Icon see clearly now
Consumers can find it difficult to understand the different broadband packages on offer, which may delay uptake of gigabit-capable broadband. Our new experiment shows that a gigabit-ready mark would enable people to more easily identify gigabit-capable broadband packages, which could boost takeup.
Participants were more likely to accurately identify packages on a gigabit network when they were shown with a 'gigabit network' icon than when:
there was no icon and no information on the technology delivering the broadband (ie that packages were full fibre);
the advert included information on the technology providing the broadband (ie. that the packages were full-fibre). This was even though participants had previously been told that gigabit networks were mostly delivered via full-fibre.
In the absence of an icon, participants frequently relied on the heuristic of speed.This is not always an accurate heuristic, and will be even less so in the future when gigabit-capable networks can be used for any speed.
By 2025 85% of households should have access to gigabit-capable broadband. However, supply is just one half of the market. In order for it to be a success there needs to be consumer demand and an easy process of adoption.
A gigabit-ready mark, in the form of an icon, has been suggested as a way of making adoption easier, by providing simple, clear and consistent information to enable identification of gigabit-capable packages. Currently consumers can find it difficult to identify the best package for their household partly due to the terminology and inconsistent language used by broadband providers. Four in 10 (38%) consumers who don't have gigabit-capable broadband say that they're put off adopting it as the terminology used to describe packages make it difficult to differentiate between them.
In this research we conducted an experiment to test the effectiveness of a gigabit-ready mark in enabling consumers to accurately identify gigabit-capable packages.
We conducted an online experiment with nearly 2000 consumers who had responsibility for their household broadband (April 2021). It tested whether people who saw an icon on gigabit-capable packages would be better able to identify them as such, than people who do not see an icon.
We split the sample into 4 groups who each saw slightly different versions of six broadband adverts. Depending on the group they were in some people saw an icon on the gigabit-capable packages and others didn't, and some saw information on whether the broadband was delivered via full-fibre or Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and others didn't (see table below).
For each broadband advert everyone was asked to indicate whether the package was on a gigabit-capable network or not.
Consumers are more likely to accurately identify gigabit-capable packages when they have an icon on them.
For packages which were at the extreme ends of speed (1GB and 12-18mbps) the majority of participants were able to accurately identify them without any information on technology or an icon and we did not see a statistically significant increase when either of these were provided.
For packages which were superfast (n=3) and ultrafast (n=1) participants were significantly more likely to accurately identify them as either on a gigabit network or not when there was an icon, compared to the control (no icon and no information on the technology delivering them, i.e. whether they are FTTC or full-fibre).
Consumers were better able to identify gigabit-cable packages when there was an icon compared to when they were told the broadband was delivered via full-fibre.
For the ultrafast package and superfast package on a gigabit-capable network participants who saw the icon were significantly more likely to accurately identify them (as on a gigabit-capable network), than those who were told that they were delivered by full-fibre. This was despite participants being informed that gigabit-capable packages are delivered via full-fibre. Participants were just as likely to correctly identify the superfast packages that aren't on a gigabit-capable network when an icon is present, as when information is given that the package is FTTC.
In the absence of an icon participants frequently rely on speed as a heuristic. However, this is not accurate.
When not given any information on the technology providing the broadband (FTTC or full-fibre) and when not shown an icon on relevant adverts, the majority of participants (78%) relied on the heuristic of speed to identify whether a package was on a gigabit network or not. This heuristic effectively enabled participants to identify packages at the extreme ends of the speed distribution, however for superfast and ultrafast packages significantly fewer participants were able to accurately identify the packages.
The evidence suggests that a gigabit-ready mark could be an effective intervention to help support consumers and businesses identify those connections which are being delivered over gigabit-capable networks.
We recommend that:
Ofcom should undertake further analysis and evidence gathering to assess such a label, and the role that it could play in helping consumers navigate the broadband market, as part of its wider project on consumer information and terminology.
Consideration should be given to how a label should be implemented, be it regulatory or voluntary, and where and when it can be used (for example at the point of sale and/or in wider advertising).
The final design and criteria of any labelling scheme must be evidence based and should draw on research undertaken on consumer behaviour, as well as subsequent consumer testing.
A full report of this research is available here.
For more research on communicating gigabit-capable packages to consumers read the article: Gigabit-capable broadband: which benefits most appeal to consumers?
If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please email Harriet Pickles at firstname.lastname@example.org