Not So Fast: Xfinity’s ‘10G’ Internet Service Branding Is Marketing Mumbo Jumbo
Last updated October 18, 2023
Internet customers want fast and reliable broadband service for their homes and businesses. Comcast promises its “next generation” Xfinity internet service, now branded as a “10G Network,” will deliver both. But “10G” is a meaningless, and possibly misleading, marketing term.
Listen to audio highlights of the story below:
Here’s how Comcast’s website describes its service:
“The Xfinity 10G Network delivers a powerful connection to our customers that will continue to get smarter, faster, more reliable, and secure. It is the network that our customers use today and the network that will power their connectivity experience in the future.”
OK, but calling it “10G” might confuse many consumers by leading them to believe it delivers faster speeds than it does.
On October 12, 2023, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau determined that Comcast “did not provide a reasonable basis for its 10G claims.” The NAD recommended that the company discontinue those claims, or qualify them to (a) make clear that Comcast is implementing improvements that will enable it to achieve 10G and that 10G is aspirational, or (b) use 10G “in a manner that is not false or misleading.”
The NAD said Comcast’s description of its entire network as 10G “conveys the message that all consumers on the network will receive a significant increase in speed up to 10 Gbps speeds. However, only one of Xfinity’s many plans (Gigabit Pro) can reach 10 Gbps, and to access that service tier requires the installation of fiber to the premises.”
Internet network speeds are measured by how quickly data can be downloaded or uploaded, and usually are described with terms such as 500 Mbps” (500 megabits of data per second) or “1 Gbps” (one gigabit per second).
Most of America already has access to home internet speeds of one gigabit per second, according to the Internet & Television Association. A superfast 10 Gbps network will be “the broadband network of the future,” the association noted on its website.
When asked to explain its new 10G marketing program, Comcast told Checkbook it has been “a leader in developing and deploying 10G technologies…and that’s where the brand (the Xfinity 10G Network) comes from.” The result of all of this, the company statement said, “is a next-generation broadband experience including faster speeds, greater reliability, and lower latency for all of our customers.”
Comcast provides 1.2 Gbps broadband service in all its markets, according to Joel Shadle with Comcast corporate communications. Comcast offers 2 Gbps service in about 45 metro areas, with more being added every month, he said.
All Comcast customers can sign on for 10 Gbps service, Shadle told Checkbook, for $299 per month, plus a one-time fee that covers installing fiber cable from the main Comcast line on the street to your house.
But most Comcast customers, who don’t want to pay such a high premium price, aren’t getting broadband speeds anywhere close to 10 Gbps.
The term “10G” also might confuse consumers who know “G” as it relates to cell phone technology. For mobile networks, “G” stands for “generation.” Carriers’ much-hyped 5G service (fifth-generation cellular technology), now replacing old 4G (fourth-generation networks), is the latest mobile broadband standard. There is no 10G cellular standard, and there won’t be for decades.
Phil Johnson, a technologically savvy Checkbook reader in the Seattle area, contacted me to call out Xfinity’s new 10G marketing program as “misleading,” because it makes the service seem better than it is.
“People who are not technologically inclined may not know that 5G and 10G are two completely different things and that 10G is only a [marketing] label, whereas 5G is a legitimate protocol used throughout the cellular industry,” Johnson told Checkbook.
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, founder and publisher of ConsumerWorld.org, also questions the 10G branding.
“It is no accident that Comcast is using the term ‘10G Network’ because most consumers are used to hearing the term ‘5G’ as it relates to the newest and faster network for cell service,” Dworsky told Checkbook. “My concern is that customers are potentially being misled by the term ‘10G Network,’ jumping to the erroneous assumption that 10G must be twice as powerful as 5G.”
“When an industry is complicated for a reasonable consumer, it leaves a lot of room for misleading marketing,” said Laura Smith, legal director at the consumer group Truth in Advertising (TINA.org).
“We don’t know the intent behind the marketing, but certainly, it could very well mislead consumers into thinking a whole host of things. They could interpret Comcast’s 10G as delivering twice the capabilities of 5G [wireless technology] when actually comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.”
This story has been updated to include additional explanations from Comcast regarding its broadband service offerings.
Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He has been protecting consumers for more than 40 years, having covered the consumer beat for CBS News, The Today Show, and NBCNews.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at ConsumerMan.com.