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Advertising of broadband speeds and 'unlimited' usage to get overhaul
Thursday 17 June 2010 14:56:15 by John Hunt

We may be about to see the end of 'unlimited' broadband packages being widely advertised in the broadband and telecoms industry along with unrealistic speed expectations fostered by products listing the highest attainable speed for the service qualified by saying the speed is 'up to' the number quoted. 'Unlimited' broadband packages often actually have a usage limit or fair usage policy hidden in the small print which will contradict the 'unlimited' claim of the product. New Media Age reports that the Advertising Standards Agency is launching a review which will be carried out by the British Code of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) into how Internet services are advertised and it intends to look at these two areas in particular.

"We've looked at a number of complaints about individual ads in the telecoms sector regarding access speeds and usage limits and found that applying a single policy to how telecoms providers advertise can pose significant challenges.

It's important that we look at this on a broader policy level with service providers, other regulators and consumer groups, rather than relying on individual ASA rulings that focus on a particular service on one platform. Therefore, the ASA has invited CAP and BCAP to review broadband speed and 'unlimited' use claims."

Lynsay Taffe, (Communications and Policy Manager), ASA

The industry is rife with these unlimited claims, which are nearly always limited in some manner. At the end of May, O2 clarified that on their O2 'Access' broadband product, advertised as 'unlimited', users should actually use only 10GB a month. This came to light at a time when O2 had just launched a new advertising campaign to 'nobble broadband niggles.'

The recent announcement of new smartphone contracts from O2 does move away from using 'unlimited' to describe their products as O2 believe that the amount of data use is unsustainable at the moment. Vodafone have been giving a similar message since December when 'unlimited' was removed from their Internet packages to avoid users being confused by 'unlimited' offers that weren't actually unlimited.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the review determines the industry should proceed. Under the current rules we are likely to see advertisers continuing to push the rules to the limit with unsupportable claims. Broadband speed marketing is a difficult beast to regulate in comparison to 'unlimited' broadband claims, as there needs to be a way for providers to differentiate the products they offer. It's therefore likely that we won't see the end of broadband adverts claiming speeds of 'up to x Mbps' but perhaps they may be required to state with equal prominence the average speed and the headline speed that users receive on the product. Ofcom's 'Code of Practice for broadband speeds' helps in this area to some degree, requiring operators to give users an estimate of the speed they are likely to receive based on line estimates before they order, however this can't be used in the same way where billboard or TV adverts are seen by large numbers of people.

Comments

Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
tbh, you are going to have to live with 'up to' until everyone has fibre or technology which is capable of fixed rate services.

This is just how copper works, every line is different so every speed is different, are ISP's now expected to have a tailored adverts for every telephone line in the uk?

How about they offer 512k, 1Mb, 2Mb, 3Mb, 4Mb etc fixed rate.... Can't see that going down too well tho, as pricing really wouldnt be too different between 512k and 24Mb as all that changes is bandwidth usage.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
Ive always been a fan of pay for what you use, pay a flat rate for the installation/rental costs to the ISP and then pay per Gb. Then if you have a slow connection, you cant use as much and pay less. Its fair. But would never be done.
Posted by jrawle over 6 years ago
About time they acted on "unlimited". Clearly false advertising in many cases.

TaRkADaHl: that sounds like a huge retrograde step, after campaigns in the 90s for flat rate telecoms. Even phone packages have largely moved away from pay-per-use billing. Operators like that fact most people don't use as much as they pay for. That's how they make money.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
@jrawle - I know... but its about the only option to avoid the 'up to' problem before all copper is gone.

Also, sooo glad they are gonna sort out the unlimited statement, ISP's should have hard and fast limits which are clearly stated.

Worry now is they follow the VM method and remove all traffic shaping and caps and just have a low capacity network whoch shapes itself!
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
How many years has it taken the ASA to decide its worth launching a review on this mis-selling of "unlimited"?

I recall Wanadoo sending out their FUP abuse letters back in 2005......

Isn't it about time ISP's were forced to provide a guaranteed minimum peak time speed rather than a theoretical maximum. At least that way the traffic shapers or overcongested networks will be exposed.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
@keith_thfc - BT Bus are with their Fibre product... guaranteed 12Mb connection.

