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GEA vs EFM – Which is the Best Choice For You?

Discover the key differences between GEA and EFM and find out which is right for your business

When your small business is growing, you reach the point eventually when your broadband connection just isn’t good enough. Maybe you are looking to host applications, and need a symmetric connection. Perhaps you are using video conferencing more aggressively, and want to ensure your customers see you at your best. Maybe internet access is critical for your business, so you simply need a reliable connection backed by a service level agreement. This article aims to analyse GEA vs EFM, to determine which networking solution is best for you.

Regardless of the reasons, at some point, you will want to move to a higher quality managed connection, so you need to consider your options. You’ve probably done that before arriving here, and you’ve come to the conclusion that the two real contenders are GEA (Generic Ethernet Access) and EFM (Ethernet First Mile), and you just need to know: when it comes to GEA vs EFM, which is right for you?

This article, then, is for you. We will briefly cover the technology behind GEA and EFM, look at the benefits that each of them will bring to your business, and then highlight the key difference between GEA and EFM, to help you come to an informed decision.

What is Generic Ethernet Access?

Generic Ethernet Access, or GEA, refers to an Ethernet over Fibre (or copper) to the cabinet, or EoFTTC. In general, EoFTTC is a leased line, with many of the same benefits, only geared toward small businesses, with far lower setup and ongoing costs than a ‘full’ Fibre Ethernet connection.

GEA achieves the low cost and high level of service by using the existing fibre or copper infrastructure in the area, but routing traffic over Ethernet, as implied by the name, rather than the far busier and less structured broadband layer. This allows GEA to be delivered without substantial installation or maintenance costs.

GEA connections are managed by the provider and are backed by an SLA. This means that your business will be provided with an expected level of uptime, usually in excess of 99%, as well as an estimated time to fix problems, which will be within hours.

GEA connections offer a high-speed connection, typically between 2Mbps and 20Mbps, with symmetrical upload and download speeds, giving much greater flexibility in its use. GEA lines are also uncontended, meaning your business is the only entity on the line, so you will not experience any slowdowns at peak times.

Compared to other business internet solutions, the installation lead times required for a GEA connection are quite low, typically around 10 business days. GEA is extremely competitively priced, with low installation fees, combined with low monthly costs.

What is the EFM Meaning?

While GEA relies on existing fibre Ethernet infrastructure, Ethernet First Mile, or EFM, offers far more flexibility to businesses, especially those outside major urban areas. EFM connections use paired copper cables to connect your business site to the local fibre network, and then back to the provider’s core network.

EFM connections will be backed by SLAs, with expected uptimes around 99.9%, and estimated fix times of less than 7 hours. EFM connections provide high-speed connections, with the speed varying based on the number of copper pairs used. Speeds are typically between 2Mbps and 35Mbps, meaning there is a level of scalability available for your business, as it grows.

Due to the distance, many EFM connections need to cover, the installation lead time is typically around 45 business days, with substantial installation costs. Ongoing costs, however, are still quite low when compared to other leased lines.

The Shared Benefits of GEA and EFM

EFM and GEA clearly fill a similar niche and have substantial benefits over ‘off the shelf’ business broadband solutions, including the service level agreement, line management, and line quality.

Potentially the biggest benefit that both EFM and GEA offer, compared to standard connections, is that they are managed, and backed by an SLA. Managed, when referring to internet connections, means that your service provider is responsible for the infrastructure providing your connection, and is actively monitoring it. With a managed connection, your provider will often be aware that your connection is down before you are, and will quickly be able to give you a fix time estimate, which will often be within the same business day.

The managed aspect of the connection ties in directly with the SLA you will need to consider when picking a provider. The SLA will detail factors like the estimated uptime and fix time, and service guarantee, which means that if you fall below a certain level of uptime, the provider will compensate you.

Line quality is the other major benefit, compared to FTTC broadband. With standard broadband, you will typically have asymmetric bandwidth, meaning a much lower upload speed than download. This means that you will struggle to host any services for clients, facilitate home or offsite work for employees, use video conferencing services, or even share data. EFM and GEA both provide symmetrical connections, which means that your upload rate will be equal to your download speed. This upload speed will be far greater than any broadband solution, and your business will be much more able to take advantage of online services.

Also connected to line quality is the contention ratio, which is typically undefined for standard broadband. Uncontended means that you are the only one on the connection – there is no bandwidth sharing required, so no risk of slowdowns. Broadband connections are contended, often with many end users on the same connection, so the line speed you receive will often be much lower than what you are paying for, as the line is shared with others.

At, we can provide your business with the ideal GEA and EFM leased line solution. Identify a leased line speed that reflects your requirements below!

GEA vs EFM: The Key Differences

As you may have gathered, EFM and GEA fit very similar small business-focused niches, making the ‘GEA vs EFM’ debate come down to the wire. There are, however, differences – in resilience and typical service levels, speed, cost, and availability.
In terms of service level availability, EFM comes out on top, even if only just. Similarly, EFM tends to come with faster target fix times in comparison to GEA. Whilst these differences may only seem small, for example, the service availability SLA may only equate to a difference of 4 hours of downtime a year between the two products, you need to consider how much your business loses with every hour of downtime – an extra half a day each year could easily outstrip the cost of the connection.

Speed differences are also tiny, with EFM again coming out on top, with a peak of 35Mbps, as opposed to GEA’s 20Mbps. There isn’t much more to say about that: faster is faster.

The speed, however, comes at a cost. EFM carries a substantial installation cost, due to the amount of cable that typically needs to be run, and these costs are often in excess of a full year’s service costs. EFM is also typically more expensive per month, even if only marginally. GEA avoids the majority of the installation cost, and delivers its service at a slightly lower cost per month – but when you’re a small business, it adds up quickly.
The biggest difference between the two services is availability, and EFM both wins and loses in this regard. GEA takes advantage of the existing fibre network, allowing it to keep costs lower, but this also means that there are many areas where it is simply unavailable. EFM is much more widely available, at least in part because of the extra cable you are paying for in the installation cost.

Regardless of the size of your business, the team will be able to identify a solution that matches both your budget and requirements.


At the end of the day, your ‘GEA vs EFM’ choice will probably come down to availability. The upfront costs of EFM are substantial, and the benefits it delivers over GEA are quite slim. Either one will, however, provide immense value for a growing business over an off the shelf broadband package.

If you are considering opting for Ethernet First Mile as your business’ connection solution, start comparing the best EFM deals available online.

Otherwise, learn more if you are looking for a competitive GEA leased line deal.

For more information on the best leased line solution for your business, get in touch online today.