NBS, 3 and ASAI
Bulletin 09/6
Batch No. 189
Ref 12278
Product Telecommunications
Advertiser Hutchinson 3G Ireland
Medium Press
The advertisement stated “3 Broadband Leading the way. Only €19.99 per month. Unbeatable value, a huge 15GB allowance, no landline required. 1800 322 33.” The footnote featured the National symbol of the Government, the EU flag and the NBS(1)logo. It stated “Ireland’s EU Structural Funds Programmes 2007-2013. Co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union.”

The final line read in small print “Project co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union in association with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.”

1. The complainant queried whether the usage of national government logos and branding in the advertisement was permitted. He also questioned the relevance of the logos as he considered that the product being advertised was available before the NBS contact was awarded

2. The complainant said that Federal Communications Commission(2)and the OECD (3)did not consider mobile broadband the same as fixed line broadband for the purposes of internet access. He considered that it was unclear from the advertisement that the product was mobile broadband and considered that mobile broadband was an inferior broadband with lower speeds and lower download limits.

3. He also challenged the statement “leading the way” and requested that the advertisers provide substantiation for this claim.

(1) National Broadband Scheme
(2) The Fedral Communications Commission is an independent United States of America governmental agency
(3) Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development

2006 Code 2.22 2.24 2.51
2002 Code
The advertisers firstly stated that the contract to implement and operate the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) was entered into by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) with 3 in 2008. They explained that the NBS will deliver broadband to certain target areas in Ireland in which broadband services are not available.

1. They said that the NBS is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union. All projects in receipt of EU funding must display Ireland’s EU Structural Funds logo and EU logo on all signs and on all advertisements, information and publicity material in order to recognise the role and support provided by the Government and the EU.

They said while 3 was obliged to use the aforementioned logos in advertising services in the NBS coverage areas, for the avoidance of doubt, the logos were not used in marketing material which related to 3’s standard services outside of the NBS coverage areas.

2. The advertisers said that notwithstanding the fact that the FCC had no jurisdiction or authority in Ireland, the FCC on its website stated
“Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies such as:
• Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
• Cable Modem
• Fibre
• Wireless
• Satellite
• Broadband over Powerlines (BPL)”
They also said that the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry Committee for Information, Computer and Communication had stated that “Wireless broadband technologies have always been included in the historical OECD broadband subscriber statistics…”
In addition in its quarterly key data ComReg defined the“Total Number of active internet subscriptions in Ireland” as the number of subscriptions with either narrowband or broadband internet access. In turn broadband included “..broadband subscribers using high speed broadband services over platforms other than DSL (ie the copper network) such as fixed wireless access, cable modem fibre, satellite and mobile broadband using HSDPA”.
The advertisers said that it was clear that the body with responsibility for the regulation of the telecommunications industry defined broadband as including mobile broadband.
The advertisers did not consider that it was relevant that the broadband service being utilised by 3 in order to provision the NBS was mobile. The NBS requirement was to provide broadband to specific premises within the electoral districts only.

The advertisers said that 3 mobile broadband usage limit which comprises the NBS product, offered a 15 Gigabyte (GB) usage limit per month for €19.99 compared with a 10GB usage allowance with eircom Broadband Home Starter for €50.56 and 10GB usage allowance for BT 1MB Broadband for €39.16 both on a monthly basis. In relation to NBS broadband speeds, they said that 3 guaranteed a minimum speed of 1.2 MB per second and could provide speeds of up to 7.6 MB per second.

3. The advertisers said that ComReg stated that mobile broadband (via HSDPA) showed the strongest growth of all broadband platforms. Using ComReg’s published quarterly figures and publicly available information regarding the other mobile operators, they said that they had calculated that 3 was leading the mobile broadband provider with 41% of the mobile broadband market, O2 with 27.4%, Vodafone with 28.5% and Meteor with 2.8%.

Complaint Upheld in Part.

The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.

Complaint 1:
The Committee noted that the advertisers were required to include Ireland’s EU Structural Funds logo and the EU logo on all advertising for the NBS products. They also noted the NBS product was promoted separately on three.ie and did not consider that it had been available prior to the award of the NBS contract.

Complaint 1 – Not Upheld.

I contend that the NBS product ONLY differs from 3’s regular product if the Signal is bad. Offer of Satellite terminal or largely useless Placebo Repeater.
Complaint 2:
“The Committee noted the information supplied by the advertisers in relation to the definition of broadband. They considered that consumers would be aware that 3 offered mobile broadband products and noted that the advertisement contained a depiction of a mobile broadband modem. While it was not the role of the Authority to judge the value of one product over another, they noted the information supplied in relation to comparative broadband products.”

Complaint 2 – Not Upheld

See  http://www.techtir.ie/forums/showthread.php?t=3  I contend that no-one counts Mobile version of 3G/HSPA as Broadband. Our own 24th March 2004: Define broadband as a service that provides at least 512Kbs connectivity and set a target of the widespread availability of 5Mps connections by 2006 and with a further suggested target of 10Mps connections by 2008.

The NBS  (3 Mobile 3G/HSPA) can’t ensure  delivery of those speeds. Mobile 3G/HSPA and the NBS is not Broadband.

Detail Analysis of why Mobile is about 16x worse than Fixed Wireless

Comparison Fixed Wireless Broadband and Mobile 3G/HSPA

Complaint 3:

The Complaints Committee considered the statement ‘3 Broadband Leading the Way’ could imply that the advertisers were the leading broadband provider in Ireland. While they accepted that mobile broadband had recorded the greatest percentage growth in recent times, fixed line broadband still accounted for the majority of broadband connections. In such circumstances they did not consider that the advertisers had substantiated the claim.

Complaint 3 –Upheld.

Action Required:
The claim in relation to ‘3 Broadband Leading the Way” should not be repeated without qualification.

No penalty, and allowed to include a qualified version? Disgraceful.

Our ASAI is wrong to take the 3 claims without independent advice.

Original verdict