Leased Line vs Fibre - The Differences Explained

Let's compare a leased line to various fibre alternatives.

Ethernet Leased Line vs Fibre Broadband (Contended)

The key differences between these options:

Dedicated Bandwidth - A leased line has bandwidth reserved for it all the way from the customer's site to the provider's core network. Contended fibre broadband lacks this dedicated bandwidth. Instead, various subscribers have to share the available bandwidth, meaning that speeds drop whenever lots of customers try to use their connections at the same time.

Symmetric Speeds - Leased line connection speeds are identical in both directions. Fibre broadband tends to be far slower upstream than downstream.

Service Levels - Leased lines are a premium connectivity product. In contrast to most fibre broadband connections, subscribers are likely to get a Service Level Agreement guaranteeing performance, faster physical fault fixing and 24/7 support.

Target Market - Ethernet leased lines are aimed at mid-to-large organisations. Fibre broadband is aimed at residential subscribers and micro-SMEs. Leased lines are mainly used to connect offices. Fibre broadband is used primarily to connect homes.

Maximum Speeds - Ethernet leased lines tend to offer speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second. Fibre Broadband tends to offer much slower speeds downstream, and significantly slower speeds upstream. In the UK, most FTTC connections can't offer more than 80Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream. Compare that to fibre leased lines able to offer connection speeds of 10,000 Mbps in both directions.

Installation Lead Time - Fibre Broadband is usually far faster to install than leased lines.

Cost - Leased lines are a lot more expensive than fibre broadband.

Ethernet Leased Line vs Fibre Broadband That's Uncontended (EoFTTC or Generic Ethernet Access over FTTC)

Use of Copper - Most (but not all!) leased lines are provisioned solely over fibre-optic circuits. EoFTTC uses copper cabling for part of the journey, specifically the bit from your site to a nearby cabinet. From there, the data travels over fibre.

Maximum Speed - Leased lines always offer symmetrical speeds. Some EoFTTC connections offer asymmetrical speeds, by allowing the customer to download faster than they can upload, if there is spare downstream bandwidth available.

Installation Times - EoFTTC is quicker to install than ethernet leased lines. Think weeks not months.

Pricing - EoFTTC is a cheaper option than fibre leased lines.

Speeds - EoFTTC can't offer the same high speeds as ethernet leased lines. Typically EoFTTC offers no more than 20Mbps upstream, if that, compared to up to 10,000 Mbps for an ethernet leased line.

Non-fibre Leased Lines vs Fibre Leased Lines

Wireless (using Non-mobile Network Frequencies) - Unlike fibre leased lines, these require the installation of equipment on the roof or the side of the building and a direct line of sight to a transmitter/receiver. In comparison to fibre leased lines, wireless leased lines are available within much smaller geographic areas, and from fewer suppliers - typically none or just one. Wireless leased lines tend to be installed quicker than fibre leased lines. They tend to be less reliable due to interference that can result from sending data through the air, as opposed to through fibre-optic cables kept safe below ground.

Wireless (using Mobile Network Frequencies) - Often requires the installation of equipment on the roof or the side of the building. Maximum speeds are more variable than with fibre leased lines, due to signal problems and competition for backhaul bandwidth with other mobile customers.

EFM Leased Lines - EFM leased lines have lower maximum speeds than fibre ones, typically just 20Mbps or less, though in theory EFM could deliver up to 35Mbps that tends not to happen much in practice. EFM over copper is less widely available than fibre leased lines. This is because network operators have only installed the required equipment in just over half of the UK's telephone exchanges.