It is easy to blind people with science, and in the modern age, to baffle them with buzzwords. At Skill Zone we try our best to keep jargon out of our conversations with customers, but it is an uphill battle.
One of my current bugbears is "revert". Its the buzzword to use if you want to stand out in the boardroom. For example, I have been asked to revert an email. Do they want me to reject it from the mail server, or perhaps go back to using good old pencil and paper? Surely they mean reply or respond, but not revert. I've also been asked to revert my findings to someone, but I'm sure they have confused that with report? A few days ago I had a problem with an online purchase and the vendor informed me that they had reverted my order, so then I had to ask them if they meant they had refunded my money, replaced the faulty item, rejected my complaint, or something else entirely.
Just because a word sounds cool isn't a good reason to use it in a sentence. Words are only useful if we all understand what they mean and all agree on the same meanings. Just because revert begins with re- doesn't mean we can substitute it for any other word beginning with the same letters.
When it comes to using words just because they sound cool, marketing departments take some beating, and marketing departments in communications companies often take the biggest liberties with language.
Vodafone has fallen foul of the ASA because its advert said "Enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband". Virgin challenged that claim. If your broadband speed is currently measured in megabits, you might think its perfectly reasonable to claim a gigabit connection as lightning fast, and I'd agree with you, but the small print on the Vodafone website said gigafast covered a range of speeds from 100mbps to 900mbps. The ASA ruled the advert misleading, reasoning that many consumers would quite reasonably assume that a product called gigafast actually meant gigabit speeds, and that it also wasn't obvious to a consumer that "from £23 per month" referred only to the slowest option which was nowhere near a gigabit.
Whilst the ASA has shown clarity on the use of giga, it has turned a blind-eye to the misuse of fibre. Just about every consumer ISP advertises a product these days as "Fibre Broadband", but this doesn't give the high speed that true fibre offers. The product marketed as fibre broadband is a fibre connection, but only as far as your neighborhood, with the last leg being sent over the existing copper wires.
Part-fibre is several times faster than the older copper ADSL lines, but it doesn't compare to a true fibre connection which is both much faster and much more reliable. Whilst the ASA agrees on a technical level that there is a difference between true fibre connections and those marketed as fibre broadband, it argues that the average consumer wouldn't understand that distinction, and therefore it is okay for ISPs to describe their product as "fibre" provided at least some portion of the connection involves fibre.
The next big thing in telephony is 5G, (fifth generation), and even though we haven't got any 5G networks as yet, the hype machine is in full force. 5G will bring vastly increased capacity and better speeds to mobile. The current 4G smartphone tops out at about 100mbps. 5G has a theoretical top speed of 10Gbps, which is a hundred times faster than a 4G smartphone, and faster than a lot of fibre broadband. Getting to 5G involves overcoming a lot of regulatory hurdles, agreement on technical standards, and the clearing of radio bands for 5G use at a national level. The first 5G networks are expected to go live during 2019, with South Korea strongly tipped to be the first country to switch on its network.
In the UK, 5G is set to become available this year, but only in select major cities at first, and possibly in a few headline-grabbing locations such as the Manchester United football stadium. O2 is set to launch in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. EE (owned by BT) will launch its 5G product in those four cities plus Cardiff, Birmingham, and Manchester, whilst Vodafone is aiming to include Liverpool and Southampton. Clearly this will be far from national coverage for 5G for several years yet, and just as with broadband, rural cousins are likely to find they are the last to get any sort of connection.
Even though 5G is still at the antenatal stage, vendors have already started arguing over terminology and trying to find marketing edge. For example the AT&T website in the USA says it will be offering three products called 5G Evolution, (which is actually its existing 4G network, not 5G at all), standard 5G, and something called 5G+. Clearly, some people are going to see that and think 5G+ is where you need to be and mere 5G is old hat, the older standard now superceded, and that other vendors need to get with the programme. That sort of confusion in an emerging market will help no-one, and certainly won't help consumers make informed choices of supplier.
25th April 2019
This article comes from the SKILLZONE email newsletter, published monthly since January 2008, and covering topics related to technology and the internet. All articles and artwork in the SKILLZONE newsletter are orignal content. If you would like to receive the newsletter direct to your inbox each month, please SUBSCRIBE here. It is free, and you don't get added to any other mailing lists. It uses best-practice confirmed opt-in only, and you may unsubscribe at any time.