Using the term ‘fibre’ when advertising the broadband services being delivered to the nation’s homes and businesses over a copper phone wire or cable is misleading consumers, according to new research presented to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last week (16 June).
Conducted by specialist research agency Opinion Leader, via focus groups and in depth interviews with residential and business broadband users, the research revealed that adverts using the word ‘fibre’ didn’t enable the participants to make an informed choice between traditional broadband products, delivered over copper phone wires, and next generation full-fibre services, which are becoming increasingly available across the UK.
The majority of UK households and businesses receive their broadband over networks that are only partially fibre, with the final connection to the consumer being delivered over copper phone wire or cable. In current advertising, it is commonplace for these products to be described as ‘fibre’ broadband, despite the limited capabilities of these services when compared with full-fibre.
 
As a result, the research participants called for tighter advertising rules to enable them to make an informed choice when purchasing a traditional or full-fibre service. This need for clarity, researchers found,  arises from to the fact that current advertising rules are lagging behind market developments, as more full-fibre products become available, delivering far faster speeds and a more consistent and reliable service.
Speaking of the results, Neil Samson, Director at Opinion Leader, explained: “While there was a great deal of confusion about the technical aspects of broadband delivery and the terms used to describe services, participants in our research were very clear about what is important to them when purchasing a broadband product – transparency and accuracy.
“Participants typically understood that a full-fibre service represented a step-change in the quality of their broadband – in speed, reliability and consistency – and felt misled by products delivered over copper phone wires or cable being advertised as ‘fibre’. They simply want adverts to provide them with fair and accurate information so they can make an informed choice, something that it appears the current advertising rules on fibre do not allow them to do.”
The Advertising Standards Agency will now consider the evidence presented by Opinion Leader and decide whether to launch a full investigation into the use of ‘fibre’ in advertising and how this affects consumers’ ability to make informed choices.
A similar review is already being conducted by the agency in relation to the language used by companies to advertise broadband speeds.