Spark, the New Zealand telco, announced a new ultra "gigabit" broadband product recently going by the catchy name of "Ultra Fast Fibre MAX." This is now the company's fastest residential broadband service and uses a gigabit connection over the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) network.
How fast is Ultra Fast Fibre MAX? Spark says that it should provide speeds of between 700 Mbit/s and 900 Mbit/s download and 400 Mbit/s upload. In trials, even higher speeds had been achieved, reaching up to 930 Mbit/s.
It's almost 1 Gbit/s, but not quite. Despite this, can it be called a "gigabit" product? The country's competition watchdog, the Commerce Commission, doesn't think so and has warned Spark and other service providers off from calling it so.
When asked for a comment about this Spark told us: "The Commerce Commission has been looking at the discrepancy between the naming convention of 'Gigabit' (which is named based on the input speed) and the actual speeds that customers can expect to experience. As a result, the Commission has advised all players in the industry that we should avoid using the term 'gigabit' to describe the service, as it could be misleading to customers -- unless we include clear disclaimers. So we are running a gigabit service, but not marketing it as such -- we've chosen instead to call it Fibre MAX."
Spark had argued "gigabit" could be used as a "category name", but the commission's view was that was not acceptable, as it "links to a speed that can't be achieved by consumers."
Spark goes on to say: "One of the products that all the infrastructure providers (Chorus, Northpower Fibre, Enable, Ultra Fast Fibre) have recently launched is generally known in the industry as 'gigabit', as the speed they provide starts at 1000Gbps. Our Fibre MAX service is based on this gigabit input. However, the intervening technology between the infrastructure provider and the customer inevitably slows the speed of broadband the customer receives."
Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe said: "Chorus's gigabit broadband service will run at the maximum speed the network electronics allows today. In practice this means customers will see real world download speeds between 900 Mbit/s and 970 Mbit/s and upload speeds of up to 500 Mbit/s."
Spark has been stirring things up a bit in New Zealand lately. Firstly encouraging customers to ditch copper for fiber (see Spark Encourages Customers to Ditch Copper for Fiber) and now selling ultra-fast internet over "gigabit" connections that can't be called gigabit.
Getting the name right and not irking the customer is crucial, so a product with the name "Fibre MAX" could be misconstrued and damage credibility. Until a network can actually deliver true gigabit speeds, not "up to" speeds, it might be better to hold off potentially confusing those who think they're part of the new "gignation".
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