20 Differences Between Leased Line and FTTP Connections

Increasingly, as FTTP is rolled out, businesses will want to compare leased line to FTTP to check which option is right for them. Here are the main differences between FTTP and leased lines that you need to know.

FTTP uses fibre-optic cables to transmit data. Most leased lines do too, but they also offer an uncontended service.

Leased Line vs FTTP Broadband


    Leased lines are available almost everywhere. Fibre to the Premises connections aren't. As of June 2020, ThinkBroadband estimated that only around 14.2% of the UK premises can get FTTP. This number is growing but it's going to take many years for FTTP's geographic availability to reach levels similar to that of leased lines. The commercial roll-out of FTTP is currently focused on connecting the easier parts of the country first - dense areas in the middle of cities and major towns. As time goes on, connecting new addresses will get progressively harder, as there will be greater distances involved, fewer large multi-occupancy buildings, fewer businesses and more price-conscious consumers. Meanwhile, UK Government subsidies are focused on connecting low-density rural locations, partly to avoid undermining the slow commercial roll-out of FTTP, and partly to avoid falling foul of EU state-aid rules to which the UK is likely to broadly adhere, even post-Brexit. The end result is that much of suburban Britain is going to come last when it comes to the FTTP roll-out, having to wait years for it to arrive.

    Ongoing Cost

    FTTP broadband is often far cheaper per month than a leased line, if you can get it. Partly because it's a contended service, whereas leased lines are uncontended. Partly because it's a lower-spec service aimed at the premium end of the residential broadband market.

    Downstream Speed

    Leased line connection speeds can be 10 Gbps, i.e. 10,000 Mbps. Fibre-to-the-premises broadband speeds vary by provider, but typically the headline speed is often 1Gbps.

    Upstream Speed

    Leased lines have an upload speed of up to 10 Gbps. FTTP upload speeds vary by provider. Some offer symmetrical speeds, i.e. 1Gbps upstream on a 1Gbps connection. Some offer slower upload speeds.

    Bandwidth Contention

    With a leased line, 100% of the bandwidth on the connection is dedicated to you. With fibre-to-the-premises, you typically get up to 32 customers fighting for the same bandwidth, which results in significant reductions in throughput at times.

    Typical Subscriber

    Leased lines are ordered by businesses. Some FTTP providers focus on business districts (e.g. central London) serving businesses and nearby consumers. Others mainly focus on rolling-out their network to residential areas. Their subscriber base reflects this.

    Promptness of Fault Resolution

    Leased line providers provide an SLA on how long it will take them to fix physical faults. Fibre-to-the-premises providers, at least when serving residential customers, tend not to provide such guarantees.


    Leased lines come with Service Level Agreements that tend to guarantee a certain percentage of uptime. FTTP connections tend not to offer these.

    Traffic Shaping and Metering

    Leased lines can be used all day, every day, so you have unlimited data transfers. Some fibre-to-the-premises connections come with a monthly data transfer quota. Alternatively, they tend to have a 'fair usage policy' that allows the ISP to throttle your speeds if you use your connection too much.

    Technical Support

    - Leased line connections come with 24/7 support. Some FTTP connections get 24/7 support, others just get support within business hours or extended business hours.

    IP Addresses

    Leased lines tend to come with at least one static IPv4 address, and normally a small IP address range. Fibre-to-the-premises connections may nor may not offer a static IP address, particularly if you sign up to a service aimed at consumers rather than businesses.

    Backup Connectivity Options

    With a leased line, you can often get a backup connection that largely or wholly travels a different route - at a cost. With FTTP, that tends not to be possible, as the nearest backup options FTTC and ADSL tend to involve your data travelling through the same ducts to the same green street cabinets and on to the same network notes, as fibre-to-the-premises - particularly FTTP on demand - is essentially a bit of fibre-optic cabling tacked on to the existing FTTC infrastructure.

    Typical Uses

    Leased lines are used to connect offices, carrying general internet traffic, phone calls (using SIP and cloud-hosted telephony signals), for inter-company data transfers, for data backup and for video conferencing. Fibre-to-the-premises is overwhelmingly used by residential addresses rather than businesses, so its main use is for general internet surfing, video streaming and gaming. FTTP is used by businesses in some central city areas, where there is a high density of buildings and residential premises tend to be multi-tenanted buildings.


    With leased lines tend to be far more upgradable than contended FTTP connections. For example, if you have a 40Mbps leased line it's likely to be delivered over a 100Mbps bearer circuit. If you have a 200Mbps leased line, it's likely to be delivered over a 1Gbps bearer circuit. Typical bearer speeds here in the UK are 100Mbps, 1Gbps, 10Gbps and 100Gbps. Fibre-to-the-premises is often delivered by delivering a 10 Gbps connection, then rigidly splitting the bandwidth between 30 subscribers, so each gets at most 333 Mbps downstream. Some FTTP providers do offer higher speeds, e.g. a contended 1 Gbps, but it's not normally possible to upgrade to a higher speed, except by paying for a deluxe version which does nothing to raise your connection speed but results in your traffic being prioritised when there's network congestion.

