24 Differences Between Leased Line and FTTC Connections

You might be wondering what the differences are between leased lines and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband connections. So we've put together a comparison of FTTC and leased lines, so you tell the relative advantages and disadvantages of each option.

One difference between leased lines and FTTC is that the former offer a high-capacity service

Leased Line vs FTTC

There are several key differences between Leased Lines and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband:


    Leased lines cost a lot more than FTTC. Hundreds of pounds per month compared to tens of pounds for broadband. That's because you're getting a lot more in return for the extra money, as you'll discover below.

    Download Speed

    Leased Lines are often much faster than FTTC, offering fixed download speeds of up to 10Gbps (10,000Mbps), compared to up to 80Mbps for FTTC.

    In practice, the difference is stark, but not quite so stark. People typically order leased lines with a speed of 100Mbps or 1Gbps. In contrast, FTTC typically has download speeds of 46.8Mbps according to data published by OFCOM in November 2020. So leased lines are typically 2 to 22 times faster than FTTC.

    The reason FTTC is so much slower is that it uses a copper/fibre hybrid network, whereas most leased lines use fibre-optic circuits for the whole journey.

    Upload Speed

    FTTC broadband typically offers 'up to' 20Mbps upstream, whereas leased lines offer up to 10 Gbps (10,000 Mbps).

    In practice, the difference is even bigger. Leased line speeds are symmetrical - the downstream speed matches the upstream speed. FTTC broadband speeds are asymmetrical - one speed - the upstream speed from you to the Internet - is much slower than the downstream speed - from the Internet to you.


    Leased lines' bandwidth is dedicated solely to the subscribers use. FTTC broadband is almost always contended - i.e. the bit from you to the green 'cabinet' close by is dedicated to you, but from there you have to fight over subscribers for the available bandwidth from there to your ISP.

    Target Market

    Leased lines are typically ordered by organisations. FTTC 'fibre broadband' tends to be ordered by consumers. There are exceptions. Sometimes financial traders order leased lines for their comparatively low latency and their reliability. Sometimes businesses order FTTC as a cheap imperfect backup to their leased line circuit, or to connect their smallest offices and homeworkers to the Internet.

    Target Fix Times

    If a physical fault occurs on a leased line, it will usually be fixed within around 5-8 hours. If a physical fault occurs on an FTTC line, it will typically take days to be fixed. Leased lines are a premium product, in comparison to FTTC broadband, so they get a better service.

    Service Level Agreements

    Leased lines tend to come with Service Level Agreements. FTTC broadband connections tend not to come with these, though some business ISPs do offer Service Level Agreements for FTTC.

    Traffic Throttling

    Leased lines tend to be genuinely unmetered and unthrottled. You can use them as much as you like without the ISP slowing you down or charging you extra. In comparison, FTTC tends to come with traffic throttling/shaping if you use your 'unmetered' connection too much.

    Support Levels

    Leased lines usually come with 24/7 support, usually by phone and email as a minimum. FTTC connections tend to have much shorter support hours - typically just covering extended business hours. Often, with FTTC broadband, extensive efforts go to stopping the subscriber talking to a support person - with support phone numbers hidden behind mandatory online FAQs to discourage subscribers from ever calling. With leased lines, when you call, you tend to get through to a support technician very quickly. With FTTC broadband, you will often have to wait tens of minutes in a queue instead.

    IP Addressing

    This is a commercial difference with no technical basis, however, leased lines tend to come with at least one static IPv4 address, and often more e.g. 8 or potentially more on request. FTTC tends to come with one IP address that's dynamic, i.e. it will occasionally change. Businesses prefer the former as it makes it easier to write firewall rules (as the IP addresses are predictable and don't change without warning). Leased line providers and FTTC network operators are likely to offer IPv6 addresses too, operating dual-stack networks.

    Resilience options

    With FTTC, in the UK, you often have no control over the path by which your connection travels. It goes that one route, and if you don't like it, tough. With leased lines, there's usually the option to get a second connection that travels largely or wholly through a different physical path, e.g. by using two different underlying network operators, or by using one provider that can provide diversely-routed circuits.

    Copper v Fibre

    Leased lines - at least those offering 100Mbps or more, and most of those offering 12Mbps or more, are based on using fibre-optic circuits from your location to your ISP's core network. In contrast to such fibre leased lines, FTTC uses copper-wiring to connect your site to a green box that's near-ish to you. This box is known as a cabinet (hence fibre-to-the-CABINET). It's in that cabinet that the electrical signals sent over copper wires are transferred over to fibre-optic cables. The result is that FTTC is more affected by electrical interference than fibre leased lines, e.g. flashing Christmas tree lights, and power cables can cause interference. Fibre-optic cables aren't materially affected by this, as they use light instead of electricity for most of the distance.


    Both leased lines and FTTC broadband tend to be used for general internet access, including email. However leased lines tend to be used for remote desktop sessions, online backup, SIP trunking and video conferencing, video conferencing and accessing SaaS services and web site hosting (at least for corporate employees) whereas FTTC broadband tends to be used for gaming and much more video consumption e.g. Netflix, BBC iPlayer etc, as leased lines tend to be installed into offices, whereas FTTC tends to be used primarily in residential settings.


