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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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46 Comments
Grafter
Good post Dave - there are sure to be lots of opinions about this, and I can't wait to see the comments you get
Not applicable
wish i never saw this post now. mind is ticking over on this one now. well i dont mind the upto sell but i know what it means. see your prob fitting all that open and honestey in to a few word sentence. just how do u make the fact that line length determines speed into a nice title. well how ever u word it i cant wait even on my 2.5mb line i will only probally get 1 or 2 mb more but what i like is upload speeds u get with +2.
Grafter
My preferred way of selling Broadband would be advertising the product using the name of the technology being used. So ADSL, ADSL2+, FTTH Wink However I think for the average user these acronyms would be hard to understand at a glance and they probably wouldn't know what they were buying. Using General terms like "Superfast Broadband" doesn't really tell you anything and if your customer ends up on the end of a long poor quality line. I imagine there would be a lot of arguments about misleading product descriptions. Overall I'd choose to go with "between 1Mbps and 24Mbps" instead of "Upto 24Mbps". The title is a bit longer but its a lot clearer and still keeps the attention grabbing "24Mbps" in the product description. Not sure what the lowest acceptable speed would be under BT specification for ADSL2+. The 1Mbps was only a guess.
Community Veteran
It would be an interesting exercise to collate together your current spread of IP profiles on all broadband accounts. There must exist a rudimentary method to map current IP profile to expected IP profile under ADSL2+. For the purposes of number crunching, would your own figures back up BT's estimates on average speeds? B.
Not applicable
You could say that the M25 is an up to 70MPH motorway!
Not applicable
Do most customers actually care? Sure geeks and nerds do, but would my Mum? She wants it to be fast enough, stable enough and cheap enough. To most people the numbers quoted are just that, numbers, they can't actually quantify what that means.
Grafter
What about using an average speed based on current (at the time) customer experiences? Like credit card "Typical APR" (AFAIK Egg Money claim 66% of customers are expected to get their "typical" rate).
Not applicable
Has anyone used "Wideband" yet?
Not applicable
What about the upstream speed? One big limitation of the actual offers come from the A in ADSL. If you want to upload to some website the hundreds of pictures taken during your honey moon, it will last days. I believe going to an ADSL2+ scheme will improve the upstream speed.
Dabbler
It depends on what usage you're talking about. For your headlines, and when submitting to people like uSwitch you're going to have to use "max speeds up to 24Mb*" otherwise as you say, you're going to get pretty much zero signups from the non-technical crowd. If you want to be ethical about it though (which it seems clear you do) then you're going to have to include some of the caveat in the short description for uSwitch, and make pretty damn sure the page incoming visitors are directed to says "HOLD ON. Read carefully - the technology is capable of up to 24Mb, but real-world implementations will have the majority of people receiving between 6 and 12Mb." - or whatever the actual answer would be. You need to say what it is ("TECHIE STUFF: ADSL2+, blah blah blah), why up to 24Mb will most likely be about half that ("line length, quality, home wiring"), and offer the estimate - again, plastered with loads of "but this doesn't account for your wiring or other random things"-type warnings. Antoine raises a good point, sort-of. Lots of people won't care, or won't understand what faster uploads are. But if you say "it will be loads quicker to upload your photos to Snapfish for printing, or Picasa for sharing, or your videos to YouTube" then that might entice a few. Roll on plusnet's 2+ service, however you choose to market it.
Plusnet Staff
"It would be an interesting exercise to collate together your current spread of IP profiles on all broadband accounts." We've actually already done it, the data's here: http://www.telco2.net/blog/2008/03/broadband_but_not_quite_as_bro.html "There must exist a rudimentary method to map current IP profile to expected IP profile under ADSL2+." I would just be a guess, but you could plot the IP profile distribution against the graph at the top of the page and try and come up with some figures. I can try and have a go tomorrow. "For the purposes of number crunching, would your own figures back up BT’s estimates on average speeds?" Again, difficult to say without the real world data. Theoretically you might expect a few percentage points more to get faster than 12Mbps but it might be that it's one of those trade-offs of speed against stability and yeah more people might get faster but at the cost of stability.
