In the normally sedate telecoms world it’s somewhat unusual for service providers to take one another to task over each other’s technological, commercial or customer claims. In a sign that the UK broadband market really is heating up, Virgin Media today called out what it terms “BT’s dubious, unsubstantiated advertising”.

Like kids falling out over dinner, the two service providers are both pointing fingers at one another. But in fairness it has to be said that BT appears to have started this latest squabble by placing adverts around Bristol claiming that residents shouldn’t “settle for Virgin”. In a tit-for-tat response, Virgin Media has rather helpfully placed mobile billboards next to BT’s which it claims will help separate the “B*** ***T from reality”.

With her tongue only half in her cheek but alliteration mode fully engaged, Cilesta Van Doorn, Brand and Marketing Director at Virgin Media commented on the move: “BT’s broadband bunkum just couldn’t go unchecked. Residents of Bristol won’t be fooled by BT’s babble and we look forward to welcoming anyone who wants to experience life in the fast lane with our superior ultrafast speeds. With a reliable future-proof network that is bringing gigabit speeds to Bristol and more of the UK, Virgin Media is, as always, leading the charge – catch us if you can.”

Setting the record straight, Virgin Media says its network already covers almost 300,000 premises in Bristol, providing average speeds of 516Mbit/s. It is also partway through its Gigabit upgrade, which will see its entire network (15 million premises passed) upgraded to 1Gbit/s speeds by the end of 2021 and already available in locations such as Southampton, Reading and Manchester. Virgin Media’s rollout will meet over half the UK government’s gigabit broadband target.

Virgin Media says it has formally challenged BT’s advert and has contacted the provider. BT has yet to respond or comment.

While Omnisperience expects this war of words to continue as competition for gigabit broadband heats up, we don’t believe it is necessarily unhealthy. A break in the often turgid consensus that sees operators whispering behind their hands rather than challenging the obviously inaccurate is welcome. And humour is a very British way of dealing with disagreements. However, we would caution service providers that while this skirmish is amusing, customers won’t be laughing unless both companies deliver against their claims by providing a good customer experience and an excellent quality of service. It is those that deliver the excellent experience of tomorrow that will ultimately have the last laugh and the longest.

Posted by Teresa Cottam

Teresa is the Chief Analyst at Omnisperience and has over 25 years' experience in the telecoms and technology markets. She is an expert on SME and enterprise telecoms, and has considerable vertical market expertise. Her research focus lies in helping B2B telecoms firms become more commercially successful by better understanding and meeting their customers' needs. She is a judge of the GSMA Global Mobile Awards (GloMo's) for customer experience and enterprise innovation, and for the UK Cloud awards. You can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam

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