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Published 19 June 2015

Alex Innard

Alex Innard
Head of IT

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Broadband vs Leased Lines

As the availability of ever faster broadband continues to increase thanks to technology advancement, businesses are asking what options are available to them to upgrade their internet connections.

Previously, ADSL2+ brought speeds of up to 24 Mbps, then FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) was introduced to deliver up to 40 Mbps. Trials of FTTP (fibre to the premises) are now taking place, offering theoretical speeds of up to 100 Mbps or more. Annex-M on traditional copper lines increased the upload speed of ADSL2+ and EFM (bonded copper lines) was introduced. Whilst all of this was happening, Virgin Media (and its predecessors) were offering up speeds of up to 100 Mbps over their traditional cable network.

For business customers the latest broadband technologies appear to have a lot to offer. For example, a high speed FTTC connection with an appropriate bandwidth allowance has ample capacity for businesses wanting to use SIP (voice), linking remote workers and offices, and accessing centrally hosted (cloud) applications. As long as the service provider’s network is properly managed, many small and medium sized businesses can indeed use traditional business broadband connections. Many of our existing customers make use of business ADSL or FTTC connections.

There are, however commercial and operational factors that can mean traditional broadband doesn’t fit the bill. These depend on what customers are trying to achieve, criticality, and how important connectivity is.

These factors include:

  • The need for a connection that isn’t shared with anybody else. All broadband connections are contended, usually at 20:1.
  • The need for a financially backed SLA with guaranteed uptime and dedicated fix times. Most broadband connections only offer an average of a 40 hour fix from the network provider – Openreach (part of British Telecom.)
  • Guaranteed download AND upload speed, often linked with SLA’s. Almost all broadband connections do not provide a symmetric, guaranteed speed and are usually delivered over copper wires.

Leased lines, available from a plethora of providers provide corporate grade connectivity that counters all of the above factors. Leased lines can be seen by some businesses as a necessity due to the following factors:

  • Contention is always 1:1. Leased lines are provide a dedicated connection used only by your business, between your premises and the operator’s point of presence (usually a telephone exchange.)
  • SLA fix time is measured in hours rather than days. In the event of a fault, you can expect an engineer from the network provider on site within four hours in most cases, but usually sooner. Leased lines usually come with an ADSL backup line which provides fail-over to keep the business running.
  • Bandwidth is almost always uncapped and always delivered over fibre optic cables from end-to-end. The maximum available speeds is currently 1Gbps. This is available in increments of 10 Mbps up to 100 Mbps and then in increments of 100 Mbps thereafter. These speeds are symmetric, both upload and download are the same.

Leased lines provide flexibility to allow businesses to meet future bandwidth needs as they grow. For example, many businesses purchase a leased line on a 100 Mbps bearer (maximum line rate), nonetheless with a top speed of 10 Mbps (committed data rate.) They can then ratchet this speed up in increments of 10 Mbps with just one call to their provider as the need for more speed arises, without the need to install a bigger connection or consider bonding existing ones.

So, has faster broadband technology signalled the end of leased lines?

Definitely not! Faster broadband is indeed helping businesses drive productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, however the trend for orders of 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps leased lines is upward. Market forces and regulation are bringing down the cost of leased line rental and making them more and more accessible to small and medium sized business customers. Only this month, Ofcom have announced wholesale price cuts for leased lines before 2016 and there is currently a government backed voucher scheme offering discounts to entice businesses to take on this type of connectivity.

The features of leased lines make them ideal platforms for enabling customers to improve the way they work by supporting their voice and data sharing requirements both now and in the future.

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