But that is a part fibre connection, dunno how it would translate to all copper solution where speeds vary from 256k up to 24Mb depending on your line.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
to TaRkADaHl they do that in america, they have multiple 'up to' products, and it used to be the case in the uk before artifical pricing was introduced to push prices down. At the end of the day the attianable speed is improvable its not something controlled by nature as some people seem to think. Its just with the current lax rules it gives little reason for the likes of BT/openreach to improve the situation, also good news on the unlimited front although I hope it doesnt lead us down the PAYG path.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
Also VM are not excluded from this, eg. VM's legacy network in my area is so congested they would struggle to sell it as 1mbit never minbd 20mbit.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Very much so - there's got to be scope for more accuracy in speed estimates e.g. here, Virgin National website 3.5Mbps, BT says 1Mpbs to 2Mbps. BT is right since it's based on actual achieved, not just the line length theoretical speed. So if it's based on actuals, then VM don't get away with congestion issues either when real world achievable speeds are used.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Lets hope VM's "Unlimited downloads with our fibre optic broadband" gets pulled as well under this ruling. I'd call their traffic management a serious limit on your downloads.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
My experience with ADSL is that it's practically useless unless you live in a very narrow coverage area very close to the exchange, and so my experience is that availability of 2Mbps+ is actually fairly limited; the final third analogy (2Mpbs+ availability is about 65% with ADSL) chimes with my experience. However since BT assert that the number of people who can't get 2Mbps is minimal and most of that is down to peoples' internal wiring, then BT could be held good to their claim by having a minimum speed for ADSL of 2Mbps since according to BT themselves that wouldn't take much to achieve.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Any evidence of this 'very narrow coverage area very close to the exchange' or that only 65% of those covered by ADSL can achieve 2Mbps or higher sync speeds?

Given you're making the claim I'm sure you've some facts to back it up right?
Posted by mattbibby over 6 years ago
The complexity unnecessarily added to broadband services is amazing.

ADSL is and always will be a VARIABLE rate service. Speeds will always be UPTO a technical limit. There can't be a lower limit because the only reason you wouldn't be able to have ADSL is that you technically can't get it.

Usage... well as every other utility we purchase, completely upto the customer what you choose. But customers should be told on the BT network there is no such thing as an "Unlimited" service for £20 a month as so many ISP's promote.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@MarkH:Your experience is obviously very limited. I'm sitting in a converted barn as I type this, some two miles from the nearest town centre. We have three ADSL lines. Two are bonded (2Mb/s and 3.2Mb/s) and the third is stand-alone (3.5Mb/s).

I would suggest that the majority of ADSL lines in the UK achieve in excess of 2Mb/s. I would even tentatively guess that the the majority of lines in built up areas exceed 4Mb/s.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@Dixinormous - I thought the comment "in my experience" would be adequate to differentiate fact from.. well, experience. My experience: @ 3.2km not serviceable (urban), too long. @ 4.1km not serviceable (urban), too long. @ 2.5km = 1.7Mbps (rural).
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
There's something wrong with your lengths or else you're on aluminium. My router claims my line is 2.5km (34db attenuation):

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/results/id/127655072678861626263.html
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
2.47km, urban = 7392 sync . and thats on adsl, not wbc adsl2 or 2+
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
maybe you have some bad internal wiring or something
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
markhampshire good post, I agree with it.
to Dixinormous, its not hard to back it up, look at a map of exchanges, draw a circle around each exchange 1km from that exchange, and you can see how small an area it is. For 2mbit I would say max 2km circle to be reasonable confident that speed could be obtained, further than 2km it will be hit and miss. In urban areas the performance drop off is also greater due to extra noise and crosstalk issues.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
to andruec, not really, you making an assumption all lines are equal. BT use at least 4 types of copper that I know off (probably more) and urban areas also will have mich bigger dropoff's due to issues that exist with higher population and industrial density. Also if you have a 2.5km line you probably shorter then that to the exchange as most lines are not direct.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
captianhulahoop here, 1.65km, urban = 4-5mbit stable sync, granted previously I could get an extra 2meg on that but things have now detoriated very badly.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@chrysalis:You might want to read more carefully. I'll quote what I wrote ' My router claims my line is 2.5km (34db attenuation)'. FWIW it also matches this article here:

http://www.skyuser.co.uk/forum/router-stats/14441-sky-router-stats-speed-noise-attenuation-explained.html
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(cont'd) As it happens I have a very good idea where my cable goes. An engineer told me where the cabinet was and from there to the Brackley exchange is an obvious route up one main road then half way up the high street.

