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Gold Standard Criteria

Not all Networks are the same. Choosing the right network for your broadband connection is an important decision if you want the best and most future-proof solution. It’s not easy to cut through the conflicting claims and marketing hyperbole. That’s why INCA has created the Gold Standard scheme. With a common set of criteria for all, there are specific definitions for Full Fibre, Hybrid Fibre, Wireless and Wholesale.

If you choose an INCA Gold Standard Network, you can be sure it meets the highest standards to deliver a service you can rely on – both now and as your needs grow in future.

  1. The Gold Standard
  2. Criteria for all Gold Standard marks
  3. The Full Fibre Standard
  4. The Hybrid Fibre Standard
  5. The Wireless Standard
  6. The Wholesale Standard
  7. Glossary

1. The Gold Standard

The INCA Gold Standard is earned by networks who commit to the principles in this criteria document. Each application is assessed against these criteria by INCA’s specialists before the right to use the Gold Standard logo is awarded. This is reviewed at membership renewal date.

2. Criteria for all Gold Standards

Membership Responsibilities

Clear and Accurate Marketing Information

  • Abide by the Ofcom 2019 Voluntary Code of Practice: Business Broadband Speeds 
  • Abide by the Ofcom 2019 Voluntary Code of Practice: Residential Broadband Speeds
  • More info on these Codes is here. In short:
    • Improved relevancy of speed estimates by reflecting peak time speeds
    • Providing a minimum guaranteed download speed at the point of sale
    • Improving the process of the right to exit
    • Widening the scope of the codes to cover all technologies
  • Abide by ASA Guidelines
  • If a speed name that appears on the list as maintained by the INCA Standards Group is used, the definition of the speed on the list will be used.

Customer Care

Network Standards

The network will, as a minimum, comply with the BDUK and EU definition of Next Generation Access EU Guidelines 2013 as in S3.1 Types of Broadband Networks:

These Basic Broadband technologies are not NGA:

  • up to ADSL2+, non-enhanced cable (e.g. DOCSIS 2.0), mobile 3G up to UMTS, satellite.

NGA networks:

  • wholly or partly optical
  • services with enhanced characteristics compared with existing basic
  • very high speed per subscriber through optical or equivalent backhaul, close enough to user premises to guarantee the very high speed
  • support advanced digital services including converged all-IP services
  • substantially higher upload speeds compared to basic

NGA includes:

  • Advanced upgraded cable at least DOCSIS 3.0
  • Advanced wireless access networks capable of reliable high speeds per subscriber (Case SA 33671)
    • speeds in excess of 30 Mbps, latency/jitter enabling advanced services e.g. video conference, HD video stream

Note: the Guidelines do not specifically state NGA = 30 Mbps but it is a strong implication as 30 Mbps is referenced in the Introduction. Case SA 33671 (BDUK NBS 2012) does specify in excess of 30 Mbps for wireless.

3. Full Fibre

The network comprises Fibre to the Home / FTTH and/or Fibre to the Building / FTTB as per FTTH Council definitions.In the UK, Fibre to the Premise / FTTP is equivalent to FTTH.

4. Hybrid Fibre

Network technologies are Fibre to the Cabinet / FTTC, Fibre to the Node / FTTN with some other (usually copper) connection to the premise, or advanced cable (DOCSIS 3.0 and above).

5. Wireless

Fixed Wireless NGA as per BDUK/EU Guidelines:

  • optical or equivalent backhaul
  • Advanced wireless access networks capable of reliable high speeds per subscriber (Case SA 33671)
    • speeds in excess of 30Mbps, latency/jitter enabling advanced services e.g. video conference, HD video stream

Legal use of licensed or unlicensed spectrum.
Operated as “good neighbour” to minimise interference.

6. Wholesale

The Wholesale criteria cover 5 areas based on principles in the BDUK National Broadband Scheme, NICC Interoperability Standards, Network Charter, Equivalence and Switching.

  1. Open Access Principles - compatible with BDUK State Aid requirements; supports access by a multiplicity of service providers.
  2. Interoperability Standards - compliant with Ofcom access and interconnection requiremens; ensures ease of connection with other networks.
  3. Products and Services - recommended format for product, services and support definitions; clarifies commercial and operational offer for service providers
  4. Equivalence Principles - commitment to a level commercial playing field for customers
  5. Switching - supports efficient migration serving as wide as possible a range of service providers

Details, references and a downloadable document are at Gold Standard Wholesale Criteria.

7. Glossary

Access segment: That part of a network which connects the backhaul to the end-user. Also known as ‘last mile'.

ADSL: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Uses an existing copper phone line to carry a broadband connection from the cabinet to the premise. Max speed of 12 Mbps download, 1.3 Mbps upload. Reaches typically 2km from the cabinet.

ADSL2: Version of ADSL which can reach speeds up to 24 Mbps download, 1.4 Mbps upload. Reaches no more than 1km at full speed, then progressively lower speeds down to 1.5 Mbps at 5km.

ALA: Active Line Access

ASA: Advertising Standards Authority. Regulator for advertising in UK. Publishes guidance for broadband speed claims in advertising.

Backhaul: That part of a network which connects the Access segment to the core network.