    If your leased line is to slow, you can almost always upgrade it, often up to 10Gbps (or sometimes even 100Gbps, though this is a very rare requirement just used by internet service providers or firms with giant offices). Often the underlying 'bearer' circuit will be unchanged. For example, if you order 200/1000 (200Mbps provisioned on a 1000Mbps circuit), upgrading to 1000/1000 is largely be a contractual issue, perhaps with a new router sent out to your site. FTTC broadband, in contrast, tends not to be upgradable, as you're usually at the limits of what FTTC can provide, contention reductions aside. If you wanted to upgrade from FTTC your options would be to pay for FTTP-on-demand (FTTPoD), G.Fast or to wait for FTTPoD or G.Fast to arrive. The former involves the copper cable that links you to your nearest street cabinet being entirely replaced. The latter involves part of that copper being replaced, with typically only the last bit closest to your site being replaced with fibre-optic cabling.

    Latency, Jitter and Packet Loss

    Leased lines tend to have less delay (latency), absolute variation in delay (jitter) and data loss (packet loss) than FTTC broadband connections, as the latter are adversely affected by electrical interference in the part of the network closest to you, where FTTC sends signals over copper wires. Leased lines are sold to businesses, so there are often 'Quality of Service options, where you can choose for some network traffic to take precedence over others, to improve the user experience. For example, prioritising phone call traffic over YouTube videos of skateboarding cats.

    Geographic Availability of Top Speeds

    Leased lines top routinely offered top speed - 10Gbps - is available throughout most of the UK. FTTC's top download speed 80Mbps requires you to be so close to the local FTTC cabinet that essentially that speed is apocryphal, with typical connections getting around 45Mbps. That's an average, so a lot of people get much worse speeds. That's because FTTC uses copper wiring - typically actual phone lines - and the electrical signal gets weaker the longer the distance the signal has to travel. So even if you want just 50Mbps, there's a better than average chance that 'up to 80Mbps' FTTC won't be able to provide it, whereas a leased line could.

    Price Deflation

    Leased lines and FTTC broadband have both fallen massively in price. However, falls for FTTC are probably coming to an end, as providers make low margins and the network build has already happened. Leased lines, on the other hand, are likely to continue to fall in price, partly because leased line providers can offset the loss in revenue from price cuts by selling faster connections, whereas FTTC is already close to maxed out in terms of speed. G.Fast would, in theory, offer another way to 'sweat the copper' network - getting more speed from much of the FTTC infrastructure. However, with governments encouraging full-fibre broadband, broadband ISPs tend to see little point in investing in a minor upgrade that will be largely worthless in five years time.


    Leased lines tend to come with a proper enterprise-grade router e.g. ones made by enterprise-centric vendors such as Cisco or Juniper. FTTC broadband connections tend to come with cheaper hardware, such as models from manufacturers such as Huawei and Sagemcom. In the industry jargon, the equipment which is sent to the ISP's customer's site is known as Customer Premise Equipment. The difference between the enterprise and consumer-grade hardware tends to show up in things such as the maximum throughput, the reliability and whether the devices can be used to set up a wide-area-network linking multiple sites or to failover to a backup connection if one exists. Enterprise models also tend to offer more sophisticated Quality of Service options. Some may even have Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) capabilities.

    Network Architecture

    You can get a leased line from one site to another, potentially without connecting to your ISP's core network. With FTTC broadband, your only choice is to connect each site separately and have your ISP join up the two circuits in the middle. This isn't the end of the world, but for high-throughput or low-latency uses, sometimes this lack of choice is suboptimal. FTTC broadband circuits tend to be a single connection for a single provider, and that's the sum of it. Leased lines are often part of a bigger network - a corporate wide area network (WAN) that links multiple sites together. FTTC broadband connections ordered by residential users tend to be the sole connection. Leased lines often have a backup connection, to increase uptime. FTTC broadband connections tend to be connected to directly by residential end-users, via WiFi, via ethernet cables etc. Leased lines, in contrast, tend to plug into firewalls that plug into switches, or into switches that are plugged into firewalls. In both cases, a firewall and a switch are between the leased line and the end-user.

    Role in Mobile Backhaul

    A large minority of leased lines are used to connect mobile base-stations to the mobile provider's core network. Unlike leased lines, FTTC broadband isn't used for that purpose, as it lacks sufficient bandwidth.

    Advanced Notice of Planned Outages

    In general, leased line providers give their subscribers advanced warning of engineering they are planning which may cause connectivity to be lost. FTTC broadband suppliers, as a general rule, don't tend to provide such warning.

    Dominant Suppliers

    The leased line and FTTC broadband markets have a different set of dominant suppliers - at the retail and wholesale levels, though they are similar. In the UK, the big consumer ISPs, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have a large market share for FTTC broadband, leased line retail and leased line wholesale services. However, beyond that, there isn't necessarily as much overlap, particularly at the retail level. For example, hSo (us!) and Spitfire don't focus on selling to consumers.

    Pricing Variability by Geography

    FTTC broadband prices tend to be uniform through vast swathes of the country. Leased lines, on the other hand, tend to have far more price points and far more variance of price by location.

    Commercial Distribution Model

    Leased lines tend to be sold by salesmen. FTTC broadband tends to be bought by the subscriber themselves, online, without talking to anyone. The result is that FTTC tends to be a cookie cutter service, whereas leased lines can be more bespoke service.

As you can see, there are major differences between FTTC and leased line connections that help explain the large difference in price.

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