I also have a pretty good idea where the line from my office goes. Googlemaps for (OX27 7LT. The cabinet is the centre of Bucknell on the corner of Bainton and Bicester Road. From there to the exchange is obvious.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(cont'd) the lines have attenuations of around 54db to the office and all sync above 2Mb/s. So no - MarkH (and by inference your0 experience is atypical. That's an office in a village outside the town boundary and we still get in excess of 2Mb/s. Over 3Mb/s per line.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(addendum) wrt to my office. The Bicester exchange is OX262NR. Just past the magistrates building. so go on - how does that square with claims that most people can't get 2Mb/s?
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
my 2.47km was REAL line length by the way, not as the crow flies or some estimate from db or anything like that
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
from a recent survey done for the digitalbritain team the map shows that 90% of the uk land mass is too far from an exchange to get 2 meg via adsl. http://wooster.org.uk/mapping/
This 90% area contains 40% of the uk population. Of that percentage many can't get adsl at all. BT themselves have finally admitted that the final third exists, and won't get NGA either.

Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
2.5km actual rural line length by GPS, 8128 sync on each of two line

"This 90% area contains 40% of the uk populations" no it doesn't. This is a lie, you have said it before and you were wrong then and you are wrong now.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
54.4% of UK population is on 9.7% of land area
70.7% are on 25%
etc etc
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
i've seen a line at 8.6km with 5 meg sync,

cd - 40% unable to get 2meg or broadband at all, i find that very hard to believe
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
5meg at 8.6km that is hard to believe, at that distance you be very lucky to even get a minimum sync. 14db per km would give you over 100db attenuation, thats how silly it sounds. The truth is that line was probably not 8.6km. In regards to my previous posts and distances I am talking about straight line distance from exchange which is why I referenced exchange radius.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Yeah it's a puzzle and a shame we don't have access to real statistics. One thing I will say though is that my impression from hanging around TBB is that most people have at least 2Mb/s. It seems unusual to see anyone with less than that.

And of course there's the claimed average download speed. Back in 2008 TBB estimated it at just over 3Mb/s (http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/3569-broadband-speeds-across-the-uk.html)
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(cont'd) all the members of my family live more or less the same distance from their exchange and all get in excess of 7Mb/s. That's for Brackley, Llandudno, Whitehaven and Carlisle.

Still too small to be statistically significant but it's three different BT regions and four different ages of building.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
The government's new broadband minister says 3 million people don't have access to 2Mbps. Given that broadband is delivered to premises, not people, you'd need the other number - the number of premises - to get the % figure. That's residential households + businesses. Then you'd subtract the cabled areas and those with other local fibre projects to leave just the ones with ADSL and divide the numbers. It's all guesswork really.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
A very good example of mine and Chrysalis's point: house 20, AL7 2QF. Lived there before... small, "normal" town, hardly far from the exchange: not serviceable at all. Pop that postcode in the not spot map and pan around. All the not spots are the non cabled areas.
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
cd - stats on land mass have no relevance. What is important is the % of population.

Sheep have no need for broadband, although the farmers have.

'This 90% area contains 40% of the uk population.' What % area has 50% of the 40%?
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@CaptainHulaHoop - might be a the internal wiring, yes. The wiring pre-dates the NTE5/master sockets and has various GPO joints. Now, how do I report that to BT Openreach and have them come round and replace the obsolete kit for me... ah, I can't. Because the line isn't faulty. It can make calls and do dial up internet. Might also be an aliminium line too given our neighbour's house runs at about the same speed. Or there might be an extra 3 mile loop of wire under the road in the bit I can't see.... :-)
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
3.3km here with iPlate and router on master socket - 5.344M
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Final point - to clarify, those distances are as the crow flies. Current location with 1.7Mbps is 1.6 miles from exchange and the line length is 1.9 miles since you can see it overhead all the way to the exchange apart from one brief point where is vanishes under the road for perhaps half a mile. There isn't really anywhere for it to trunk off to since it's in the middle of nowhere, though it's not impossible that it does.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
@ mark hampshire

two options,

follow the guide on fitting your own nte5 and adsl frontplate, as long as your extensions are not star wired and fed from one cable leaving the bt line jack you can do it

Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
or call your CP, complain about slow speed and ask for an SFI visit, you just might have to pay for the work
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
@ chrysalis, line length was correct. don't know if it kept that sync speed up
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
@ mh, can't find the guide anymore. look like a call to your CP then, ever to have an nte 5 fitted and then buy yourself an i plate or adsl frontplate, or get an SFI visit

ever way it will cost you
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
*either
Posted by lycan2965 over 6 years ago
@mark hampshire
Hi,new poster,(ex Bt engineer)I agree with captianhulahoop,try it yourself as you own any wiring from the face plate inwards and Bt will charge you at least a kidney to replace them.I recommend you invest in a Croning tool for a good connection.
Posted by lycan2965 over 6 years ago
Don't know if this should be on a different thread but in my experience advertised up to speeds are irrelevant.The big problem i have is traffic management.i am with my 3rd isp and they have all choked me at peak times.
Posted by lycan2965 over 6 years ago
cont,I have always been able to get 6mbs at 3 in the morning, but lately less than 1mb when i actually want to use my broadband.i don't think i over do it i just don't want to be kicked out of xbox live due to low connection speeds and can't even stream iplayer.You may have a perfect 20mb line but its useless if its battered by "traffic management"
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
@ lycan2965,

can't touch the masater socket though,
Posted by stoatwblr over 6 years ago
Firstly: You lot are assuming Exchange == DSLAM location. Given a 24 port DSLAM is about the size of an old VHS cassette and can backhaul via Wide Area Ethernet (100Mb/s or 1Gb/s) that's not a safe assumption. All of this kit can and does fit into a cabinet and rural telephony concentrators are 20 year old technology anyway. BT are aggressively targetting "uncoverable" villages with ADSL as soon as wireless broadband providers move into the areas and it's pretty clear they're using this kind of technology to do so.

Posted by stoatwblr over 6 years ago

Secondly - and on topic for the original article ISPs can trivially get around capping and FUPs by simply using traffic shaping for high bandwidth protocols. Nothing the ASA or Ofcom are doing addresses this issue. Talktalk is already doing this....
Posted by stoatwblr over 6 years ago
With the recent Ofcom decision that BT must open FTTC to competitors I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Cabinet DSLAM and rural concentrator technology being widely used to provide LLU from the cabinet, which torpedoes all of the "waiting for space in the exchange" notices we see...

(rural concentrators are tiny devices these days. There's nothing stopping them being deployed in urban street cabinets given appropriate backhaul - and it's very difficult to withhold planning approval for a new cabinet.)

Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
FTTC is being opened up with virtual llu, uncontended from end user to exchange. surely it would be cheaper to have one setof equipment in the exchange for a CP and use openreaches GEA from customer to their equipment rather than fitting their own stuff into a cab
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
and i'm pretty certain that they wouldn't be able to do this anyway, if they want their own equipment in a cab, it would be sub loop unbundling and they would need their own feed to this
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Ofcom's did not make BT open up FTTC. Ofcom /allowed/ BT to do it which is quite different:

