How fast is "super-fast"? How soon is "very soon"?

We live in an age of "super-fast" broadband. But how fast is "super-fast"? An F1 car is super-fast compared to an Enzo. An Enzo is super-fast compared to a BMW 325, which in turn is super-fast compared to a Ford Focus, and the Focus is super-fast compared to a Reliant Robin.

The point is that "super-fast" is a completely and utterly meaningless term and should probably be banned for use in advertising and marketing by the regulators. With regards to broadband speeds, the term "up to" is also frequently used. "Up to 20Mbits!" That means you could get anything from dial up speed to the advertised speed and legally the company is covered.

Some companies have used this to their advantage. I used to pay for a 10Mbit connection and received around 6Mbit. When upgrading to 20 the real speed was 16. This means it was 100% possible to receive the full 10 instead of the 6 and had nothing to do with distance from the exchange or the quality of the line, which are the excuses rolled out by tech support when you ring them to complain . The broadband companies are taking the mick with their "up to" definition in order to coerce customers into upgrading in order to receive a level service they should have had from the lower package.

In a related matter, I recently purchased a new phone. With significantly large cashback from Quidco it made it more economically viable to get the new contract than to remain on the old one. Plus my old phone was on its way out. Orange have been absolutely woeful at customer service, but the main thing I want to focus on with this article is again the use of non-specific adjectives.

The phone in question was due for a new release of firmware around the beginning of November. Android 2.2 Froyo (Frozen Yoghurt) isn't just a point release, there are enormous changes under the bonnet in terms of speed and significant other improvements to the UI, making it much in demand from users running 2.1 Eclair and also a selling point for devices powered by it, compared with, for example, the HTC Mozart which runs on Windows Phone 7.

As is the way with these things, it takes time for the update to trickle down to the users. Initially, Google releases the new version. Then the manufacturers have some input with regards to hardware drivers, and tend to play with the UI to better fit the specific handsets. Finally, the operators decided to pack it with bloatware and further alter the UI (usually making it worse). This basically results in a lengthening of the time taken for a release to make its way to the end users.

The point is not that the users have to wait. In the case of Orange, we've been waiting a lot longer than O2 and Vodafone users, and we've been staring at this screen for over a fortnight. That link is time-sensitive, so I'll quote it here:

"New software coming soon - Android 2.2 software release coming very soon - further news to follow."
Note the use of  the two separate non-specific adverbs there. We've got a "soon" and a "very soon". Much like the super-fast situation earlier, how do we know in what context to define these words? They're a total cop-out used by retailers in order to either deceive their customers or to get away with a large problem.

For the broadband suppliers, it's a case of trying to get on an even footing for the supply of ADSL based services, which are coming up against optical fibre supplies that bring much higher speeds. However, compared to the infrastructure in South Korea the best Virgin Media has to offer is still slow! The term "super-fast" is used to make customers perceive their offerings as being equal, when they are not. In the minds of the suppliers of those services it allows them to compete more on price and other areas, as they are clearly beaten in the speed stakes by fibre optic services.

In the case of Orange, it's clear that they've made errors either with the development of their bloatware release of Froyo, or with their timescale estimations. Perhaps they've introduced new bugs and are beavering away behind the scenes trying to hack it into a working state. However, it's best to be more open about it then they have been. Rather than sticking with their "very soon" line they need to admit at the very least a segment of what's gone wrong and update the release timeframe with something more meaningful.

They may think that it makes them look incompetent to admit if they've made mistakes with it, but they're looking incompetent anyway. They may as well admit what's happened and try to rebuild some rapport with their customers. Personally, I wouldn't trust anything they say at the moment. That's not a good situation for a business to be in with its customers.