Tackling consumer confusion about broadband technology

Mar 8th '23

Broadband customers could get clearer and more consistent information about their service when signing up to a new deal, under proposals announced by Office of Communications (Ofcom).


Under the planned new guidance, broadband providers would only be able to use the terms ‘fibre’ and ‘full-fibre’ on their websites and in contracts if their network uses fibre-optic cables all the way from the exchange to the home. Customers would also be given a short, easy-to-understand description of the type of broadband network technology they are signing up to.


  • Consumer confusion

Full-fibre networks are currently being deployed at pace, meaning customers are increasingly able to choose from a range of different technologies for their broadband service. However, the term ‘fibre’ is applied inconsistently by the industry, sometimes being used to describe older part-fibre, part-copper technologies, leading to confusion among customers.


Ofcom research has found that only 46% of customers who reported being on full-fibre broadband were living in areas where it is actually available.[1]


In addition, more than a quarter (27%) of broadband customers lacked confidence in understanding the language and terminology used by providers.[2]


We also found that, when choosing a broadband service, more than half (53%) would find it useful to have a short description of the underlying technology used to deliver their services. [3]


  • Clear and consistent information

It is important that people are given useful and timely information to help them choose the right broadband service for them, so they can take advantage of new full-fibre networks as these become available. Without this, customers may be unable to find the right product for their needs.


Ofcom has existing rules requiring providers to give a description of the service they provide to customers. However, we do not believe there is sufficient clarity and consistency in how the underlying technologies used to deliver broadband services are described.


So, we are proposing new guidance to ensure providers give information on the underlying technology of the broadband connection using one or two consistent terms. Providers should also give a more detailed explanation of these terms in a format that is readily accessible to customers.


Ofcom is now inviting views on these proposals which should be submitted by 3 May 2023. Ofcom will consider all responses before making our final decision, which they aim to publish later this year.


Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Director of Connectivity, said: It’s vital that customers are provided with the right information to help them choose the best broadband service for them. But some of the industry jargon used to describe the underlying technology supporting their broadband service can be unclear and inconsistent, meaning customers are left confused.  …  So today we’re proposing to introduce new guidance to ensure that broadband firms give clearer, straightforward information about their services – making it easier for people to take advantage of more reliable, and potentially higher speed technology, as it becomes available.


Source: Ofcom


Further information

  1. BDRC, November 2022. Broadband technology terminology research – slide 42
  2. Ofcom, 2022. Switching Tracker (PDF), table 261.
  3. BDRC, November 2022. Broadband terminology research – slide 18.
  4. The proposals cover residential and small business premises.
  5. The proposals set out today do not cover advertising, but cover point-of-sale information and contractual information. Advertising, including online advertising on companies’ own websites, falls within the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
  6. What is full-fibre broadband?



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