BDUK: Broadband Delivery UK, part of DCMS, delivering superfast and local full fibre networks.

BEIS: The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Formed from a merger of BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) and DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change).

Core network: The part of the network that connects to the backhauls to give them access both to each other, the rest of the network and the interconnections with other networks.

CP: Communications Provider. A person who provides an Electronic Communications Network or an Electronic Communications Service. Defined in OFCOM General Conditions.

CPE: Customer Premise Equipment. The modem or router sited at the customer premise which delivers the broadband service and to which the customer can connect.

Dark fibre: Fibre without any equipment connected to light up the fibre and carry transmissions.

DCMS: The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport , the UK government department responsible for broadband infrastructure policy.

DOCSIS:  Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, a set of specifications for data transmission over, typically, the coaxial cable used in TV networks..

DSLAM: A Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer, typically installed at a telephone exchange, connects a number of individual subscriber lines to the broadband network.

Duct: The pipe or conduit through which cables are laid.

ECN: An Electronic Communications Network is a transmission system for conveying messages (data) electronically. Defined by OFCOM as the network itself as opposed to the services carried across it. Both ECN and ECS are provided by Communications Providers.

ECS: An Electronic Communications Service is a service which conveys data across a network. Both ECS and ECN are provided by Communications Providers.

EMP: Equivalence Management Platform.

FTTB: Fibre To The Building. An FTTx network in which the fibre extends to the building and then a different technology, such as copper cable, coax or LAN, is used to connect each individual subscriber in the building. Could be apartments or office blocks.

FTTC: Fibre To The Cabinet (or Curb). An FTTx network in which the fibre extends to a telecoms cabinet in the street and the final connection is carried to the subscriber over a different technology, such as an existing copper telephone line or coax cable. Essentially the same as FTTN.

FTTH: Fibre To The Home. An FTTx network in which the fibre connection extends all the way to the subscriber’s home. Also known as FTTP.

FTTH Council Europe: An industry body promoting ubiquitous fibre-based connectivity.

FTTN: Fibre To The Node. An FTTx network, Essentially the same as FTTC.

FTTP: Fibre To The Premise. An FTTx network in which the fibre connection extends all the way to the subscriber’s home or business or other premise.

FTTx: A network using optical fibre for all or part of the connection from the network backbone to the end user.  Stands for “Fibre To The anything” and hence includes FTTB, FTTC, FTTH, FTTN, FTTP.

GPON: Gigabit Passive Optical Network. A type of Point-to-Multipoint FTTP where unpowered devices enable a single fibre to serve multiple endpoints.

INCA: The Independent Networks Cooperative Association. The UK body for Independent Network builders and operators.

LLU: Local Loop Unbundling allows Communications Providers other than BT to install their own equipment in telephone exchanges and provide services to customers via their existing telephone line.

NCC: National Competence Centre. A part of BDUK with the brief of ensuring state funded broadband projects are in technical and commercial compliance with EU State Aid Guidelines 2013.

Network: A broadband network will have a core network with connections to other networks and equipment to provide services to its customers, and a set of Backhauls which connect to the Access segment for connection to end-users.

NGA: Next Generation Access. Access networks which rely wholly or partly on optical elements and which are capable of delivering broadband with enhanced characteristics. Includes DOCSIS 3.0 and some advanced wireless.

NGN: Next Generation Network. A network with the same characteristics as NGA except without an Access segment to connect the end user.

NIC: National Infrastructure Commission. A body set up to provide the UK government with impartial, expert advice on infrastructure (including broadband networks  and 5G).

NICC: The technical forum for the UK communications sector developing interoperability standards for public communications networks and services in UK.

NTE: Network Termination Equipment. The equipment at the end of the operator's network which hands-off the service to the local network or end user. In the latter case, it may also be the CPE (Customer Premise Equipment).

Ofcom: The UK regulator for communications services including broadband networks, network operators and service providers.

PIA: Physical Infrastructure Access. An Openreach product which allows network builders to install their own fibre using Openreach’s ducts and poles . Other infrastructure owners may have a similar offer.

Point-to-Point/P2P: A Point to Point network gives each subscriber an individual connection back to the core network.

Point-to-Multipoint: A Point to Multipoint network serves a number of subscribers on each shared connection back to the core network.

Pole: In this context, usually the poles carrying telephone lines.

QoS: Quality of Service.

SLA: Service Level Agreement.

Superfast: Term given to broadband speeds of over 24 Mbps (faster than ADSL2+ max speed).

USC: Universal Service Commitment.

USO: Universal Service Obligation.

VDSL2: Second-generation VDSL2 systems (ITU-T G.993.2 Approved in February 2006) utilize bandwidth of up to 30 MHz to provide data rates exceeding 100 Mbit/s simultaneously in both the upstream and downstream directions. The maximum available bit rate is achieved at a range of about 300 meters; performance degrades as the loop attenuation increases.

WLA: Wholesale Local Access.


8. Websites

ASA: Advertising Standards Authority
BDUK: Broadband Delivery UK
BEIS: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
DCMS: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
FTTH Council Europe
INCA: Independent Networks Cooperative Association
NICC Standards