UK operators forced to be honest about mobile speeds - but is it too late?

New advertising guidelines ban mobile operators from referring to 'up to' speeds that hardly anyone can actually achieve. However, none of them put any speeds in their main marketing material at all these days.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

As of Thursday, the UK's mobile operators have new guidelines they need to stick to regarding their advertising of mobile broadband speeds.

British advertising guidelines have for some time forced fixed-line broadband providers to be honest about the speeds their customers can achieve, but the same rules are now applicable to mobile operators as well.

Specifically, the operators cannot advertise 'up-to' maximum speeds if at least 10 percent of their customers are not able to achieve that maximum in reality.

"It's about making workable, sensible guidelines," a spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told ZDNet on Thursday. "Customers want clear information that they're not likely to be misled by."

However, it looks as though the ASA will have little to crack down on. A scan through the marketing material of the UK's big operators shows that none of them refers to maximum mobile broadband speeds these days.

Indeed, it is hard to find any mention of actual speeds on their sites at all, without digging down to find explanatory pages such as this, which only talk about average and achievable speeds.

Even EE, which is pitching its '4G' LTE services as being much faster than 3G — and pricing them accordingly — is far from up-front about what those faster speeds are. Prospective customers have to go through to a support page to learn that, while they may possibly get 40Mbps on occasion, the reality will be between 8-10Mbps in most cases.

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