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ADSL2+? 24Mbps? "Up to" 16Mbps? 21CN? "Superfast Broadband"? You decide

ADSL2+? 24Mbps? "Up to" 16Mbps? 21CN? "Superfast Broadband"? You decide

ADSL2+? 24Mbps? "Up to" 16Mbps? 21CN? "Superfast Broadband"? You decide

We are currently looking at our plans for rolling out and marketing the next generation of broadband products. We'll be publishing more details on how that's going to work soon, but for now we want some help. ADSL2+ DistancesThis request goes out to our customers and to anyone that has an opinion on how the speed of broadband is sold in this country. For the purposes of consistency within this blog I'm going to try and talk about ADSL2+; the underlying technology behind the forthcoming broadband services from BT Wholesale. Let me spell out the situation first, we don't particularly like the use of the term "up to", for example "up to 8Mbps". There's a number of reasons for using it but for an individual it doesn't necessarily set the expectations correctly of what speeds they are going to see. We've spoken before about the speed of broadband in a previous blog in response to The Gadget Show's campaign on broadband speed and why the "up to" terminology has been used. In the ADSL2+ world there's a potential for downstream sync speeds to reach 24Mbps, most people though won't see anything like that though with the real top end figures being towards 16Mbps. BT Wholesale's current estimate suggests around 10% of the UK phone line's could sync higher than 12Mbps, so knowing that 90% could be lower than 12Mbps, is it right to market a service as being "up to" 12, 16 or 24Mbps? Our ideal solution is to come up with something that is honest and accurate but which is also attractive to customers (and potential customers), doesn't put us at a competitive disadvantage and also doesn't cause confusion. So, for example, if we were to market ADSL2+ as up to 12Mbps and all the competition were using up to 24Mbps it's easy to see that could put us at a commercial disadvantage, even if the actual speeds seen were to be no different and chances are few would see speeds between 12 and 24Mbps. Instead of using a headline speed we could instead use a term like "superfast broadband" or similar. Does that say enough or set the right expectations? Different ISPs have been marketing broadband with similar terminology for the last few year, so it's not inconsistent but it's unclear as to what it could mean. Superfast to one person might be 8Mbps to another 50Mbps. Maybe an individual line speed estimator is the way to go? Rather than saying up to 24Mbps the signup process makes an estimate of the speed from your phone number, of course that relies firstly on the estimation data being accurate (and there being no line fault, incorrect wiring, etc.). The problem with this is that a significant proportion of broadband signups come from comparison websites like uSwitch and MoneySupermarket. So getting the position wrong by not having the right speed or description can lead to a big decrease in new customers. Perhaps the best thing would be some sort of impartial measuring system that recorded and published the actual throughput achieved on different protocols at different times of the day. You can see our dilemma, we want to be honest but at the same time need to think with our commercial heads. We need to get this right and now is the time to think about this. So we throw open the challenge, what do you think we should do? Stick with the term "up to"? And if so, up to what? 12, 16, 18, 22, 24Mbps? Do we step away from a headline speed and sell based on the technology (ADSL, ADSL2+)? Use a term like "superfast broadband" or "mega broadband"? Set expectations individually based on line estimates? Talk about average throughput achieved rather than headline speeds? Some combination of the above? Maybe we should use more than one term, afterall there's a certain percentage of people who will just search for the headline figure and "up to 24Mbps" gets ranked higher than "up to 12Mbps" in the headline speed league tables. Or maybe we should do something else entirely that we haven't mentioned or even thought of? There's already inconsistency and confusion out there but we have a real chance to get out with right message, help lead the debate on this and set the right expectations for customers so the person who can only get 2Mbps on ADSL2+ because of line conditions isn't expecting to receive 20Mbps (and vice versa of course). The headline speed figure will always have a "wow factor" but it's the actual performance that matters, it's the speeds people see on speed testers, it's the throughput rates they get, it's about traffic prioritisation and it's about the results that people like Epitiro produce. So, please, tell us what you think. I should also note that Ofcom are due to publish a code for how ISPs must advertise their services next month so that will need to be top of the list and may limit what suggestions we are able to use but hopefully with any luck the two views with align. Dave Tomlinson PlusNet Product Team

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