What is a leased line?
A Leased Line is a dedicated fibre cable that is usually used by businesses that require reliable internet access with guaranteed speeds. Some businesses will not want to be connected to the internet via their line, they may connect to a data centre or want a private line to run their own network in the UK.
However, most we speak to will use a leased line for their office’s internet connection, enabling their business to get a fixed bandwidth (line speed) and the ability to transfer a huge amount of large files. Instead of sharing a line, as you do with traditional broadband service, a leased line is dedicated to you. This means no more buffering at peak times and speeds that stay consistent.
With standard business broadband, the connection can drop out which causes network downtime & can cost a business a small fortune in lost revenue. Studies have shown that UK businesses in 2018 lost a whopping 60 million hours to internet downtime. You can work out the cost of downtime for your own business & will often find it more cost-effective to upgrade to a leased line than experience an outage from broadband.
Technology has changed the world so much in the last 50 years and it shows no signs of slowing down. This has impacted all our daily lives, but it has also required big changes in UK networking and connectivity. Providers know that even small businesses now need far more bandwidth than they would have 5 years ago.
The popularity of cloud-based systems, video conferencing, skype phone calls/interviews, cloud services & other data-heavy business functions means that most companies rely heavily on their internet connection. This has caused many businesses to upgrade to fibre broadband, which is an improvement on traditional copper lines but doesn’t give the same peace of mind a leased line does.
This is because broadband speeds are never guaranteed and rarely reliable. This is something you would probably notice with your home broadband connection. Once everyone is home and using the internet you get the dreaded loading signals during your favourite TV show.
Business broadband is the same, you just tend to have more people in an office than at home. A leased line internet connection eliminates any sharing and buffering giving you a stable, reliable connection at all times.
However, while fibre broadband will undoubtedly give you a high-speed internet service it’s still a shared service. That means the speeds won’t be as advertised and the line can experience dropouts, periods of very slow services and no promises on times to fix if it does go wrong.
There are quite a lot of differences between the dedicated lines and standard broadband. Broadband is slower, less reliable and the cheaper option. However, despite the fact it’s cheaper it can cost a lot more in the long run if it has downtime.
A dedicated fibre optic leased line will not only guarantee the speeds but also comes with a host of 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 mean that if your line ever drops out 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
Leased lines have grown in popularity in recent years, so prices are more competitive than ever before with lines starting from as little as £150pcm.
How does a leased line work?
When we talk about leased lines, we are referring 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
A leased line uses the same technology as fibre-optic broadband, mainly because they are both made using fibre cables. This allows them to send packets of data through a fibre line using the speed of light.
Equipment at both ends of the line can detect the light signals which tell them what the data is but in a digital language. Fibre optic cables are the fastest way we have ever been able to send data and businesses of all sizes all over the UK are taking advantage of that.
The equipment can make a big difference to the quality of service you receive, so it’s important to pick a provider who will offer you a good router and has invested in the right equipment for their own network.
Leased lines are symmetrical data connectivity often used as private networks. The use of ethernet or fibre instead of traditional phone line broadband makes them more appealing to businesses because of all the additional benefits they offer like faster fix times, better reliability etc.
What are the different types of leased lines?
The most reliable connection to give you an internet service with the same upload and download speeds is a managed leased line data connection. 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 an extremely strong 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 who 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 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.
What is the difference between leased line and broadband?
The key differences will be further down the page in a list, but we feel its important people understand how broadband and leased line connections work first. When talking about a leased line service we are referring to managed leased lines used for internet access, not the type that connects only to data centres. As copper broadband is dying out, we will be focusing on fibre broadband services for this comparison.
Fibre leased line providers offer a full-fibre service from the start of your line to your premises. This allows a private internet connection that always promises symmetrical upload speeds and download speeds. It’s only used by your company so there’s no drop in speed or reliability at peak times like you get with broadband.
Fibre Broadband is not a full-fibre service, you would get fibre optic cables from the core network source but the last bit to your building would be copper lines. Copper can’t transfer data as fast as fibre optic so fibre broadband speeds will never be able to match leased lines speeds consistently, although you can get bursts of good bandwidth from broadband.
