What does uncapped really mean?

A recent Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) complaint about Nashua Mobile’s uncapped WiFi service highlighted that the term uncapped may include throttling and shaping, as long as a hard cap is not imposed on the service.

A Nashua Mobile advertisement which promoted its G-Connect WiFi internet connectivity product stated that the service was uncapped.

This did not go down well with two consumers, who laid a complaint with the ASA highlighting that once a 3GB threshold has been reached, the connectivity speed is throttled.

They argued that, because the speed is reduced after a certain limit was reached, the service should not be called uncapped.

Nashua Mobile responded, saying that no hard cap is imposed on the service. “Unless malicious behaviour has been identified, we will never disconnect a user, thus justifying the reference to uncapped,” Nashua Mobile said.

The ASA, which previously requested input from the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) on the issue, said that the relevant terminology can be summarised as follows:

  • Capped refers to products that have a predetermined limit imposed, and once a user reaches this limit, connectivity is severed completely – much like pre-paid electricity or cell phone pre-paid airtime bundles.
  • Uncapped refers to products where predetermined limits may still be relevant, but connectivity is never severed. It does, however, appear to be common practice for service providers to reduce speeds when thresholds are reached
  • Unlimited appears to refer to products that have a bare minimum of control measures imposed by service providers. These packages seem to be the most expensive generally speaking, and users tend to be able to surf or download as much as they want with virtually no interference, irrespective of how much data has been used.

The ASA ruled that the advertisement was not misleading, because the service offered never disconnect a user and is therefore uncapped.

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What does uncapped really mean?