The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Leased Line For Your Business in February 2024
A Business Leased Line is a dedicated fibre cable usually used by businesses that require reliable internet access with guaranteed speeds. Some businesses will want to avoid being connected to the internet via their line; they may connect to a data centre or want a private line to run their network in the UK.
For further information and pricing on leased lines, click here.
What to Consider When Choosing a Leased Line
- Speed – Often the most crucial factor aside from price, speed is the big differentiator between the two. For traditional copper broadband, you would be lucky with 20Mb. However, recent years have seen considerable investments in fibre broadband, and you can now get speeds up to 300Mb. A leased line can give you dedicated symmetrical speeds up to 10Gb, and the bandwidth remains the same.
- Reliability –Reliability is of the utmost importance for businesses. High speeds are incredible, but they must be consistent and reliable to operate a business. This is an area where broadband falls short when compared to leased lines. Broadband won’t often give you the speeds they advertise, fluctuating throughout the day because of the contention. With a leased line, the speed or bandwidth you receive will remain the same.
- Contention Ratio – You can share with up to 50 other users with broadband connections, although most business broadband will keep it under 30. A leased line is dedicated to you so there is no sharing with anyone else.
- Fix Times – It would be great if your connection never went down. However, if it does, your business relies on fixing it within a reasonable time. Broadband will rarely have any promises around six times, which means your line could go down for weeks or months. Whereas all leased lines come with an SLA & most would fix within 6 hours if a fault occurred.
- SLA – Service Level Agreement – Dedicated Ethernet Lines will all have a standard SLA. This guarantees the “uptime” of the line, and if it fails, you can start earning money back on your next bill. Business Broadband will rarely offer any SLAs or money-back guarantees.
- Support & network monitoring – Leased lines tend to be sold to businesses by other tech-savvy businesses. They offer 24/7 proactive network monitoring and technical support. Business broadband is sold as more of a consumer product and offers little support in comparison.
- Lower Latency and Jitter – Latency and jitter might not be necessary to your business. However, it is essential if you use video conferencing, streaming, financial trading or anything that requires real-time updates for your work. Leased Lines have lower latency and jitter than broadband lines so that you will experience fewer delays.
- Static IP addresses – This isn’t guaranteed, but you usually get a dynamic IP address with broadband services. This means it changes; having a static IP makes it easier for customers to connect to the business and allows certain technical functions to be performed more efficiently. It’s never a deal breaker, but it can help that leased lines have static IP addresses as standard.
- Install or Lead Time – How long it takes to install the line can be critical to your business. Most leased line providers would happily provide an interim solution if needed. Depending on your existing infrastructure, broadband installations can take as little as five days. Dedicated lines have a more protracted process as they all require a site survey which relies on Openreach. The average leased line install is 45 – 60 working days, depending on the core provider.
- Scalability with Point-to-point & MPLS/WAN options – Business broadband typically connects a single site to the internet. Ethernet lines are often used to form part of a larger project, like privately linking two sites to enable data transfers or forming part of a more extensive WAN network to connect multiple offices and locations.
Choosing the Right Leased Line: MPLS
If you have a single business location and need internet access that enables fast traffic, the main options to consider are fibre broadband and leased lines. However, when you have multiple locations, it is often more suitable to look at a wide area network (WAN). We will explain the difference between the two services and how they can impact your private network costs.
- MPLS – To understand MPLS, it’s important to understand why it was invented. It was brought in to unite multiple network protocols to enable a faster and more robust network across multiple locations. MPLS stands for multi-protocol label switching and allows for smarter routing of data between multiple sites, which is often more cost-effective than traditional Wide area networks.
- Ethernet Leased Lines – Leased lines are dedicated ethernet connections between two sites, although they can be used throughout networks as internet connectivity or a point-to-point. They use fibre optic cables to provide symmetrical connections between two sites. They provide everything you would want for the best network connectivity. For some companies, the best solution may be a single leased line at each location. To do this on a national or international scale can end up being extremely costly and can be more difficult to scale up later if needed.
Choosing the Right Leased Line: FTTH
We often get asked this, and before answering, it’s important to point out that FTTH (Fibre to the home) is also known as FTTP (Fibre to the premises), full fibre, FTTB (fibre to the business) and a few other names. It’s the number 1 alternative to leased lines for businesses in the UK, but there are big differences between the two services.