Plusnet Staff
"What about the upstream speed?" I believe there is potential for faster upload speeds, I'll try and dig out the details tomorrow. In the meantime we do have a special Max Premium offer on at the moment for faster ADSL upload speeds, more details here if you're interested: http://www.plus.net/residential/broadband/max_premium_offer.shtml
Superuser
Support for the Firejack comment on "...between 1 and 24Mbps" accurate; honest and keeps the 24 in the title. Support for Barry's comment on collating and examining current profiles. I guess the number of 'real' new signups is slowing down now - most of the market is churn, caused by one of many reasons: dissatisfaction; House move; perceived value... The real expectation of most users should be estimable by now with a bit of AI. BT wholesale should take the lead in developing and publishing tools to make this achievable. A point that may get lost in the euphoria is the plight of smaller and rural Communities who are likely to see no 21CN data improvements for some years, much like the early introduction of ADSL.
Community Veteran
I like the "between" idea as well.
Not applicable
A classic rock and a hard place scenario. Plusnet will be open an honest and the cowboy outfits will claim undeliverable "up to" figures.
Not applicable
How confident are you that your are at the top of te leauge? If you truly are confident then it's time to set the standard - be honest and open with your customers. What customers really whant is to be told te truth, and get the product they think they bought. So with that in mind Firejacks idea of selling ADLS2+ is great as is backing it up with "typical" speeds. I would aslo try to avoid talking about what the competition are providing. Let the press paise your service & let that & you customers do the rest. Is this enough? I don't know but Id like to think so.
Plusnet Staff
I'd probably put 'next generation broadband' somewhere to see if it stuck..
Community Gaffer
Problem with that is what happens when ADSL3++ turns up...? We'd be referring to the old product as "Next Gen BB". What would we then call 3++?
Newbie
Maybe I'm being overly naive, but it seems to me that, in interest of fair play, offcom should be liaising with the advertising regulatory bodies to formulate acceptable advertisings strategies.
Grafter
You need to be careful that you do not use terms that other ISPs who do not have a good reputation are already using. You would not want to be considered to be selling the same “superfast broadband” as one of your current competitors. I also like the idea of the "between". Something like "ADSL2+ with speeds between 1Mbps and 24Mbps (dependent upon the quality of your phone line)" with the piece in brackets in a font that is not too much smaller than the rest so that is is considered with equal weight as the headline.
Community Veteran
I also think the 'between' idea seems to be the best one so far.
All Star
So is it compatible with my router? Are MTU's still 1500 bytes? etc.
Rising Star
Here's my vote for the "between" phrase. Could it be "on average, between a and b" where a is the average for the 25th percentile of current PlusNet customers, and b is the average for the 75th percentile of current PlusNet customers? (Plotting percentage of customers on the x axis, and average "real world" download speed on the y axis.) Then, not only are you being honest, but accurate too. You can then boast as and when you revise those figures upwards as changes PlusNet makes improve the speeds for customers (rather than rely on BT averages). Based on David Bright's phrasing, I suggest you size and promote the message as indicated: ADSL2+ with speeds on average between aMbps and bMbps (dependent upon the quality of your phone line) with the piece in brackets in a font that is not too much smaller than the rest so that is is considered with equal weight as the headline.
Rising Star
re my previous comment, in my final paragraph, I intended to show that each new line was smaller than the previous one, but my < h1 > < h2 > < h3 > tags were removed by Wordpress! And additionally, given Dave's blog "Hidden Costs of Watching TV Online" http://community.plus.net/blog/2008/04/24/adsl2-24mbps-up-to-16mbps-21cn-superfast-broadband-you-decide/ maybe the phrase should be "with prioritised speeds on average between aMbps and bMbps"? Making the "prioritised" sound good, and like the selling point that traffic prioritisation should be.
