Eircom told to sort its ‘bits’ from its ‘bytes’ when it comes to broadband ads

10 Sep 2012

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has upheld complaints against Eircom over a radio ad campaign where the telecoms operator confused ‘bits’ per second with the data quantity of ‘bytes’.

In a radio ad campaign that concluded in May, Eircom incorrectly advertised “8 megabyte” broadband speeds as part of a €99.99 bundle, which should have said “8 megabits”.

Eight megabytes is the equivalent of 64 megabits (eight bits in one byte).

Two complainants charged that consumers could be misled into thinking the service could download 8 megabytes per second when in reality the service would be eight times slower.

“The committee were of the view that the advertisement had inaccurately referred to a broadband speed that was approximately eight times faster than the actual broadband speed on offer and this was likely to mislead consumers,” the ASAI said.

It said the complaint was upheld on code section 2.24: “An advertisement should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.”

The truth about bits and bytes

Disclosure: Confusing bytes with bits or bits with bytes may seem inexcusable to a seasoned telecoms operator like Eircom, but we have to admit it can happen, too, even here at Silicon Towers. This is especially true when it comes to denoting quantities of data versus bit rate speeds and the odd time a reader has been known to gently rebuke the odd writer for his/her error.

A megabyte, a quantity of data, is 1,024 bytes x 1,000 or 1,024,000 bytes and should be denoted “MB”. For example, a 1.44MB 3.5-inch floppy disk (remember those?) is 1,044,000 bytes. A typical USB key today could come with 128MB or 128,000,000 megabytes.

A megabit is equal to a thousand bits and should denoted “Mb” or when quantifying speeds Mbps (megabits per second), so eight megabits per second would read 8Mbps and so on.

Moral of the story, it can happen to anyone!

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years