    Connection Quality

    Leased lines are the gold standard, whereas fibre-to-the-premises takes the silver. This is largely because leased lines are uncontended whereas FTTP connections tend to be contended, so the latter suffer more variations in throughput, packet loss and transmission delays (jitter). Even if you leave aside the differences caused by contention, leased lines tend to be more reliable than FTTP as often they will be monitored for downtime by the leased line provider, whereas individual FTTP connections tend not to be monitored. So if there's ever a physical fault that affects just your line, it's likely to be spotted sooner if you have a 'managed' leased line instead of an unmanaged FTTP connection. In addition, leased line faults are likely to be fixed faster.

    Price Trends

    Both leased lines and FTTP connections are likely to fall in price. Bit-for-bit, leased line price falls are likely to be steeper than FTTP ones, as FTTP price falls will be constrained by providers needing to spend vast sums rolling out FTTP to millions of premises. Digging up the road and the pavement to install fibre-optic cable is very costly once you get outside high-density urban areas such as city centres and start connecting non-multi-tenant buildings.

    Role in Mobile Networks

    Leased lines are used for mobile phone backhaul. FTTP isn't.

    Heads-up on Planned Work

    Leased line providers tend to tell customers in advance about engineering work they have planned. FTTP providers generally won't tell their residential customers about such works, taking the attitude 'You're not going to be awake at 2 am on a Tuesday anyway, so why would I bother telling you about potential downtime you won't notice.' Leased line subscribers, in contrast, tend to use their connections outside of business hours routinely, for example to backup large amounts of corporate data when no-one is using the office network. Leased line customers also tend to use their connection to carry phone calls, and so 24/7 support or order lines could be impacted by downtime. As a result, leased line providers tend to forewarn their customers about planned work that might impact their connection.

    Main Suppliers

    Though providers such as BT, TalkTalk, Zen and Spitfire offer both leased lines and FTTP, that's the exception to the rule. Generally, leased line providers do not offer FTTP as it's not widely available at business sites yet so to mention it to prospective customers is to invite disappointment. Openreach is likely to continue to have the largest FTTP network. The nearest pure-play fibre rival to Openreach is CityFibre, which has bought various local fibre networks from TalkTalk (FibreNation), local authorities and failed network operators, then expanded the network footprint. Other major FTTP suppliers include Hyperoptic and Gigaclear.

    Pricing Consistency

    FTTP pricing is far more uniform than leased line pricing, for several reasons. Firstly, the product is primarily mass-marketed to residential customers, so price structures have to be simple, even if that means some customers subsidising others. Secondly, with FTTP there is less competition at the infrastructure and wholesale levels of the telecoms market than is the case for leased lines. Most UK sites that can get FTTP can only get it via one underlying network - Openreach's. A few sites could get it via two networks, e.g. Openreach's or CityFibre's, with no other carriers networks involved in getting the data back from the site to the ISP. Although the FTTP monthly price may be more uniform than leased line pricing, FTTP installation prices may still vary a great deal by location, particularly if the service is based on the FTTPoD (FTTP on demand) service provided by Openreach. With leased lines, typically the installation costs are swallowed by the leased line provider and recouped over three years, except where there are excess construction charges (ECCs). With FTTPoD, in most cases, you'll have to pay a four-figure installation charge upfront. In both cases, the final price will only be known after a site survey has been carried out.

    How Sold

    FTTP is likely to be sold online, like FTTC. Leased Lines continue to be sold offline by salesmen, as it's a higher-cost product where buyers often need additional or alternative services, such as sip trunks for telephony, a wide-area-network or a firewall.

Unfortunately for most businesses, FTTP isn't going to be arriving any time soon and a leased line is likely to be their best option of getting a materially faster connection. There's an FTTP availability checker on Openreach's website.

Most ISPs have decided that getting residential customers and SMEs to stump up circa £2000 for fibre installation and £150+/month for faster broadband is a non-starter. Until Openreach, its wholesale-level resellers (such as TalkTalk), or OFCOM decide to radically simplify the installation charges, and make them far more predictable, FTTPoD is likely to go nowhere because it will get almost no marketing support.

The FTTP rollout will slowly make gigabit broadband available to 90+% of the UK by 2025 or thereabouts, with urban areas and central suburban areas getting it first. UK government grants will continue to focus on rural areas, for example with the Gigabit Voucher scheme. In the meantime, most locations can already order a gigabit connection by speaking to a leased line provider.

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