- Bandwidth – FTTH gives the fastest connection speeds we have ever seen from a broadband service, and its helping smaller businesses achieve the speeds they need without paying for dedicated ethernet access. However, leased lines can achieve the best speed, and there are never any drops in bandwidth at peak times, which can happen with FTTH.
- Reliability – Finding a service that beats leased lines for reliability would be hard. FTTH is a shared service, meaning when other users are on the line, you will sometimes experience slower speeds and no broadband connectivity. Leased line services are dedicated to you, so they will never drop out or have fluctuating bandwidth.
- Cost – Installation costs can be substantial for dedicated lines, mainly if you are rural and require lots of additional construction work. Most dedicated fibre lines will have no installation costs to pay, but the monthly commitment is usually substantially more than fibre broadband costs.
- Support – A dedicated managed line, such as leased lines, will come with a business-grade service level agreement. This guarantees “up-time” on the line and should be above 99.95%. It will also assure a target fix time should a fault occur & offer 24/7 technical support. It’s unlikely you will receive the same for FTTH. Most customers liken the support to what you get with your home broadband, especially if it’s from one of the well-known telecommunications providers.
Our Thoughts on Leased Lines: Do You Need One?
Whether or not you need a leased line will depend on a range of factors, so if considering whether or not it is suitable for your business, try asking yourself the following questions:
Benefits of Leased Lines
Dedicated lines have become more popular amongst UK businesses in the past decade and with good reason. Leased lines offer unparalleled speeds and reliability, which suit the needs of modern businesses. However, they are not for everyone and will be a commitment, so it’s essential to understand if they are right for you. To help you do this, we have summarised what we feel are the most important advantages and disadvantages of a leased line for your business.
- Dedicated network connection – The main advantage of a leased line is that it’s a full-fibre connection that other users do not share. This means there is no impact on the speeds or service at peak times or if the phone lines go down, giving you a more stable and reliable connection. Other broadband and fibre connections are shared so the speeds fluctuate, and service can struggle when too many people use the internet simultaneously. Leased lines being uncontended also allows for their next advantage on our list…
- Symmetrical and Guaranteed Speeds – Upload and download speeds are only available on an ethernet leased line. Not only do you get what you have paid for, but it also is promised and comes with money-back protection called an SLA. Traditional Internet connections have slow upload speeds; faster upload speeds with a leased line allow timesaving, as well as the ability to host several cloud-based business applications that can help your business thrive.
- Service Level Agreement (SLAs) – A service level agreement will cover not only the “up-time” for data transmission on the line but also a fixed time and bandwidth clause. SLAs come as standard with leased lines, and should your connection ever drop below the agreed level; you will start earning money off your next bill.
- Security – Leased lines only connect two locations, making hacking from a public network much harder. They are often referred to as a dedicated line and, on your contract, may even appear as DIA. Dedicated is safer and more secure, making them particularly appealing to modern businesses, especially as cyber-attacks have risen significantly in recent years.
- Pro-Active Support – Business broadband is generally sold on a massive scale by the leading three providers. Each provider will have millions of customers for both home and business connections. This often means you don’t get stable or regular contact within the company, and it’s hard to locate who should take accountability within the company and fix the problem.
Disadvantages of Leased Lines
- Cost- The cost is the most prohibitive part of getting a leased line for many small businesses. Leased lines can start from as little as £150 per month, depending on your location and bandwidth needed. Internet access in most parts of the country costs around £50 per month, whereas leased lines can be 10 x that. If you are rural or special measures need to be taken to get the line in, you may also incur installation costs. A site survey can only determine these, and you would have the right to withdraw your contract if the ECC charges come back over £1.
- Install times – All leased lines require a site survey to assess how the line will be put into the location and if any ECCs will apply. Openreach must carry out this survey, and necessary arrangements made to accommodate an install. This means lead times are usually 45 workdays, although Virgin Media are usually 60+.
- Contract Term – Most broadband contracts are 12 or 18 months, whereas a dedicated line service is standard 36 months. You can get a 12-month contract, which would incur an install charge. Similarly, you can take longer contracts which will reduce your monthly cost.
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What bearer options are available?
