CityFibre fail to get the result they wanted from fibre judicial review
CityFibre is obviously not pleased that it has lost its judicial review and is in the process of considering an appeal, but for those who enjoy a bit of reading and how the judiciary handles broadband issues may enjoy a read of the decision from the High Court.
We are disappointed by today’s result because we continue to believe it is not right for consumers to be misled into thinking copper-reliant connections are ‘fibre’ broadband. The decision is particularly disappointing in light of the recent progress made in other countries which have restricted misleading advertising and established clear rules to distinguish full fibre from inferior copper-based services. We are currently considering appealing the judgement and would like to thank the thousands of people that joined our campaign and signed our petition for change.
Full fibre infrastructure is being deployed at pace in the UK and will soon be within reach of millions of consumers. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the need for clarity in broadband advertising to ensure consumers can make an informed choice. We are also encouraged by DCMS’s focus on this critical issue in its proposed Statement of Strategic Priorities. The technical benefits of full fibre infrastructure are unquestioned and we will continue to work closely with DCMS, Ofcom and the ASA to ensure consumers are able to distinguish full fibre networks from copper-based alternatives.Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre
We welcome the Court’s decision which finds in the ASA’s favour on all grounds and dismisses CityFibre’s arguments.
The review of the evidence we undertook to arrive at our position on the use of the term “fibre” to describe part-fibre services in ads was based on robust methodology and open minded analysis of all of the arguments. The process we followed to test if the average consumer is being misled by the use of the term “fibre” to describe part-fibre services is the one we have used to protect UK consumers from misleading advertising for many years and we are pleased that the Court has supported our approach after a hard fought legal process.
A lot of the case is based around the procedures ASA follows for determining its judgements and whether this system is reason and it is interesting to read that in its previous research studies so many of the public care little as to whether the word 'fibre' is in an advert, i.e. the focus seems not to be on the technicalities of delivery but what people can do with the service.
There are a few areas in the case that we have questioned before and again we see this spurious claim that full fibre (FTTP) is immune to the effects of congestion and exempt from using the words 'up to' for speeds in advertising. On the 'up to' things have changed such that no provider should be selling a service with up to speeds anymore, irrespective of the technology. The regulations mean that we have moved into the scenario of all services now being advertised with the average (median) speed that will be experienced during peak times (8pm to 10pm for residential services) and this does affect full fibre services.
39.The key advantages of full-fibre infrastructure over part-fibre infrastructure are summarised in the 2016 Connected Nations Report and in witness statements and other documents provided by each of the parties. In summary, they are:
i) higher speed: full-fibre services can consistently provide download speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, subject to the package purchased, in contrast to download speeds of up to 80 Mbps on the Openreach FTTC (part-fibre) network or up to 330 Mbps on Virgin Media's cable (part-fibre) network;
ii) consistency of speed: full-fibre services provide consistent speeds that do not depend on distance from the local exchange or the nearest street cabinet or congestion at peak times due to other users, whereas part-fibre service speeds vary greatly depending on the distance from the local exchange or street cabinet and degree of congestion (which is why part-fibre service providers should describe the available speeds as "up to" a particular fastest available speed, whereas it is not necessary for a full-fibre service provider to use those qualifying words);
iii) symmetry: full-fibre services provide symmetrical download and upload speeds, whereas part-fibre services offer far slower upload speeds than download speeds; and
iv) reliability: full-fibre infrastructure is more reliable and less prone to faults and interference from bad weather (for example, from water damage) than part-fibre, which relies on copper wire connection.
40. An important part of the greater reliability of full-fibre infrastructure is that it bypasses the need for a street cabinet, which has electronic components and needs a power supply and is therefore vulnerable to weather, power supply disruption and other potential issues.Extracts from judicial review
We do not know who provided the original input into 39ii for the case, but congestion is a reality for full fibre, for GPON networks the first possible element is the number of connections the final fibre is split between, generally a split of 32 to 64 is used but can be as high as 128. For a point to point deployment the fibre to each premises is dedicated but contention will still kick in at the aggregation building. Subsequent to this once you reach each wholesalers or retail providers core network you have the reality that for consumer services they never budget for the full bandwidth of each customer.
Only the other day we posted a picture of a Gigaclear cabinet in the news, so full fibre networks are not immune to power issues and destruction of cabinets by wayward vehicles but there will be a lot less of them, less powered installations in theory makes providing backup power simply but also carries a greater risk if you the primary and backup power fail.
Also full fibre services do not guarantee symmetric upload and download speeds, this is a product choice made by the operator. Generally GPON services are not symmetric but they can be if an operator wants it to be.
Ultimately what the full fibre services need to concentrate on now is rolling out to more premises and then speeds shown in the advertising should speak for themselves and it is that equation of availability, speed and price that is what likely to be the three key decision points for the general public.
The fun for the next few years will be how full fibre services fare against Gigabit DOCSIS 3.1 once available from Virgin Media. The other things that will feature more since people cannot blame the copper local loop anymore is the difference in performance of the various broadband routers particularly the Wi-Fi element and which providers maintain a better core network in terms of not having congestion that impacts on things people are trying to do either by raising the latency (or introducing packet loss) or causing streaming video to buffer excessively.