UK ISPs bust data rate jargon

Major UK ISPs will provide jargon-busting details of data speeds to consumers under a new voluntary code of practice.
 
Providers BSkyB, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have signed up to the new code, which aims to make it easier for consumers to compare information on actual data rates and to understand their operator’s traffic management techniques.
 
All information will be published in a common format to aid comparison, along with details of when and where traffic management is employed.
 
Antony Walker, chief of the Broadband Stakeholder Group that led development of the code, said the agreement will “provide a clearer picture for policy makers of the way in which traffic management is actually used.”
 
The ISPs that have signed up account for 90% of the UK’s fixed broadband subscriber base, and 60% of the mobile base. The firms have acted as national and European regulators increasingly scrutinize the impact of jargon and publication of “up to” data speeds in advertising.
 
UK regulator Ofcom is calling for changes to the way data speeds are advertised after finding that download rates in the country are typically half the figure quoted in promotional material. It proposes that operators publish typical speeds alongside maximum rates in adverts, and said the maximum rate should only be displayed if the majority of users can actually achieve those speeds in the real world.
 
John Hunt, co-founder of ISP news site Thinkbroadband.com, told Telecoms Europe.net the code is long overdue, following years when the broadband market has been “clouded with unclear technical terms,” particularly fair usage policies on unlimited tariffs.
 
“This move…should help demystify this area, allowing consumers to compare their options easily and make a more informed choice,” Hunt notes.

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