The speed of light is 40Mbps


I think BT have their marketing communications wrong.

They are advertising their latest generation of Broadband access in the UK as being “fibre optic broadband” but it is not. Except for a very small trial, broadband is still delivered on copper wire. If broadband is still delivered on copper wire, then it cannot possibly be fibre optic broadband.

What BT are doing is to extend their fibre optic network into the small anonymous green street side cabinets which you probably walk past every day and don’t give a second thought.

Until now these have been a simple passive junction box, technically known as a Primary Cross Connect Point or PCP. Upstream, these are connected to the exchange by 600 to 4,800 copper wire pairs. Downstream, these are connected to telegraph poles or DPs by 48 pairs of copper wires and from the top of the pole to the home by yet more copper wire.

So what’s new with BT’s “Super Fast” broadband service, branded Infinity? And why do I think they have their marketing communications strategy wrong? 

BT are installing optical switching equipment into these street side cabinets, which themselves may need replacing with larger units to make room for this additional equipment. By installing fibre optics into the cabinet, the distance of the remaining copper wire is reduced which means that a faster version of DSL signalling technology can be deployed.

This version of DSL is VDSL or Very Fast DSL. According to the defined standard, VDSL can achieve up to 52Mbps downstream and 16Mbps upstream, however BT are playing it safe and claiming “up to” 40Mbps for Infinity.

While I applaud any initiative that improves the speed of broadband in the UK, I think it is disingenuous of BT to label these services as “fibre optic broadband” because the delivery of the service still uses copper wire. How can it be fibre optic broadband if it still uses copper wire?

BT smoking gun.jpg

I think these adverts are misleading, so much so that I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about them. I believe that the average user of broadband services is not au fait with all things telecoms and do not understand the relevant technologies enough to distinguish between “cable”, “fibre optic cable” or indeed to understand why speed experienced is not speed as advertised. 

Here's the ASA's response to me, in full:

"We have previously investigated similar claims made by Virgin Media to claim that broadband is fibre optic, bearing in mind that it is often the case that metal wire runs from the cabinet to the home.

In that instance, we concluded that claims such as these were unlikely to detrimentally mislead those who saw them.

We considered that the ads were making a comparison between the different cable and ADSL network technologies, and because the section of the cable network running from the cabinet to individual homes was a small proportion of the overall fibre-optic connection, we concluded that the claims that this was a service based on fibre-optic lines were unlikely to mislead. You can read the full adjudication on this investigation on our website, in the Adjudications section

Sam Wilson, Complaints Executive"

f the market was sufficiently aware of these issues then the ISP market would not have been taken to task in terms of their claims for broadband speeds - a practice that was deemed to be misleading.

So not only are these BT adverts in themselves wrong, but they are, in my opinion, misleading to the average broadband consumer.

They have shot their bolt, blown it.