Full fibre or hybrid fibre a judicial review gained by CityFibre will decide
In a perfect world adverts would be talking about G.984, G.993.2, G.992.1 and DOCSIS 3.0 but after ASA rulings many years ago and more recently three of the four are simply allowed to be referred to under the collective name of 'fibre' and G.992.1 which is ADSL2+ gets called all many of names.
In an attempt to break the cycle of pragmatism or stupidity depending on your viewpoint CityFibre has at a hearing in the High Court won the right for a judicial review on the recent decision by the Advertising Standard Authority over the use of the word fibre in broadband advertising.
The High Court is seeing sense where the ASA failed to: this is the right decision for consumers and our economy. CityFibre challenged the ASA’s decision because consumers must not be misled into thinking they can get full-fibre benefits on a copper broadband network - they can’t: copper is dead.
It is now time to sort out these advertising rules once and for all, and for the Government and industry to get behind the nationwide broadband targets set by the Chancellor. Companies are investing billions because of the transformative connectivity full fibre brings; the Court has a one-off chance to step in and make a difference for consumers before the mis-selling of broadband becomes the next PPI-style scandal.Greg Mesch, Founder and CEO at CityFibre
What the release does not tell is what CityFibre actually propose we assume something along the lines of the following would be acceptable:
- Only services delivering glass fibre optic inside the premises will be allowed to use the word fibre
- Services such as DOCSIS services, VDSL2 and G.fast can refer to their products as part, partial or hybrid fibre
France went around this loop and interestingly decided that Fibre to the Building i.e. what Hyperoptic deliver is not full fibre since it relies on media converters that are located outside each flat. The length of Ethernet cable used is such that Gigabit symmetric speeds are guaranteed, but if you make that exception why not an exception for DOCSIS 3.0 services that also can guarantee the connection speed?
For those reading this who are not aware of the benefits of full fibre they are:
- Fixed connection speed i.e. connection speed on day 1 will be what it is on day 400 of service since no dynamic line management
- No sync period i.e. other than authentication times for things like PPPoE sessions
- No loss of signal due to radio frequency interference spikes
What full fibre does not do is guarantee you throughput, it can do that but only if the provider builds the network with that totally in mind, hence why leased lines are so expensive i.e. reserving capacity for you on not just the local access network but regional and national networks costs money.
So is the use of fibre in broadband advertising the next PPI scandal? We say no and the reason why is simply, the public do not buy broadband based on buying the best available technology, i.e. people very readily compromise to save a pound or two so long as they can do the most common tasks such as stream video. A small percentage perhaps 2 to 5% will elect to spend more to get a FTTP solution over other 'fibre' services such as VDSL2 or DOCSIS 3.0 (this is assuming those services can deliver for example HD video streaming already), and this will very likely be supported by the pricing of the Vodafone Ultrafast services when they launch, i.e. it will not be priced to look like a Rolls Royce service.
Of course in a world dominated by marketing along with Google algorithms after years of the public typing cheapest fibre broadband into search engines a rule that would stop Plusnet and others using the word on their websites would be a marketing persons dream. Hence why the continued push for change from CityFibre i.e. this is not about being pedantically correct but about gaining an advantage compared to competitors.
Of course it is stupid when you see an advert showing what is clearly a pair of copper wires with light emerging and the word fibre in the voice over, or a piece of stylised coax cable with an obvious metal core and a strap line promising fast fibre optic broadband.
So we all wait on what the ASA response will be, they now have 35 days to get their case ready apparently.
A pragmatic compromise of getting VDSL2 and cable services to use phrases like partial fibre or hybrid fibre seems to be most likely outcome if changes do occur as a result of this review. Though this will cause problems for providers like Virgin Media who do have a growing full fibre footprint i.e. glass to the outside wall of a home and then a small converter to take a piece of coax the very last metre into the home and similar for BT who market their ultrafast services identically no matter whether G.fast or FTTP based.