Leased Line Broadband Doesn’t Exist – Comparing Leased Lines v Broadband

'Leased line broadband' doesn't exist. Leased lines and broadband are very different from each other:

Leased Lines are Dedicated, most Broadband Connections Are Contended

'Dedicated' means the bandwidth is reserved solely for your use, at all times.

'Contended' means your traffic has to compete against that of other broadband subscribers for use of the limited bandwidth linking your local telephone exchange to your ISP.  This results in broadband connections becoming slower at peak times, when lots of other customers are trying to use the same limited amount of bandwidth.

By limited, I mean that for ever 30-50Mbps of connectivity customers think they've been sold, only 1Mbps of backhaul bandwidth is provisioned. The ADSL ISPs hope that only a small minority of customers will use their broadband connections at any given time. They also hope that when customers use their connections, they'll seldom use more than a fraction of the bandwidth they've been sold. This works surprisingly well most of the time.

It's only at peak times that people start to notice that they're not getting the throughput they were expecting. Broadband ISPs try to hide the contention by throttling some traffic during busy periods, so that the most visible types of traffic - streaming media, VoIP and web surfing are less affected than would otherwise be the case.

Leased Lines are Symmetric, Broadband is Asymmetric

Leased lines offer the same high speed in both directions. Broadband connections have two different speeds: a downstream speed (the one that's mentioned in all the ads), and a far slower speed in the opposite direction.

Leased Lines can offer a download speed of 10,000Mbps, for ADSL Broadband it's 24Mbps or less. Normally a LOT less.

If you live within 35km of certain locations, you should be able to get speeds of up to 10,000Mbit/s via a leased line. Broadband can't get close to that.

Not everyone can get those 10,000Mbit/s speeds. However, most businesses could get speeds of 1,000Mbit/s via a leased line. Broadband just can't offer that kind of speed.

Few businesses buy one of these 1Gbit/s leased lines. But many buy 10Mb or 100Mb that offer higher speeds than are available to the business via ADSL.

However, as some businesses can't afford a fast leased line, broadband is still an option for such businesses.

Broadband can provide downstream speeds of up to 24Mbit/s, but you're unlikely to achieve that in reality unless you live next-door to a telephone exchange. For much of the country, speeds of around 7Mbit/s downstream are more typical. And many businesses can't even get that, as they're too far away from their local telephone exchange.

Leased Lines can offer an upstream speed of 10,000Mbps, ADSL Broadband offers up to 2.5Mbps or less

Fibre-optics used for a leased line.

Fibre-optics used for a leased line. Broadband uses copper wires instead.

ADSL2+ Annex M Broadband offers upload speeds of up to 2.5Mbps, if you live right next to your local telephone exchange. The further you are from the exchange, the slower will be the maximum upload speed available to you.  

It's worth remembering that ADSL2+ Annex M is only available from around 1000 of the UK's 5500 telephone exchanges. If your on a typical exchange, your broadband connection is likely to have a maximum upload speed of less than 1Mbps.

Leased Lines Are More Reliable Than Broadband

If you need a highly reliable connection backed by Service Level Agreements, get a leased line. Broadband is less reliable, and tends to offer little in the way of uptime guarantees.

Leased line faults tend to be fixed fast (as you're paying quite a bit of money for a business-class service backed by Service Level Agreement compensation payments). Broadband faults tend to be fixed more slowly, as there are fewer engineering resources per customer and faults on copper broadband circuits can be quite sporadic, making it harder to replicate them when troubleshooting.

Most Leased Lines Are Unmetered, Most Broadband Connections Have Usage Limits

Most leased lines are completely unmetered. You can use them to the max, day and night, as much as you like, and you'll never have to pay more than the monthly charge you've agreed.

Broadband connections are restricted. Almost all of them have a monthly data transfer limit or a 'fair usage policy'. If you exceed the limit or use more than your 'fair usage', your connection may be slowed down, or you may have to pay a charge for every Gigabyte you transfer over that limit, or you'll be asked to find another ISP.

Leased Lines Are More Expensive Than Broadband Connections

A lot more expensive. Think several hundred pounds per month for a leased line versus tens of pounds for broadband. That said, leased lines are getting cheaper. We've examined the historic records of our online leased line pricing tool and they show a substantial decline in pricing over the last year. You may be surprised by how affordable leased lines are becoming. Most VAT-registered businesses can now afford one.

What type of connection should my firm get? A Leased Line? Broadband? Something Else?

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • How much bandwidth do I need downstream?
  • How much bandwidth do I need upstream?
  • How much data do I transfer each month? Do I need to be on an unmetered plan?
  • What download/upload speeds can broadband provide at my current location?
  • How business-critical is my Internet connection? How many days could I go without a connection before there was a serious impact on customer service levels or on sales activities? What would the cost of downtime be in lost productivity and reputational damage? Bearing this in mind, do I need a Service Level Agreement and fast fix times, or can I live with extended downtime, annoying as it may be?)
  • How much can we afford to pay for our connection?
  • Is my business growing and likely to need more bandwidth soon?

Firms tend to start with a contended ADSL connection, then graduate to a dedicated connection once broadband becomes inadequate to meet their needs.

Firms with multiple locations will often get a leased line for their Head Office, leased lines for their mid-sized offices, and broadband for any shops, home-workers, and for tiny two-man offices.

For firms that currently have a leased line, broadband would be a step backwards, in almost all regards.

If you can't afford a leased line, the decision is an easy one: you'll have to make do with broadband.

So the first thing to do is check whether you can afford a leased line. To do this, visit our free leased line pricing tool. It requests wholesale quotes to calculate how much a leased line will cost at your specific location.