Plusnet Staff
@Kelly D Oh, that's easy. VDSL ;-P ..and besides I wasn't suggesting that as a product name. Clearly that wouldn't work for the very reason you mentioned.
Not applicable
Personally, I'd love to see it marketed as "ADSL 2+", and have ads educating users on what this actually means, rather than continuing the current problem causing trend of trying to sell a speed to a customer instead of a technology, when infact it's a technology they're buying and not a speed. I guess there's plenty of people out there who still judge these things based on a given "up to X" headline, but nowadays does it really matter that much? Anyone who can tell the difference between 10 Mbps and 24 Mbps probably knows what "ADSL2+" means anyway, and hopefully anyone who doesn't would be happy regardless? Just so long as iPlayer still works... ;o) Having the ability to tell a customer what speed they can expect, based on tests to a given street / neighbourhood, would be good too. I could pretty much tell everyone living within 5 streets of me exactly what speeds they'll get having set up ADSL for a number of neighbours (and all getting the same result). Giving them an option of ADSL @ ~3.5 Mbps, or ADSL2+ @ ~5 Mbps would be pretty clear, and can't be that dissapointing if the thing was only marketed as ADSL or ADSL2+ in the first place, and if they were made aware that it'd be the same with any other ISP (bar cable etc).
Not applicable
I think the best thing to do with the advent of ADSL2+ is to work out an average for most customers in areas and sell it as " 1MB to 24MB" and next to or below that write "click now for a honiest speed average in your area"
Not applicable
If PlusNet had marketed their current offering as "between 1Mb and 8Mb" that would have set my expectations nicely. I did a lot of research as to what I might expect and am delighted with my average 6.75Mb which broadly meets what the various web sites said I could get from ADSL2. So if I get an email anytime soon from PlusNet that says, "Hey, Ralph, upgrade to ADSL 2+ and get between what you are getting now and 16Mb", then I would also do the maths and make my choice. New broadband customers are the problem: my Dad wouldn't know ADSL from LSD and he was pretty pleased with the 256kb cable modem he got from NTL - if you told him he could get 1Gb he wouldn't know what that would mean. Quicker? Quicker what? He clicks a button and a web page loads. What would be quicker? And he wouldn't pay more because his needs are modest. Existing customers thinking of a moving supplier (the churner) already understand what ADSL really delivers for them - and so offering them a product that would deliver a speed somewhere from their existing speed up to 16Mb would be understandable. And you could always give them a 90-day option to revert back to plain old (cheaper) ADSL2 if they saw no value in the new product.
Not applicable
I am trying to learn by way of tutotials, My download speed seems adequate, but it takes forever to load a 10 minute film, ...30 secs ok then 60 secs loading and so on and so on, it's driving me potty, will this upgrade help me? Nic
Grafter
Just got to say Dave... Another great post - for driving debate! I think that the term "upto" is far to general, i do like a speed guide during the sign up process though again if you do not get this speed you would not be happy!
