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ASA slams BT over misleading Wi-Fi ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has censored a British Telecom (BT) advert for exaggerating claims about WiFi interference in the home, after a viewer wrote in to contest the ad's assertions.

The censure comes only a week after the ASA rapped broadcasting giant EE over misleading information in its online broadcast map.

The BT ad claimed that "no end of things around the home can disrupt your wireless signal", while depicting a radio and a ringing mobile phone. One viewer made a complaint to the ASA, arguing that neither of these devices would cause significant interference to a Wi-Fi signal.

To back up its assertions, BT offered up a piece of Ofcom research from 2009 that suggested that there could be some interference from these kinds of devices, but the ASA wasn't convinced.

BT told the ASA that the 2.4 GHz spectrum that most home Wi-Fi uses is often heavily congested with homeowners' increasing proclivity for Internet-connected devices like TV senders, wireless security cameras and baby monitors.

The Ofcom report also mentioned microwave ovens as a possible source of interference.

The 2.4 GHz radio band had become increasingly susceptible to disruption due to the proliferation of all kinds of devices, BT claimed. This could lead to poor and unreliable performance, particularly in urban environments.

However, while the ASA accepted these basic facts, it ruled that the depiction of mobile phones and radios, neither of which use the same radio band as WiFi, was misleading to the average viewer.

Mobile phones in the UK use the Digital Cellular Service (DCS), which is between 1,710 and 1,880 MHz for both uplink and downlink. Similarly, Ofcom found that radios "did not pose a particular problem in terms of interference."

The ad was found to have breached the Broadcast Committee's Advertising Practice Code rules surrounding misleading advertising and substantiation, and will not be shown again in the UK.