Wanadoo rebuked over 8Mbps broadband claims

An advertising watchdog has ruled that Wanadoo was wrong to promote an 8Mbps service that was available to just 5 percent of the population

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld a complaint against UK ISP Wanadoo over its promotions for its 8Mbps broadband service.

In an adjudication published on Wednesday, the ASA ruled that Wanadoo had misled customers by not making it clear that speeds of 8Mbps were only available in some parts of the country.

The adverts featured a fictional family who all wanted to go online or use the phone at the same time. A voice-over said: "You want up to 8 Meg broadband with free off-peak calls and free wireless connection. Family-size broadband from Wanadoo."

BT, Tiscali, and the advertising agency representing Bulldog all complained to the ASA that this was misleading, as only five percent of the population live close enough to their local telephone exchange to get an 8Mbps service.

"We did not consider that the 'up to' was an adequate indication that the service was available to such a limited number of people at the time that it was first advertised, or that it would not be available to a large number of people for some time," said the ASA.

The ruling underlines the fact that the growth in next-generation broadband services is creating a new broadband divide in the UK. Wanadoo can offer an 8Mbps service because it has installed its own kit in BT's local exchanges. However, at the time the adverts were shown, it had only unbundled 113 exchanges.

ADSL broadband is also limited by distance, so companies and homes that are a long way from an exchange will have a slower broadband connection than those nearer. Wanadoo estimated that just 55 percent of the people at its unbundled exchanges would be able to get the full 8Mbps.

The ASA also ruled against T-Mobile, whose adverts claimed that its "Web'n'walk" Internet service offered "The Internet wherever you are". However, T-Mobile's network only covers 86 percent of the population.

"We considered the use of such unconditional language to be contradictory to the qualification stated in the coverage disclaimer," said the ASA.