Misleading advertising by broadband providers which falsely promise to supply 'fibre' connections to consumers could be harming the overall development of new fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, an industry body has warned.
The FTTH Council Europe has written an open letter to European telecoms ministers calling for new regulations to crack down on the use of the term 'fibre' in advertising for services that still rely on copper cabling for part of the network.
Several EU member states, including the UK, permit broadband suppliers to describe their services as 'fibre' even when they only use fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, which still relies on existing copper for the last section between the street-level cabinet and the home.
But the FTTH Council Europe argues that this could have a negative effect on the deployment of full fibre services, as consumers may mistakenly believe that what they are currently getting is genuine fibre and not understand the significant performance differences between FTTC and FTTH.
President of the industry body Ronan Kelly said: "Selling inferior copper-based connections as fibre undermines the value proposition of real fibre and undercuts the investment case for full fibre deployment."
He added there is growing evidence that many end-users are unaware what form of connectivity they have. In the UK, for example, Mr Kelly highlighted research from CityFibre that found almost a quarter of consumers (24 per cent) believe they already have fibre running to their premises. In fact, the true figure is just three per cent.
The Advertising Standards Authority has determined that the use of 'fibre' for hybrid FTTC technology is acceptable, noting that for many consumers, the term "is seen as one of many generic buzzwords to describe modern, fast broadband".
It also suggests that consumers would not change their purchasing decisions once educated on the true meaning of fibre, but this is disputed by FTTC Council Europe.
Mr Kelly said: "Where consumers know what they can choose from and understand the difference in performance between fibre and copper-based connections, they consciously choose fibre."
He added that his organisation believes fibre is "the only future-proof foundation enabling fixed and wireless Gigabit networks", so acting against misleading advertising using this term is in the interest of all European consumers and businesses.