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What Does Contention Mean?

What Does Contention Mean?

If you have broadband at home, you might have noticed that it slows down at certain times. This is most common in the evenings when people are streaming movies or playing online games. A similar thing happens to businesses, where your broadband may slow down at busy times of the day. But why does this happen? It’s down to contention, but what is contention? What does contention mean? And what can you do about it?

What is contention?

When your business broadband leaves your house or business, the connection from there to the street cabinet is unique to you. After that, the connection from the street cabinet back to the main exchange is shared, similar to the water pipes from your premises to the main supply. As its shared there’s more traffic during busy times and, therefore, the bandwidth is being split between multiple users which can often mean slower speeds.

In the UK, contention ratio can be anything between 20:1 and 50:1 which means you could be sharing your connection with 20-50 other homes or businesses.

Alternatives to broadband

For businesses that rely heavily on cloud services for their day-to-day operation, contention can pose a problem as it affects how smoothly their systems operate. So what’s the alternative?

Contention is a problem inherent in broadband but an Ethernet leased line gives you a connection which is exclusive to you, with a 1:1 contention ratio. Unlike broadband, you have exclusive use of the connection at all points with an Ethernet line. This not only eliminates contention; Ethernet has security benefits as well.

With a leased line, you may still have issues with your internal traffic at peak times but, with your own connection, you can apply your own traffic management to ensure that your essential systems such as cloud and VoIP get prioritised over other traffic, ensuring your business runs smoothly.

Other Ethernet benefits

Ethernet leased lines have other advantages too! Broadband connections are asynchronous, which means that your download speeds are faster than your upload speeds. For domestic use, this isn’t too much of an issue but for business purposes an asynchronous connection can be a problem. If you’re using an as-a-service application, or relying on VoIP telecoms, then there’s a lot of data flowing in both directions. If your uploads are slower than your downloads, this can hamper the smooth operation of the business. Ethernet leased lines eliminate this as they have a synchronous connection so that there’s equal bandwidth available in both directions. A leased line connection is exclusive to you so there’s less chance of your data traffic being intercepted.

A further benefit is reliability as Ethernet leased lines are generally monitored by the provider so that they can ensure a consistent level of service and spot any issues before they become problematic. This is backed by a service level agreement (SLA) to ensure that the expected speeds are delivered and that any faults are fixed in a timely manner.

Even if you’re in an area where you can’t get fibre, you can still benefit from an Ethernet connection using Ethernet First Mile (EFM), which uses paired copper cables and signal processing technology in order to provide faster speeds over copper circuits. View our range of leased line products and latest offers.

The business case

Businesses are becoming more and more reliant on services based in the cloud. This might be because they’re using online software for key business functions including office suites, ERP or CRM, or it may be that they’ve adopted IP-based communications to control their calling costs, or are using video conferencing to keep in touch with teams in different parts of the world.

Problems with contention or restricted bandwidth can harm the smooth running of day-to-day tasks and ultimately cost the business money. While switching to an Ethernet line to eliminate contention comes at a cost, you’d have to consider this against the benefits to be gained.


If you want to improve your internet, or you aren’t sure which service would be right for you, get in touch online today so our team can help find the best solution for you and your business.