Three British broadband providers have asked the nation's advertising authority to stop competitors from describing DSL and cable services as "fiber."
Hyperoptic , Gigaclear and CityFibre are angry that BT, Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), Sky and other communications service providers and cable operators describe their networks -- typically a combination of fiber to the cabinet and copper or coax for the last-mile connection to the home -- as fiber, according to ISP Preview UK.
For nine years, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has allowed providers to use the term "fiber" to describe hybrid-fiber networks, including Virgin's hybrid fiber and coax solution, and the hybrid fiber optic and twisted pair copper infrastructure that Openreach uses.
While many consumers may not know the underlying technologies powering their broadband connections, they connote fiber with enhanced service, according to responses by research groups conducted by Opinion Leader.
"Participants typically understood that a full-fiber 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 'fiber,' " Opinion Leader Director Neil Samson told The Register.
One research panelist compared fiber to a high-end car and alternatives to a bus. Yet even when researchers explained the different technologies in use, participants could not discern which products providers' advertisements promoted, the Register reported.
Several Members of Parliament also consider widespread use of the term fiber to describe all broadband as misleading. ASA is reviewing Britain's Advertising Codes and expects to release an update this summer.
What Really Matters
While fiber is crucial to ultra-broadband and plays a key role in all deployments, limiting providers to using the term fiber for all-fiber networks only addresses the linguistic part of the issue. Surely performance is the most important criteria?
After all, if consumers use DOCSIS coax cable, they should attain 30 Mbit/s like their full-fiber neighbors, unless the cable is over-provisioned, ThinkBroadband wrote. And VDSL can reach the same speed, unless interference -- from lightning, perhaps -- forces a resynchronization. Service providers have a slew of other differentiating technologies, such as IPv4, IPv6 and Cat5e Ethernet cable.
And a network's speed and latency can suffer tremendous damage if fiber is dirty or suffers from macrobending, cautioned Douglas Clague, Fiber Solutions marketing manager at Viavi Solutions Inc. during a webinar earlier today, "Tackling the Next Generation of PON."
Regardless of what completes the last mile, newer technologies continue to push the speed and latency envelope as vendors seek to eliminate fiber's edge. Using "fiber" as a synonym for fast, low latency service to the detriment of other technologies could be equally misleading to the general public.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.