Broadband has always been a world of acronyms and technology buzz words and squaring that up with the boring world of advert regulation is always a challenge. This week sees Gigaclear who one of the firms building FTTP networks in the UK presenting there case to the ASA after a complaint.
The complaint was around whether customers would always receive the stated speeds on the Gigaclear website, and that additional factors would kick in. The ASA has upheld the complaint with the assessment as below:
"The ASA understood Gigaclear was a niche provider, serving a geographically defined customer base. We also understood they had a significant backhaul capacity in proportion to the relatively low numbers of customers. We acknowledged their belief that the structure of their network ensured users could achieve the stated speed capacity.
The ad included details of the stability of Gigaclear's network; noting that the network ran at 1000 Mbps for uploads and downloads regardless of time of day, weather or distance from the cabinet. The ad also made no reference to the speed of the service being 'up to'. In that context, we considered consumers would understand the ad to mean that customers would always receive the stated speed capacity for the service they purchased.
Whilst we acknowledged that the majority of the line-speed data demonstrated that the advertiser's customers received the stated speed capacity, we were concerned that a number of instances, in the relatively small data sample, showed that Gigaclear's customers did not achieve the stated speed capacity. Because we considered the speed claims were absolute in nature and because we had not seen sufficient evidence to support those claims, we concluded that the ad breached the Code."Upheld assessment from the ASA
The current advertising code requires providers to only advertise an up to speed that at least 10% customers can get, and when challenged to have the data to demonstrate this. For the slower Gigaclear products with the provided speed set at 10% more than the purchased speed this is easy enough, but on the 1000 Mbps service things are a little more difficult. Since the fibre itself may be running at 1.1 Gbps or faster, but once you allow for a NAT router which even if it has GigE LAN Ethernet ports will never produce a speed of 1000 Mbps for TCP/IP data then life is much more complex. The fastest speed from GigE Ethernet is 941 Mbps (if jumbo frames are enabled for TCP data, slightly higher for UDP traffic).
At the end of the day it is impossible to guarantee speeds across the Internet, even expensive leased lines only guarantee speeds while inside the providers network, once you hit shared peering links you are fighting with potentially millions of other users. The Gigaclear website appears to have adopted the ruling, as its fastest product is now listed as up to 1000 Mbps.