Technically speaking, providers can choose bearer sizes depending on the best need for the area. However, most have standard bearer sizes. The most popular options we see requested are:
- 100Mb Bearer – This is the standard bearer size for any bandwidth between 10-100Mb. The main exception is if a company wants 100Mb but has growth plans and will likely require upgrading before the end of the contract.
- 1Gb bearer – This is the usual bearer size for bandwidth between 100Mb-1Gb. Like with a 100Mb bearer, the exception is usually companies at the top end expecting to grow before the end of the contract.
- 10Gb bearer – This is usually only needed by bigger companies with multiple sites. Data centres and extremely high bandwidth-using companies often need these speeds.
If you are unsure what speed you need, we can help you determine your best options.
How do leased lines work?
When talking about leased lines, we refer to managed leased lines, also known as full-fibre, fibre ethernet, ethernet leased lines and managed services leased lines. However, there are other leased lines or fibre services that other providers may refer to, which we will explore later.
A managed leased line will always give you, as a minimum:
- Symmetrical Upload and download speeds
- Guaranteed Uptime
- Fix time targets
- Industry-leading SLA
- 24/7 support
What are the different types of leased lines?
A managed leased line data connection is the most reliable connection to give you an internet service with the same upload and download speeds. The other types of connections that you may hear about are:
- Wires-only leased lines – These are cheaper monthly but are only the physical line; you must manage the setup and maintenance yourself. You would usually know if you needed a wires-only line & without having a solid networking/telecoms background, we wouldn’t recommend this option to most.
- EFM Line – EFM stands for ethernet first mile & can be mistaken for a full-fibre leased line. They are getting less popular but can help businesses that don’t have fibre in their local cabinet. EFM’s use aggregated copper pairs, giving lower speeds but the same symmetric connection & an SLA. They are now not far off leased line prices, so usually, only an option considered where leased line install costs prohibit a customer from ordering them, generally in more rural locations.
- Ethernet over FTTC (EoFTTC) – Ethernet over FTTC or Fibre to the cabinet is a service that’s cheaper than a leased line but can offer better speeds than standard broadband. It uses a mixture of fibre and copper and, in some areas, can offer symmetrical speeds; in others, the provider will be able to “burst” your speeds up. It does also have limited availability in the UK.
- FTTP – Also known as fibre to the premises, FTTH, Fibre to the home & several other fibres to the acronyms! FTTP can often be marketed as full-fibre or a leased line, although that’s not strictly true. Unlike a leased line, the fibre doesn’t always go directly from your exchange point to your premise – it stops at the local cabinet first. So, it’s technically a shared service, and although you get a guaranteed connection speed, it’s not the same as a guaranteed received speed like a leased line.
How to choose the right leased line?
There are quite a lot of differences between dedicated lines and standard broadband. Broadband is slower, less reliable and the cheaper option. However, despite being cheaper, it can cost a lot more in the long run if it has downtime. A dedicated fibre optic leased line will guarantee the speeds and comes with many other benefits, which is why so many businesses are now using one. For a standard managed leased line, you would receive:
- Guaranteed upload and download speeds between 10Mb-10gb
- SLA (Service Level Agreement) – SLA’s means that if your line drops below the %, you start getting money back from the provider. Normal SLA levels should be above 99.5% from any reputable provider. Ours is 99.9% with an industry-leading 4 hour fix time.
- 24/7 pro-active network monitoring – This means any potential faults are picked up before they occur
- Free Installs – This would usually apply on the standard 3-year term
What Speeds Are Available For Leased Lines?
Broadband speeds have seen a vast increase in the UK in recent years, but if you want guaranteed speed and a connection that never drops during peak times, a leased line is the best option for your business. They provide symmetrical upload and download speeds typically ranging from 10Mb to 10Gb.
Other useful links about leased lines:
Ethernet First Mile Costs
EFM Business Broadband
Leased Lines – The Best Networks
James Ward is CEO and founder of CompareYourBusinessCosts.co.uk, a website that won the Prestigious ‘Website of the Year’ only in its second year of operations in 2015. The website has grown organically since then offering comparisons on over 20 different products including insurance, energy, telecoms, card machines, coffee machines and much more. James has a range of interests including horse racing, skiing, rugby and boxing. He splits his time between home family life, friends, exercise and socialising.