When thinking of upgrading to a leased line the main difference business owner focus on is the price. However, there is so much more that separates the two services and we feel the more information you have the better equipped you are to decide on what’s right for your business.
Often the most important factor aside from price, speed is the big differentiator between the two. Traditional copper broadband you would be lucky with 20Mb. However recent years has seen huge 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 always remains the same.
Many people will see 76mb broadband for £50 a month and struggle to understand why you would pay up to 10 times more for a 50mb leased line. Reliability is of the utmost importance for businesses. Having high speeds is great but they need to be consistent and reliable for you to operate a business on them.
This is an area that broadband falls short when compared to leased lines. Broadband won’t often give you the speeds they advertise, and it fluctuates throughout the day because of the contention. With a leased line the speed or bandwidth you receive will remain the same.
When we talk about contention ratios, we simply mean how many other people use the line. With broadband connections, you can be sharing with up to 50 other users, although most business broadband will keep it under 30. A leased line is dedicated to you so there is no sharing with anyone else at any time.
It would be great if your connection never went down. However, if it does your business relies on it being fixed within a reasonable time. Broadband will rarely have any promises around fix 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 comes with an SLA as standard. This guarantees the “uptime” of the line and if it fails you can start earning money back off your next bill. Business Broadband will rarely offer any SLA’s or money-back guarantees.
Support & network monitoring
Leased lines tend to be sold to businesses by other tech-savvy businesses. They offer 24/7 pro-active 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 important to your business. However, it is important 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, which means you will experience fewer delays on the line.
Static IP addresses
This isn’t guaranteed but with broadband services, you would usually get a dynamic IP address. This simply 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 easier. 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 get the line installed can be critical to your business. Most leased line providers would be happy to put in an interim solution if needed. Broadband installs can be as little as 5 days depending on your existing infrastructure.
Dedicated lines have a longer 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 will typically connect a single site to the internet. Ethernet lines are often used to form part of a larger project, like privately linking two sites together to enable data transfers or forming part of a larger WAN network to connect multiple offices and locations.
What service you need depends on your business and circumstances. Here at Aspire Technology Solutions, we would be happy to help figure out your best options.
Can you get a leased line for home?
Most providers are business to business and won’t advertise DIA (dedicated internet access) leased lines for home users, without them having a business to attach it to. However, we understand there are some genuine needs to have dedicated internet at home. We are often asked by directors or heads of tech departments about installing a line at home – even professional gamers.
The appeal of having a leased line for home is understandable – a high-speed fibre optic internet service that never buffers would take Netflix binges to a whole new level. However, a dedicated leased line is a commercial product, sold by a business to another business.
Although it’s not promoted by providers, it’s also not impossible to get a leased line at home. The trouble comes with the eligibility checks. Usually, a leased line provider will sell to a business that they credit check to ensure the client can afford the leased line and is likely to keep up with payments.
However, if it’s a home user buying, they can’t be checked in the same way as a business. So, there are usually two ways providers will work around this. The first would be to attach it to a business so if the line is for a director it would be considered as a business, ensuring the line could be installed and paid for monthly.
The second way is eliminating the risk element and credit checks and paying for the contract upfront. As these contracts are typically 3 years or more it is likely it will cost tens of thousands to do this depending on your area and the bandwidth you require.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a leased line?
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 suits the needs of modern businesses.
However, they are not for everyone and will be a commitment so it’s important 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 is not shared by any other users. 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 are using the internet at once. Leased lines being uncontended also allows for their next advantage on our list…
Symmetrical and Guaranteed Speeds
Symmetrical 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 a number of cloud-based business applications that can help your business thrive.
Service Level Agreement (SLAs)
A service level agreement will not only cover the “up-time” for data transmission on the line, but also a fix time and bandwidth clause. SLA’s 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.
Leased lines only ever connect two locations, which makes them much harder to hack from a public network. They are often referred to as a dedicated line and on your contract may even appear as DIA. Dedicated is safer and more secure and that makes them particularly appealing to modern businesses, especially as cyber-attacks have risen significantly in recent years.
