Untangling Internet Connections

Apr 7, 2022

A quick guide to all things broadband

These days, broadband is used as a ‘catch-all’ term that describes a generation of internet connectivity services that evolved after dial-up modems. Most broadband connections in UK homes and small offices run on BT Openreach’s network, but can be provided by other carriers such as Virgin Media.

Broadband internet is generally cheap, quick to install and can be supplied on a short contract. On the downside, broadband services usually offer a ‘contended’ connection, meaning performance may vary depending on how many other customers are connected to the same service in your area. It also tends not to be ‘symmetric’; usually the download speed is far greater than the upload speed, which can affect VoIP call quality. It is also usually offered with no Service Level Agreement (SLA), or, at least, not one that matters in a business context. If it breaks, the carrier will fix it on a ‘best-efforts’ basis.

Depending on where you’re located, the following broadband options may be available to you:-

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line): the first generation of ‘broadband’, providing typical speeds of 10Mbps down and 1Mbps up. This is still widely in use, but usually only when better options are not available. ADSL is suitable for basic internet access such as email and browsing but not for more demanding services such as VoIP or streaming. This service is delivered on top of a traditional PSTN telephone line (see our blog post, Phone Jargon for the Non-Techie for more on phone lines).

FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet): the second generation of ‘broadband’ typically offering speeds of 40-80Mbps down and 10-20Mbps up. This is most commonly used in small business operations and homes. FTTC is suitable for 5-10 people with general use, and can be used with VoIP with care, but is not usually suitable for businesses that need to transfer large amounts of data quickly. Like ADSL, this service is delivered on top of a traditional PSTN telephone line.

GFTTC (G.Fast): the newest and (probably) final generation of copper based broadband, providing typical speeds of up to 330Mbps down and 50Mbps up. It is suitable for small and medium sized companies, and those who need to transfer large amounts of data quickly. This is a great option, but is only available in a small number of locations and BT exchanges to date. This service is also delivered on top of a traditional PSTN telephone line.

FTTP (Fibre to the Premises): the most advanced generation of broadband to date, providing speeds of up to 1000Mbps down and 115Mbps up. FTTP is suitable for pretty much any operation, providing extremely high speeds. This is the best broadband option out there, but it is still not available for the majority of people while BT Openreach and some other providers continue to build their fibre networks. This service runs on fibre direct to your premises, so does not need to share a PSTN telephone line.

SoGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access): this is a new product made available to deal with the “Great BT Switch Off” of the PSTN network, providing speeds comparable with FTTC and G.Fast services. As BT Openreach moves to turn off the traditional PSTN copper telephone line network in 2025, a product was needed to fill the gap while fibre networks are built. SoGEA is very much like an FTTC service. It is provided over a dedicated, traditional copper line, but you won’t be able to use that line for telephone calls, so you’ll need a VoIP telephone service instead.

Leased lines: broadband’s better alternative

A leased line is the main alternative to broadband and is widely considered to be the best option for medium to large businesses, and those who need a truly reliable internet connection, or very fast speeds.

It is worth bearing in mind that leased lines tend to be considerably more expensive that broadband, can take up to 90 days to install and are usually based on a longer contract term than broadband alternatives. However, a leased line offers an ‘uncontended’ connection, so that the line is dedicated for your use and not shared with anyone. It also offers a ‘symmetric’ service; the upload and download speeds are the same, which is great for VoIP call quality.

Business-grade Service Level Agreements (SLA) on leased lines tend to result in faster fix times, refund backed guarantees, and generally higher reliability, coupled with a proactively monitored service, so any problems get spotted and resolved faster.

In addition, leased lines are well suited to combinations of products, such as secondary lines and mobile data to provide redundancy and backup.

The following leased line options are available:-

EFM (Ethernet First Mile): a low cost leased line option, typically providing speeds of around 20Mbps. EFM provides a lot of the benefits of leased lines, but is delivered over bundles of traditional copper lines, so is relatively cheap. This has become less widely used as other forms of leased line have come down in price, but is still sometimes used as a cheap, reliable backup. EFM is suitable for small businesses , where reliability and stability are more important than speed.

EoFTTC (Ethernet over FTTC): a more modern, low cost leased line option, providing typical speeds of around 20Mbps. It provides a lot of the benefits of leased lines, delivered over FTTC technology to reduce the cost. It is often used as a reliable backup to other forms of leased line. Suitable for small businesses , where reliability and stability are more important than speed.

Fibre Ethernet (FEthernet): the gold standard and most reliable form of internet connection available, providing speeds of anything from 20Mbps up to a blistering 10Gbps. Suitable for all businesses, providing reliability, stability and speed. Fibre Ethernet connections are the basic building blocks of business internet connections. They can also be used in conjunction with secondary fibre ethernet connections, EFM, mobile broadband, etc. to provide resilient connections with automatic failover to a backup line.

Get in touch now to discuss what options are available to you and your business. PurpleUC has decades of experience in IT services including internet connectivity and modern IP telephony and is a platform/vendor agnostic provider of both. PurpleUC is a subsidiary of Purple Matrix, a Tier 1 Microsoft Gold partner.