Last week I posted on how the Swedish MNOs had adopted a common set of guidelines for how they can promote mobile broadband. As of this week the UK operators have implemented something similar. A press release put out by the Mobile Broadband Group (which includes all 5 MNOs + Virgin) established a new set of guidelines. Unlike Sweden, they don't include any consistency about what speeds can be advertised, just that they must be "achievable by the user".
It's hard to argue with any of the points. They go just about as far is it's possible to go in ensuring the product does what it says on the tin. Ensuring people have info on out-of-bundle usage is creditable, roaming charges ditto. Likewise giving real-world examples should be useful. Most of these were already features of operators' tariff promotions anyway but maybe useful to have this codified.
What they can't get around the fact that mobile broadband is unpredictable. At least these guidelines will ensure that MNOs admit that unpredictability and give some guidance on why it varies. That said, however, it's not going to be much use to the average user who will have little idea how close they are to a base station, no idea what the contention rate is and no way of knowing what path loss they may see due to the characteristics of their location.
The MBG press release, reproduced, just about, in its entirety:
Principles of Good Practice for selling and promoting Mobile Broadband
Uptake of mobile broadband (i.e a mobile data service providing Internet access via a 3G modem) services is increasing rapidly. Customers appreciate the widespread coverage and convenience of being able to connect wireless devices to a 3G mobile network.
As the market is in a relatively new phase and in order to promote consumer awareness of the potential of mobile broadband, the UK’s mobile operators have agreed some good practice principles that underpin the way in which they and their customer service staff communicate information that is relevant when purchasing and using mobile broadband services. The principles cover: Coverage, Factors that determine download speeds, Pricing Transparency.
1. Make coverage information available via a web site (e.g. a map or a post code checker).
Promotion of and factors that determine download speeds
2. Download and upload speeds that are given in advertising and promotional material must be achievable by end users and should be accompanied by an explanation that speeds are variable. An indicative range of download and upload speeds under normal conditions can be given.
3. The factors that determine download speeds should be explained (e.g. distance from mast, surrounding environment, number of other users, network connection).
4. A glossary should be made available describing technical mobile broadband terms used in customer literature and on on-screen indicators (e.g. 3G, HSDPA).
5. Translate raw data speeds into some real life examples such as: 2Megabits per second delivers a 5 minute music track in approximately 20 seconds.
6. Pricing information should set out the relevant tariff options, including a description of any fair usage limits. There must an explanation of the consequences of the usage limit or fair usage allowance being exceeded.
7. Where operators make references to Megabits, Megabytes and Gigabytes in close proximity, they should give an explanation of the differences. A description of what, for example, a Megabyte of data usage allows should be provided.
8. Pricing information should include either the roaming charges or a hyperlink to where the roaming charges are set out (which should also set out explanations of what a Mb of usage allows, description of fair usage limits and any other relevant information).
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