Business broadband is generally sold on a huge scale by the main three providers. Each provider will have millions of customers for both home and business connections. This often means you don’t get a stable or regular contact within the company and its hard to locate who should take accountability within the company and fix the problem.
However, leased lines are a B2B product so if you get yours with a company like us you will get a regular point of contact and 24/7 proactive monitoring of the network. So, if any faults look likely we are able to fix them before they impact your connection.
The most prohibitive part of getting a leased line for many small businesses is the cost. Leased lines can start from as little as £150 per month but it depends on your location and bandwidth needed. Internet access in most parts of the country cost 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. These can only be determined by a site survey and you would have the right to withdraw your contract if you received any. ECC’s rarely occur and if they do, we will always try to help find an alternative route or solution to help.
All leased lines require a site survey to assess how the line will be put into the location and if any ECC’s will apply. This survey must be carried out by Openreach and necessary arrangements made to accommodate an install. This means lead times are usually 45 workdays, although Virgin Media are usually 60+.
If you are installing at multiple locations this can also delay the install, should any special measures need to be taken, like digging through a railway or closing the main road.
Most broadband contracts are 12 or 18 months, whereas a dedicated line service is standard 36 months. You can get a 12-month contract, although this would incur an install charge. Similarly, you can take longer contracts which will reduce your monthly cost.
What speeds can you get on a leased line?
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.
The landscape of business connectivity has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years. We have seen a huge increase in fibre broadband availability which no doubt has helped leased line prices reduce. More companies allow employees to work from home than ever before, which means a greater reliance on VPN’s, video conferencing and other high data uses.
As a society, we have also been using more bandwidth generally which we can see evidence of daily. It’s the same for businesses – VoIP phone systems are one of the most popular types now and they rely on the internet to make a call. Video meetings and interviewing via Skype have also become increasingly popular in today’s fast-paced business world.
2018 saw a 27.62% increase in speed compared to 2017, as reported by trusted reviews. Considering the number of areas that have become fiber-enabled since then, it’s safe to assume that increase will be much higher when we get the figures for 2020.
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 we use 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 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 are often in need of these speeds.
If you are unsure of what speed you need, we can help figure out your best options.
What is the difference between MPLS & Leased lines?
If you have a single business location and need internet access that enables traffic fast 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.
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.
In traditional IP networks each router would perform an IP lookup – it’s easier to think of this as post offices – traditional networks would send on to each post office and at each location, they would check the address. This means it takes longer to get to the final stop.
With an MPLS network, it does this slightly different – the first router will still read the data packet as usual but instead of just getting it to the next stop it reads the final stop. It then applies the route to the final stop and eliminates the need for each router to do an IP lookup. This makes it faster data transfers.
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 extremely costly and can be more difficult to scale up later if needed.
Here are five factors to consider in the MPLS vs. leased line debate.
Leased lines are a dedicated service, so they are the more expensive if you need one at each location it will tend to cost more than a multiprotocol label switching network.
As leased lines are dedicated to you, they are the most secure connectivity available, because they don’t ever touch another network. MPLS is often made up of a range of connectivity and relies on
shared network components. Ultimately its security will depend on the network core being secure
MPLS comes out on top for this, which is why they are particularly appealing to fast-growing businesses. Leased lines can be scaled up to a max of 10Gb, although it does take time and can be costly – especially if it’s needed across multiple locations.
Fibre optic leased lines and MPLS are different technologies and both have a deserved place in telecoms. Ultimately what one is more suitable for your business will depend on the number of sites you have and where they are located.
Is there a difference between leased line and 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.
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.
It would be hard to find a service that beats leased lines for reliability. FTTH is a shared service which means when other users are on the line you will experience slower speeds and no broadband connectivity at times. Leased line services are dedicated to you so they will never drop out or have fluctuating bandwidth.
Installation costs can be substantial for dedicated lines particularly 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.
However, if you work in a built-up area and experience regular losses in connectivity or speed the cost of lost business can often outweigh the cost of a dedicated ethernet line. For this reason, it’s imperative not to base your decision on cost alone.
A dedicated managed line, such as a 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.
The service your business needs is dependent on your individual circumstances and plans for growth. We have helped thousands of businesses find their perfect fit & would love to help you too.