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ASA launches review of unlimited broadband offers

Simon Quicke

A review by advertising chiefs could put an end to the word "unlimited" being applied to broadband offers that are anything but.

The timing of a review of the way ISPs promote their offers is timely with both O2 and Orange announcing plans to scrap unlimited data on smart phones but leaving users with a range of options ranging from 500Gb up to 1GB.

The Advertising Standards Authority has kicked off the process to cast its eye over the small print of offers and adverts to see if customers are getting what internet providers appear to be promising.

"We've looked at a number of complaints about individual ads in the telecomssector regarding access speeds and usage limits and found that applying asingle policy to how telecoms providers advertise can pose significantchallenges," said Lynsay Taffe, communications and policy manager at the ASA

But the user expectation is that broadband and data use will be unlimited with the large rather than the small print in adverts often implying that is the case.

Sebastien Lahtinen, co-founder of thinkbroadband.com, welcomes a potential tightening up of the way that providers promote their services.

"A formal review by the advertising regulator could be putting a cap to the term "unlimited" broadband to prevent ISPs misleading consumers, in my opinion this action has been a long time coming," he said.

He said that  subscription models that took off in 2000 tied the user into a monthly fee for an unlimited service,"however this was only possible because in fact there was no great driver for mainstream high bandwidth applications like streaming video or peer-to-peer file sharing."

With that changing and ISPs now scrambling to claw back the boundaries with video swamping the system there are limits to how long the system can continue, warned Lahtinen.

"If it is not cost or a hard cap, then either traffic shaping or congestion will act as the control. Even the mobile network operators are finally accepting that unlimited data bundles are not viable as mobile phones become more interactive devices that consume a lot of data," he said.

Related stories:

Just as smart phones deliver O2 scraps unlimited data use

Orange scores own goal with iPhone 4 plans


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