Cable ISP Virgin Media has successfully nudged the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban Vodafone from using the term “Gigafast” to generally promote their slower Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) based broadband tiers, which offered average speeds that range from 100Mbps to 900Mbps (i.e. not only 1Gbps).
The Gigafast Broadband products are what Vodafone uses to promote a range of packages on Cityfibre’s new FTTH network, which is currently being deployed to cover 5 million premises across 37 UK cities and towns by the end of 2024 (here). The plans currently cost from £28 per month (at one point this was £23) for an unlimited 100Mbps (symmetric speed) service and this rises to just £48 for their top 900Mbps tier (average peak time speeds).
However Virgin Media complained that Vodafone frequently promoted the service more generally using just the “Gigafast” term, which they said “misleadingly implied” that the entire service was capable of delivering speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) when instead they offered a range of different speeds.
The ruling could have implications for any ISP that chooses to use similar “Gigabit” style terminology to promote the general capability of such networks, which may ironically end up including Virgin Media’s forthcoming launch of two “gigabit cities” (here); depending upon how they promote them and qualify the language.
“The ASA considered that many consumers would likely understand the prefix ‘Giga’ to be a hyperbolic description of speed, and would therefore generally understand ‘Gigafast’ internet was very fast broadband. However, we considered that a significant proportion of consumers would have sufficient knowledge of broadband terminology to understand Gigafast Broadband as a reference to a service capable of providing speeds of 1 Gbps (1000Mbps).
Although we considered that the website made clear that Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages which were not all capable of providing 1Gbps, because it implied that consumers could get a service that offered speeds of 1Gbps for £23 per month, when that was not the case, we concluded that it was likely to mislead.”
The ASA’s ruling is in fact only taking exception to situations where “Gigafast” was being used as a general term for all of their packages, without further qualification. However the ASA saw no problem when the ISP promoted their packages by saying, “Enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband” and then qualified that with the statement “… average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps.”
As usual the ASA banned Vodafone’s related adverts and told the ISP not to imply that a package capable of achieving 1Gbps was available from £23 a month (i.e. the cost of their 100Mbps plan).