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Generic Ethernet Access Explained

What is GEA FTTC? How does GEA differ from EFM? How can this reliable connectivity solution benefit your business?

In this blog we will answer these questions, with businesses digitising across all industries, reliable internet access is becoming business-critical. Even for those businesses that barely touched the digital sphere a few years ago.

With this being the case, many businesses begin to question whether their off-the-shelf broadband package is really the best solution for them. This is more the case when they encounter a problem and have to operate without internet access for days, with limited information from their provider.

With the rapid expansion of fibre-optic infrastructure in the UK, GEA, or Generic Ethernet Access (otherwise known as Ethernet over Fibre to the cabinet or EoFTTC) has become an incredibly strong option for small businesses who have outgrown basic broadband.

This article will see Generic Ethernet Access explained, outline some of the business benefits of adopting GEA, and finally offer a comparison of GEA to other enterprise internet solutions, including broadband, EFM, and Fibre Ethernet leased lines.

What is Generic Ethernet Access (GEA FTTC)?

The first step in explaining Generic Ethernet Access is to give a basic overview of the technology behind it, and the general features that your business will have access to with GEA.

GEA operates similarly to standard fibre-to-the-cabinet, or FTTC broadband. A link, usually fibre but occasionally copper, is run from premises to the nearest street cabinet, connecting to the core fibre network and back to your provider.

That is, however, where the similarities between GEA and broadband end. FTTC Ethernet connections use the extremely busy broadband layer of infrastructure. GEA uses the same infrastructure but routes traffic via Ethernet, providing additional speed and resiliency, while minimising installation and ongoing costs.

GEA connections are actively monitored and managed by your provider. SLAs provide an added layer of protection resulting in higher reliability, and fast response times to any occurring issues.

GEA FTTC provides speeds which are, on paper, similar to broadband – typically between 2Mbps and 20Mbps. While a broadband connection only provides that as download speed, GEA provides a symmetrical connection – the same speed each way, with usage not affecting the other direction.

The installation time for GEA FTTC is typically short compared to other enterprise options. As GEA installation takes advantage of pre-existing fibre infrastructure, rather than having to lay large quantities of cable, connection time can be within 2 weeks.

While GEA is considerably more expensive than broadband, it is by far the cheapest enterprise internet access solution. The low installation costs, and competitive monthly charges, makes this FTTC Ethernet an enticing option for a growing small business.

Business Benefits of GEA

The business benefits of Generic Ethernet Access fall into two broad categories: increased utility and increased reliability.

GEA offers a substantial increase in usability of a number of online services. GEA FTTC Ethernet option can increase value to a business, and this comes from the high speed it offers.

As mentioned, the speed ‘on paper’ will be similar to broadband, but the connection is symmetrical, rather than asymmetrical. With standard broadband, you can conduct a single video conference but may encounter problems if you try to do more. You will certainly struggle to share data, facilitate off-site employees, or run any hosted services.

With GEA’s symmetrical connection, you have far more upstream bandwidth available. Often ten times more bandwidth than a standard broadband connection and allows employees working from home to easily access files on the network, without impacting operations. You will be able to use IP-based voice and video conferencing extensively, and even host some light applications or services without it impacting your downstream bandwidth.

TA broadband connection is contended, so shared with a number of other businesses. Shared connections may experience slowdowns or increased latency, based on the usage of others. GEA, however, is uncontended – what you pay for is what you are getting, with no one else sharing your connection.

Contention naturally leads us to the reliability aspects of Generic Ethernet Access. Most ‘off the shelf’ connections are unmanaged, providers lease the infrastructure and don’t monitor it actively, only taking action when complaints are made. GEA is a managed service, providers actively monitor the connection, often able to notice problems before the end user. The level of management is a agreed in a service level agreement, a major advantage of GEA.

Service Level Agreements

Service level agreements, or SLAs, are a feature of bespoke enterprise services such as GEA, and detail the level of service the provider aims to provide, as well as the level of service guaranteed. SLAs cover a number of aspects, including uptime targets, fix time estimates, and service guarantees.

Uptime targets are fairly self-explanatory: the targeted percentage of time providers aim to be deliver the service. In the case of GEA FTTC, this is often in excess of 99.8%, meaning less than one day of downtime per year.

Fix time estimates are also clear: the time within which the provider aims to resolve any issues. Generic Ethernet access,is usually around seven hours, so many problems can be resolved within the same working day they are reported.

These targets are not guarantees, but providers with SLAs in place will take these very seriously, and failure to meet these targets will almost always result in significant action being taken to remedy the issue and to ensure that the targets are met in the future.

Many SLAs also include a service guarantee, which will specify the amount of uptime the provider guarantees the connection to have, with specified financial remedies if they fail to deliver on the guarantee.


Now that we have seen Generic Ethernet Access explained, we can quickly compare it to the other existing options, namely FTTC broadband, EFM, and Fibre Ethernet leased lines.

Here’s a quick comparison of GEA and FTTC broadband. Both services offer similar speeds, but GEA offers a symmetrical connection, with greater options. GEA is backed by an SLA, while FTTC is ‘plug and pray’. FTTC will however, be substantially less expensive than GEA. If internet access is not critical for your business, with light usage level then broadband is a justifiable option.

EFM, or Ethernet First Mile, means a paired copper wire connection between your business and the nearest fibre connection. Both GEA and EFM have similar symmetric speeds and will be backed by SLAs. EFM does not need existing fibre infrastructure in place, while GEA does. Therefore EFM may be necessary for businesses operating in more rural or remote areas.  EFM has a substantial installation cost, many times that of GEA. EFM is a good option for growing businesses where GEA simply isn’t an option. To find out more about GEA vs EFM, click here.

GEA vs Fibre Ethernet

Fibre Ethernet leased lines are targeted at much larger businesses. Fibre Ethernet offers many times the speed of GEA and often has superior targets and guarantees in its SLA. Great power, however, comes at great cost. Fibre Ethernet connections can carry high installation costs. This is because they must be laid end to end, rather than using existing infrastructure. For a rapidly growing medium or large business with high connectivity needs, a leased line is a good option.

GEA can be an excellent investment for a digitally engaged small business looking to expand their options. While not offering the bargain basement price of broadband or the extreme bandwidth of a Fibre Ethernet line.

Compare GEA Ethernet deals.

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