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ASA rule against Vodafone on femtocell/Sure Signal advert
Wednesday 16 June 2010 10:48:10 by John Hunt

The ASA have ruled that Vodafone can not run a poster advert for their Sure Signal femtocell device in its current form following numerous complaints from T-Mobile, O2 and other complainants. The femtocell device, marketed as Vodafone Sure Signal, connects to a home broadband connection and uses this to allow users to make phone calls via their mobile phone as if they were using the Vodafone's mobile network. It requires a minimum broadband speed of 1Mbps and a 3G mobile phone and should allow users to ensure they can receive a mobile signal if they could not get one before.

Various complaints were raised including:

  1. the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that broadband and a 3G handset were required
  2. the claim "can guarantee mobile signal" was challenged as to whether it could be substantiated
  3. the ad implied Vodafone were superior to other networks and were capable of guaranteeing coverage to all customers
  4. the ad was misleading because the product was not available for use on cable broadband
  5. the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that additional payment was required for the service
  6. the ad did not make it clear that the device could only be used by 4 people at the same time
  7. the claim "Only Vodafone can guarantee mobile signal in your home" was challenged as other providers offered femtocell and signal boosting technology

In the ASA's assessment, they ruled against Vodafone in 4 of these 7 complaints:

  1. Upheld. Although the ad directed users to the Vodafone website, it was deemed likely to mislead users by the omission that a 3G handset and broadband were required.
  2. Upheld. Vodafone provided a response stating that the device would work with a broadband speed of only 64Kbps, however the ASA felt that because Vodafone did not control the availability or performance of the broadband connection, they could not guarantee that a signal would be received, and therefore the guarantee was likely to mislead.
  3. Upheld. Users unfamiliar with the Vodafone Sure Signal product or similar devices may infer from the advert that Vodafone were making a "general superiority claim" about their network and it was not clear that Vodafone were infact promoting a new product.
  4. Not upheld. The device will work with a cable broadband connection.
  5. Upheld. As it was not clear that Vodafone were advertising a new product, users might feel this was an inclusive feature of the Vodafone network rather than a paid for product, and therefore the lack of pricing information was likely to mislead.
  6. Not upheld. The advert didn't make claims that it could function with multiple users or exaggerate its capability to this.
  7. Not upheld. No other femtocell service was commercially available in the UK so this was unlikely to mislead.

Vodafone would need to add relevant details to future adverts for this product as detailed by the ruling to ensure they meet the ASA's guidelines.

Comments

Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
In my mind, I am currently thinking of the 'Microsoft do Apple marketing' spoof ad...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeXAcwriid0

Gonna end up covered in all sorts of disclaimers to keep everyone happy :D
Posted by TonyHoyle over 6 years ago
When I first saw the vodafone 'guarantee' it did strike me as a bit unlikely - nobody can guarantee signal. I joked at the time they'd be paying out a lot. Turns out the 'guarantee' was bunk anyway.
Posted by krazykizza over 6 years ago
But you can guarantee it if you're using a home router 10feet away from you. for a broadband connection to exist you must have some kind of upload and download which is all whats needed for this service to work.
Posted by snakeeyes over 6 years ago
Instead of moaning like uncompetitive idiots other carriers should release their own femtocells. Vodafone has had theirs out for ages. I have one and it is ace. I do have a guaranteed signal if I am within 100mtrs of my modem. I do however think I should receive a reduction in my bill if I use my own bandwidth. Also this shouldn't detract from the need for carriers to invest in wider coverage in general, and the progress to 4G networks and beyond.
Posted by davidraw over 6 years ago
Completely agree with snakeeyes.

I am stuck with no O2 coverage at home and would love to buy a femtocell.

I don't understand why you can't just buy one that would work for any network - it's only really a clever wireless AP with a bit of security gubbins in it.

At the moment I have the option of ceasing my contract with O2 at a cost of over £700 and moving to Voda or moving house. (Moving house is probably cheaper).

Unless O2 also offer femtocells when my contract comes up, Voda will get my business.
Posted by mhc over 6 years ago
Posted by davidraw

- it's only really a clever wireless AP with a bit of security gubbins in it.

Is it?

1. It is NOT a WAP and operates on GSM frequencies using GSM protocols.

2. It has to manage the phone operation on the network and interface with local BTSs and BSs to ensure handovers when required.

3. It interoperates with HLRs and VLRs to ensure the network knows where you are.
Posted by inkpen over 6 years ago
Somehow bizarre that they continue to charge mobile network rates for using a dodgy VoIP link over your own broadband that you already pay for? Clever, though!
Posted by Sten2005 over 6 years ago
The other way to do this is to use a UMA compatible phone. This connects to your broadband WiFi without having to pay an extra or buy a femtocell device.

Orange (and I think T-Mobile) offer this.

It works well for me.

But, apart from Blackberries, there aren't many UMA compatible phones.

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