Not applicable
just saw an O2 ad on tv and they've gone a pretty different direction... no speeds, no services, just "O2 Broadband: We're Better". Shocked| i guess they thought the same as me when i said speeds don't really matter anymore, as long as it's fast who's gonna know the difference. so long as it's "better" Shocked) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_ezAe5KNRI
Not applicable
I think this maybe already stated but, You could label it as "Super Fast - ADSL2+"... gets right around the problem of setting preident speeds advertised which many accept as true values for anyone anywhere. At current, I am sync'd on MaxDSL @ 8128/832 according to my Router (No that's not the "Max" Figures). I probably get a through put of ~7MBit Down and 700KBit up. Which I see as perfectly acceptable. The current terminology is perfectly fine (I think) I have no qualms with it. "Up to" does what it says on the tin, we can't teach everyone to read it correctly. it does not guarante because ADSL Speeds cannot be guaranted it is just far too dependant which is the reason for it in the first place. if law of averages works here... (off the top of my head this is) you make a Speed Tester which works like so - you select your "MaxADSL" speed - expected. runs the speed test - results returned. works out the % "yield" - (actual speed / potentual speed). take the decimal value multiply it by the potentual "24MBit" speeds and you should have something at least bearing correlation of the existing customers line, for it to work on... (yes there are many other factors when bandwidth is increased) Example of what I mean: (Units are all in Kilo Bits) Download: 7200/8128 (BT recon ADSL 7.2 is about tops) 7200/8128 = 0.8858 = 0.886 0.886 * (1024*24) = 21774.336 Kbit Upload: 700/832 (This is just my speed, not sure what the average is) 700/832 = 0.841 0.841 * (1024*1) = 861.184 KBit Working on the assumtion 1024KBits to a Mega Bit and that ADSL2+ is roughtly 1MBit Upload... You can't exactly say even if this would be an accurate line rating method. It would work on the asusmtion the amount of loss is the same for a wider bandwidth which you don't know because those Copper wires can be quite decieving. Because of the nature of signal down the copper wires, you just don't know if by adding more range will become any faster or any slower for everyone. I see the sticky sitation, but there is not a great deal you can do. The only suggestion is if you stick with "up to" terminology. Spell it out, put that it is "depending on the state of your Telephone Line (& Exchange)" and what not at the bottom, no arguments then... Unforuntately, the number of conditions that are possible runs to pages, but that's life nothing is 100% and I think people shouldn't expect exactly equal to "24MBit" 24/7/365.25... Jim,
Grafter
So it's "Faster Broadband" is it? Most seem to agree on that. My own speed on "upto 8Mb" is 1Mb. Could I really expect 3Mb from this?
Grafter
I'd agree that the name of the product (ADSL2 / ADSL2+ / anything-in-the-pipeline) should feature just as prominently as the speed. You're spot on in that you'd be at a competitive disadvantage if you were honest about expected speeds (can you imagine an honest car salesman? Amusing maybe, but not a good idea for the cashflow!) but if you WERE honest when you stated the speeds and offered a link by each statement to someplace people can test their line (be it a basic speed test and extrapolating the results to make an educated guess, or basing it purely off line distance info) then at least you aren't pretending to offer something you may not be able to Smiley ADSL 2+ up to 24MBPS superfast broadband! Click here to see what speeds you can expect to achieve... Other than that... all I can add is gimme gimme gimme. Sooner the better. Cheesy
Not applicable
When buying food we are faced with quite a few boxes, a dashboard even detailing, fat, sugar, at least 5/6 on most loaves of bread so the equivalent for Broadband would be; Adsl type +, 2 Speed Range Contention Allocated Bandwidth per customer at peak hour - ie 16Kbps Packet delivery at peak hour eg 50% of the packets need to be delivered within x - typically 12 milliseconds (ms) 95% of the packets need to be delivered within x + 25ms 97% of the packets need to be delivered within x +50ms x - is the base delay due to geography measured to be 12ms on average. Mike
Dabbler
Dave I am a marketeer and I understand the competing priorities you have to deal with. I don't know your business that well so anything written below is based on an outsider looking in viewpoint 1. To compete with the headlines 2. To be ethical and sleep at nights Keith's answer covered this quite well, you have to be in the press with what is the industry standard terminology. You can try to get agreement to change it but that would be difficult to achieve. But your supporting copy needs to clarify what "up to" means Technically if no one is actually on 24Meg then the advertising could be referred to the ASA in which case no one would be allowed to use the term up to 24Mb. You might also be getting a little hung up on the headline figure. Customers have different needs and issues and marketing to these is what you should be doing. "You don't buy a drill from black and decker, you buy a hole in a wall" is a marketing text book example of this. You also need to compete against headline prices. You will never be the cheapest so you need to focus on the product and the service. You seem largely to have got this right. The real trick is to find your real edge or difference that no one can replicate. 1. Advertising Spend (Coke) 2. Technical advances (Sky?) 3. Customer service (?) 4. Product bundling (Telecoms/Sky) 5. Price (Asda- even though they are not the cheapest for every customer) 6. Clarity of Pricing (£1 shop) 7. Guarantees (DHL) 8. Brand values (Virgin) and proably another dozen Could go on for hours however the one thing that would make a difference would be to appear as a major player in the market. Ask 100 people to name 3 ISPs and see where you come. Its a bit like the search engines you need to be on the first page but not necessarily in first position. If you can be considered in the top 3-5 that would be useful. I recommend reading Guerilla marketing by Seth Godin to find a way.
