Claims by Virgin Media in its latest advertising campaign in national newspapers have attracted complaints from consumers who say they are misleading. The Advertising Standards Authority has started an investigation over claims by Virgin Media that its service is “delivered via a fibre optic cable”. In fact, it is delivered to the home over a standard coaxial cable.
In a press advertisement headed “Truth, Lies and Broadband” Virgin Media states: “Half of us can get cable broadband. This is delivered via a fibre optic cable — meaning it is officially the fastest and best performing broadband available”. It continues: “The other half of the country can get a standard connection — also known as ADSL (which stands for something tedious)”.
Virgin Media repeats the disingenuous claim on its associated promotional web site. “There are two main types of broadband: ADSL and Cable. ADSL comes down your phone line. Cable comes down a fibre optic cable.”
Unfortunately, while half the country could get cable broadband, it is not actually delivered via a fibre-optic cable. The core network may be fibre, as are many telecommunications networks. The connection to the home is actually over a conventional cable, a co-axial cable, rather like a television aerial. This is known as an HFC network, which stands for something tedious: Hybrid Fibre Coaxial.
While cable television is only available to up to half the United Kingdom, the Virgin Media advertising campaign implies that the other half can receive a standard connection. The reality is that virtually the whole of the country can receive broadband over their phone line, more homes than have mains water. BT told informitv that 99.8% of premises in the UK can receive ADSL broadband and that these services are ultimately fed by fibre optic cables.
Furthermore, some of those receiving broadband over a phone line may actually experience a faster service than cable customers. Some cable customers have complained that the speeds they actually receive are well below those claimed by the cable company.
The Advertising Standards Authority has responded by saying that they are launching an investigation. “We have written to Virgin Media asking it to provide evidence to substantiate its claims,” said a representative.
John Moorwood, the head of Virgin Media Relations at Virgin Media, was asked by informitv for comment on the claims but has so far failed to respond, unlike his counterparts at competitors who expressed their concerns about the campaign. Anyone with further comments on the Virgin Media claims can contact the Advertising Standards Authority through their online complaints procedure.
The latest Virgin Media advertising campaign reflects an increasingly desperate attempt by the cable company to compete in the communications market. It comes following news that Sky added more than a quarter of million broadband subscribers in the last quarter, taking the total number since the launch of the broadband service to 716,000.
Meanwhile, Virgin Media is being pursued by private equity firms that believe they could manage it more efficiently and more profitably.