BT blasts Virgin 'broadband con' campaign


BT has slammed Virgin Media's campaign against misleading broadband advertising, intimating the initiative is somewhat hypocritical.

Virgin launched the initiative yesterday, voicing concerns about ISPs offering "up to" 20Mbps or 24Mbps but delivering significantly lower average speeds.

BT has subsequently criticised Virgin, claiming its rival is organising a campaign against an activity it is guilty of.

"Virgin has pitched to customers: 'You're 'not getting the broadband you are paying for.' However, it is the only ISP that charges based on speed, e.g. up to 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 50Mbps," a BT spokesperson told IT PRO.

"In fact, in some areas of the site broadband is described simply as '10Mbps' or '20Mbps'."

BT also took the opportunity to pick holes in the spread of Virgin's broadband services, suggesting the latter had decided to focus predominantly on highly-populated areas.

"BT's broadband service goes just about everywhere: we supply the parts that others simply cannot, or do not want to reach," the spokesperson added.

"As a consequence of this and the laws of physics, our average speed across the UK looks lower because we are supplying broadband to customers that Virgin doesn't want, over very long lines, which causes loss of speed."

If rural broadband was left in the hands of other providers, more secluded areas would not have any connectivity whatsoever, BT claimed.

The British communications giant also defended the advertising of "up to" speeds. Earlier this year, a BT fibre broadband advert was banned after the Advertising Standards Authority deemed the "instant" claim was misleading.

"In ads for broadband of 'up to 20Mbps', the 'up to' speed is a technical capability. It's a product description. It doesn't describe the actual speed every customer will get and most people understand what 'up to' means whether or not they understand the technicalities of broadband," the spokesperson added.

"It means that 'up to 20Mbps is possible with this product. In fact, up to 24Mbps is possible but we don't say that as so few people could get it in reality."

The firm called on advertisers to use the same terminology, as national average speed descriptions are "meaningless for BT customers," the spokesperson added.

In response to BT's criticisms, a Virgin Media spokesperson told IT PRO: "We believe all ISPs should be much more transparent about the broadband speeds their customers can expect to receive. We're publishing the typical real world speeds our customers receive each month and look forward to BT and others doing the same."

Virgin was keen to point out it consistently delivered the speeds it advertised to customers and pointed to Ofcom's 2010 speeds report.

The regulator's research found Virgin delivered an average of 16.5Mbps on its 20Mbps package, compared to around 8Mbps from BT on the firm's 20Mbps offering.

Virgin said customers could look at its typical speeds, defined as the average speed at least 66 per cent of its customers received over a 24 hour period.

With regards to BT's criticisms over rural broadband, Virgin noted it was looking at expanding its network and was trialling the delivery of superfast broadband in the Berkshire village of Woolhampton and Crumlin in Caerphilly.

Last month, BT voiced some other qualms over its rival's actions, slamming Virgin's pricing of its 100Mbps services.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.