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Speed differences between leased lines and broadband

From Zoom calls to the transfer of valuable documents – with data transfer becoming critical to both business operations and our personal lives, there’s an increasing need to evaluate the performance and reliability of our internet services. Access to robust connectivity, like that provided by leased lines, has never been more important.

The difference between regular broadband and leased lines

Fibre broadband is the most common choice for households needing an internet connection. While this will establish a link between your premises and the local exchange, the connection is not unique to you; it will be contended. This means the connection is shared with other users.

Just as in the real world, too much traffic on the same route can cause the flow of traffic to slow. Peak time traffic tends to occur when lots of people are trying to use the same connection at the same time. This typically coincides with work patterns, like the real-world rush hour: traffic spikes when everyone gets home from work in the evenings, or when getting ready to go to work in the mornings. On a contended connection, this results in slower internet speeds for everyone sharing the connection.

A fibre or ADSL broadband connection is also asymmetric. This means that downstream (download) and upstream (upload) speeds are not equal. Generally, upstream speeds will be a fraction of the maximum downstream speed.

Broadband connection network speed test

A dedicated leased line for your exclusive use

A leased line also establishes an internet connection between your premises and your local exchange. However, a leased line is for your use only, so you are not competing for bandwidth with other users, at any time of the day. As it is an uncontended service, it is sometimes also referred to as a ‘dedicated’ internet connection’.

A leased line also provides a symmetrical connection. This means downstream speeds are equal to upstream speeds. If you need to create, handle, and push out a lot of data, a leased line can be a smart choice.

Internet speed and bandwidth explained

Bandwidth refers to the volume of data that can be transferred within a specific period. Speed relates to the rate of data transfer. Your bandwidth capacity will be constrained by several external factors, including the capabilities of your ISP and the physical infrastructure leading up to your property. Confusingly, both bandwidth and speed are expressed as a measurement of the flow of data per second, typically using Mbps (megabits per second) as the unit of measure.

The relationship between speed and bandwidth can lead to confusion and misconceptions. For example, if an individual connection has a bandwidth of 1 Mbps, it does not necessarily mean that you have a slower connection than a neighbour who is promised an advertised download speed of 12 Mbps. If you and eleven neighbours all theoretically initiated an identical data transfer at the same time, on the same contended 12Mbps connection, you would potentially all experience a maximum data transfer rate of 1Mbps!

Fibre optic network cables for fibre and leased line connectivity

The example above works on the principle that all data transfers are equal. In the real world, different applications and processes require different amounts of bandwidth. For example, while a single static web page of text and compressed photos may only use a couple megabytes (2MB), a one hour group Zoom call could use in excess of a gigabyte (1GB or 1024MB) depending on how many people are on the call.

Other issues that may affect speed are old wiring, poor connections, and the distance of your premises from the local exchange. In rural areas, these problems are more common, leading to slower transfer speeds.

The type of internet connection you have in place will affect data transfer rates. If you’re using a contended broadband connection shared with 50 other users, it’s unlikely you will experience the advertised maximum speeds promised by your ISP during peak times. If you are on a leased line, it’s much more likely that you will enjoy the promised maximum speeds consistently, even if you’re maximum speed is less than that of a fibre connection.

Rural area prone to slower network speeds and unreliable connectivity

The choice between leased lines and fibre broadband

As individual consumers, we tend to download more than we upload. It’s therefore no surprise that most residential broadband consumers gravitate towards higher advertised download speeds, without consideration for bandwidth limitations or asymmetric connectivity.

There will be times when shared usage is going to be more of a problem. In addition to peak time usage, it’s also worth considering how bandwidth may be affected if you live in a multiple occupancy house or family home. If many people will be competing for bandwidth in one location, experienced speeds may suffer further.

Leased lines are often preferred by businesses. It’s an attractive prospect for an organisation that conducts a significant proportion of its business online. If you rely on IP telephony and video conferencing for communication, or transfer a lot of data between locations, for example to cloud backup services, a reliable and consistent internet connection is a requirement.

Leased lines may not be for everyone, but they can offer significant advantages over a standard ADSL or fibre broadband connection. For more information on leased lines, check out our article on comparative leased line pricing. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch for a discussion about your specific needs.