http://www.screendigest.com/news/bi-090309-jg2/view.html

The very recent decision was actually the EU approving BT/Ofcom's joint plan.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
There's another article somewhere in which Ofcom acknowledges that the LLUOs were not interested in doing FTTC themselves Ofcom agreed that BT's GEA plan was the only one that would work and it was therefore going to allow BT to go ahead.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
OTOH Ofcom has forced BT to open it's ducting and I find that rather puzzling. First it accepts that LLUOs don't want to get involved in the local loop then it forces BT to let use its ducts. Seems kind of weird.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
I looked into replacing the internal wiring but ruled it out as 1. One of the joints is connected to the drop wire and unreachable, and it might be that one is responsible; 2. All the wiring is "BT wiring" - there are no "extensions" as such, 3. Neighbour's ADSL speed is < 2Mbps too so might well be a waste of time as may point to copper/ali quality being the issue. We got rid of the line and upgraded to 3G which runs @ 2.7Mbps though I think could hit faster speeds with a decent modem. The irony is that the mast is further away than the phone exchange.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
I don't doubt that my experience is atypical. However although line length is one factor, and maybe the most important factor, it's not the only factor. It intrigues me how members on this forum get e.g. 5Mbps at 2 miles, yet other properties are completely unserviceable at that distance.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
yeah I think there is some confusion regarding FTTC and LLU. As I understand isp's can SLLU which is putting their equipment in the cabinet but doing that they also need to get their own fibre link back to the exchange, very different to if openreach were forced to LLU which would have allowed the isp's to use openreach prelaid fibre.
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
It's putting their equipment into their own cabinet near the BT cabinet.

There is enough fuss about one FTTC cabinet, let alone 2 or 3.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
exactly my point, if FTTx is uncontended all the way back to handover point, what is the point of anyone doing SLLU. the costs would surely never get recovered. it's costing bt £2.5million to do 66% of country, every CP would have to pay the same out to get the same coverage, and never make the money back
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
it may look like a monopoly, but it's the only option that will work, you only have one gas one water, one electricity network..
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Ah, but... :-) If your water supply ran to a trickle and it took half an hour to fill a cup of water, you wouldn't expect to be told it's because you live on a hill; if your electricity dropped from ~240v to 10v you wouldn't expect to be told you're too far from the sub-station and to move nearer to it...
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
Water and electricity supply are different technologies. ADSL is limited by distance - fact.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
@CaptainHulaHoop - Billion not million :)
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Does anyone know what percentage of lines are copper and which are aliminimum?

Does anyone know why a chunk of Welwyn Garden City (AL7 2QF) as one example, can't get ADSL despite only being 3km from the exchange - as a microcosm of ADSL availability that might be a clue as to why it's so variable, and that's a small town (then you get larger towns like Milton Keynes, Harlow, Basingstoke etc where the problem is worse, as you'd imagine)
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/20/2931852.htm
thatsthewaytodoit.
Its the only way to break up the copper cabal that is throttling innovation. IMHO. as ever.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Another thought on this springs to mind. In the case of, say, Virgin Media, who offer tiered "up to" packages (10/20/50 Mbps): if they fail to manage contention on a node such that it is possible to order the 50Mbps service, but actually only get throughput of 21Mbps, should the legislation require VM to only charge you for the lower tiered package, since that's all they can deliver? I note that O2 does this.
Posted by hamsden over 6 years ago
It would appear that BT has forgotten Suffolk. I live in Lowestoft and I also am lucky to get up to 500k in the evenings I usually get less than 56K and am less than 1.5miles away from the exchange. I have complained to o2 who give me the runaround and charge me £17.50 for the privaledge
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@AndrueC: looking at that Sky article, I can't make sense of it given my experiences. I'm presuming that the attenuation and line length figures presume the line is good quality copper and where it has joints that they're done properly. I don't have the line any more, so I don't know what the attenuation was however IIRC sync was 2048 and profile 1750. That ties in with 65db/4.7km. The line is almost certainly nowhere near that long. I'd therefore guess the disparity between that chart and those speeds, and the real world, is in the quality of the lines themselves.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
... does explain a few things, though: if in the best possible scenario you need to have a line length as short as 4.7km to get 2Mbps, that will be why about a third of the country can't get those speeds. Even Welwyn GC has a radius from exchange to outskirts as the crow flies of about 4km, and that's quite a small town.
Posted by mohona over 6 years ago
there are lot of time, i can use internet via modem. i am dam sure this has some loss of bandwidth. My question is in uk which device u can use for better performance.
I take a services in Uk.
Posted by mohona over 6 years ago
there are lot of time, i can use internet via modem. i am dam sure this has some loss of bandwidth. My question is in uk which device u can use for better performance.
I take a services in Uk.
Posted by mohona over 6 years ago
there are lot of time, i can use internet via modem. i am dam sure this has some loss of bandwidth. My question is in uk which device u can use for better performance.
I take a services in Uk.
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