what does contention mean - Office

What Does Contention Mean?

Find out what does contention mean, what you can do about it and why it could be a serious issue for businesses.

If you have a broadband connection to the internet 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 a broadband link may slow down at busy times of the day. But why does this happen? It’s down to something called contention, but what is contention? And what can you do about it?

What is contention?

VDSL and VDSL2 (Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line) broadband is delivered using fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology. This means the fibre optic circuit from the exchange terminates at one of those green boxes you see on street corners. The remainder of the connection to your house or office is then made over standard copper telephone cables.

When your broadband leaves your house, the connection to the street cabinet is unique to you. However, after that, the link back to the exchange and thus the internet, is shared. It’s rather like the drains from your house feeding into a wider pipe under the street.

At busy times there’s more traffic on the link and therefore the bandwidth is being split multiple ways so there’s less available for each individual.

In the UK the ADSL contention ratio can be between 20:1 and 50:1, in other words, you could be sharing your internet connection with up to 50 other people. It can be quite hard to discover the actual contention rations that broadband providers operate.

Alternatives to broadband

what does contention mean - CloudFor 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?

As we’ve seen, contention is a problem inherent in the way broadband works. The answer, therefore, is to move to another type of service that doesn’t suffer from this problem. Switching to a leased line Ethernet link gives you a connection to the internet that is exclusively for your use, so the contention is 1:1.

Ethernet uses a similar technology involving fibre links, either direct to your business or via a street cabinet. But unlike broadband, you have exclusive use of the connection at all points. This not only eliminates contention; ethernet has security benefits as well.

Obviously, you might still have an issue with your internal traffic at peak times, but with your own connection, you can apply your own traffic management to ensure that essential systems – such as cloud software and VoIP communications – get priority over other traffic. Thus you can keep your business running smoothly.

Other Ethernet benefits

Ethernet leased lines have other advantages too. Broadband links are asynchronous, which means that you get more bandwidth for incoming data than for uploads. For domestic use this isn’t too much of an issue as when streaming music or video or visiting websites, most of the traffic is inbound.

For commercial purposes, however, an asynchronous link can be a problem. If you’re using as-a-service applications or relying on VoIP telecoms or video conferencing, 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 lines eliminate this by having a synchronous connection so that there’s equal bandwidth available in both directions.

We’ve already touched on the issue of security. Because a leased line is exclusive to you, there is less chance of your data traffic being intercepted. You are also free to apply your own standards in terms of security and encryption to the data you transmit to the cloud.

what does contention mean - EthernetA further benefit is that of reliability. 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. This is thanks to a technology called Ethernet first mile (EFM) which uses paired copper cables along with some signal processing technology in order to provide faster speeds over copper circuits. Compare the best ethernet first mile deals online.

The business case

Now that we have the answer to ‘What is contention?’ we can see that it’s an issue in certain situations. For domestic users, this may be little more than an annoyance, causing a bit of buffering when you’re watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix, but for businesses, it can be a more serious issue.

Commercial organisations 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.

All of these things throw the reliability of the internet connection used into the spotlight. Problems with contention or restricted bandwidth can harm the smooth running of day-to-day tasks and ultimately cost the business money. So, while switching to an Ethernet line to eliminate contention comes at a cost, you have to consider this against the benefits to be gained. If leased line is the right solution for your business, you can begin to compare leased line deals.

If you want to improve your internet, or you aren’t sure which service would be right for you, call our team on 0808 115 4281 or get in touch online today so our team can help find the best solution for you and your business.

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Rehan Patel