. Virgin signed a deal with Cable & Wireless over 2 years ago for the provision of wholesale broadband services in the areas where it doesn't run its own network. The upgrades to ADSL2+ may well be part of this deal showing its light. In addition, from this month, customers will also be able to pay for their phone line rental, usually payable to BT, direct to Virgin.
With this change to marketing, Virgin's products will sit out of sync with those of other providers who market their services as 'up to 24Meg' or 'up to 8Meg', when with these products, that headline speed is actually unachievable. Providers are of course required by the Ofcom Code of Practice to advise people how fast their service is likely to be before they sign up, but this doesn't place restrictions on speeds quoted in advertising material. It would be refreshing to see other providers take a step in the same direction, but in the short term, this change may make it harder for consumers to actually compare products as they find differing information from different providers so can't easily do a like-for-like comparison on price.
Virgin won't fade away from exuberant advertising claims however as their cable broadband services, which they market as fibre optic broadband, will continue to be listed at its full 50Meg speed, as is their right as this speed is achievable between your home and Virgin's equipment. Whether defining it as 'fibre optic broadband' is right when it's actually a fibre-coax hybrid network is of course an open debate.