Not applicable
I think that you will be forced to use the 'up to 24Mbps' tag, as all your competitors will be using it and not to refer to the headline speed would leave you at a competitive disadvantage. However I think it should be marketed along the lines of 'New Generation Broadband from PlusNet' or somesuch, and refer to ADSL2+ and 'up to 24Mbps' in the body of the text. People expect to see these references or they will feel your offering is not competitive. However I think that putting a disclaimer to the effect that 90% of people will not see much above 12Mbps is very important. You need to trade on the 'We are being ethical, upfront and honest about expected speeds, whereas some of our competitors are not' aspect of the situation. Really, this aspect of the marketing of ADSL2+ should be enforced by Ofcom, so that unrealistic expectations are not raised by unscrupulous marketers. So, when can I get my 24Mbps broadband? Cheesy Graham
Not applicable
Your desire for honesty is commendable, but others will not follow your lead. 'upto 24Mbps', or don't make any sales. You will just lose the battle of the attention getting headline.
All Star
I am a real rocking horse, but looking at the graph seems to tell me that most people not sitting atop the exchange buildings will not see that much benefit speed wise.
Not applicable
Call it Broadband 24Mbps but make it clear that Mbps stands for "Maybe but probably slower"
Not applicable
It's the ups and down in broadband speed that drive everyone crazy. Anyone who can promise (and deliver) a consistent average speed would get my money. For ADSL2+ this should be banded according to distance from exchange.
Not applicable
To be honest, I'd rather see ADSL2+ or ADSL used as at least it conjurs up the mental image of '8 to 24' and 'up to 8' kind of thing. I agree this is a 'educating the customer' kind of problem, but mobile phone companies have been doing it for years and I don't see why fixed line broadband can't do it too. Afterall, who outside mobile telecoms knew what GPRS was 5 years ago?
HG
Not applicable
Why can't you just use an honest descriptor which would probably be understood by most people with an interest and is easily checked ? I suggest naming it something simple like "Max LineSpeed" or "LineSpeed Max". You can explain in the details that your max speed is 24Mb, constrained only by the user's distance from the exchange, quality of line etc. The point is made though, just by the name, that you are offering the max speed available. Interested parties who understand the tehnicalities should have no problem with that descriptor. Sales teams should enjoy working with it. People who need the further explanation should have no trouble understanding that any reduction from (say) 24Mb is forced on them by the line rating, not PlusNet, and would thus apply even if they were to choose a competitor.
Community Veteran
Just came across this webpage on PN's support site which uses the description 'up to 20Mb broadband' - is that the terminology PN plan on moving forward with? If so, it seems good to me.
Grafter
I'm sure I read in a blog earlier that those currently on speeds around the 3mb mark won't see too much of an increase. So, going from a bar chart I just looked at (can't find the link again, doh) showing the % of plusnet customers and their speeds, isn't there a vast number of customer currently around the 2-5mb mark? So surely the claim 'superfast' or 'upto 24mb' is a bit far fetched. However as pointed previously, you need to keep up with the other companies and avoid losing out to them.
Not applicable
Avoid specific numbers while advertising fast speeds? How about "Fastest possible - guaranteed!", or something similar? You could provide a contract-breaking option in the first 3 months (the 'guarantee' from the headline itself) if the average actual speed achieved by each punter is say more than 10% lower than . . . whatever your best pre-connection estimate is, or whatever the average connection speed in that postcode area is, orwhatever you think is marketable and risk-managed.