the ultimate guide to leased lines2018-10-10T10:40:22+00:00

The ultimate guide to leased lines

dedicated broadband connection

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Leased Lines”  before and the benefits leased lines have. But, what are leased lines? How do they work and how much do they cost? Everything will be revealed in Gradwell Communication’s ultimate guide to leased lines.

What are leased lines?

Let’s start with answering the obvious first question. A leased line is a dedicated, fixed-bandwidth, symmetric data connection. “What does that mean?” I hear you ask – let me explain.

We’re all familiar with a standard internet connection. We get home, connect our phone, tablet or TV and start to stream, browse or download content. But it’s 5pm, and everyone in your street is doing the same thing, so downloading a file, or streaming Netflix is sluggish and before you know it you’re buffering all over the place.

With a dedicated leased line, the bandwidth you require has been given to you and only you have access to it. This means that your connection won’t be hampered by peak times throughout the day. The technical word to describe this is “uncontended”.

If you own or run your own business, you’ll already be aware of the impact slow internet connections can have. Downloading or sending large files, VoIP conference calls – all can be interrupted by a poor internet connection.

The other good news about leased lines is that they’re “Symmetric”. This, in simpler terms, means that you’ll be able to upload items, like large files, at the same speed as your download speed. Cool, right?

This is exceptionally useful for modern cloud applications (such as file sharing) and VoIP, where the speed you send data at, is as important as the speed you download it at.

Having access to the fast upload speed that leased lines provide will allow you carry out un-interrupted VoIP calls, uploading big files to a client or your cloud storage with no delay.

Our customers need us to be flexible, reliable and cost-effective – and that’s what we deliver. Find out how we help with these case studies.

How do leased lines work?

Right, now you know what they are, let us tell you how they work. We’ll try to keep this as simple as possible but we will need to use a little bit of jargon.

A fibre optic leased line works by sending pulses of light down a fibre optic cable. Data in your computer is digital and binary. What you see on the screen is made up of millions of 1s and 0s (binary, literally either one of two things) which then represents any of the data you keep and use on your machine.

When you need to send data down a fibre optic cable, the equipment at either end is on the lookout for light – namely whether the light is on or off. Light being on or off is also “binary”. So, the 1s and 0s can be duplicated using light. Equipment at one end will turn lights on and off to represent 1s and 0s, and the equipment at the other recognises this, records it and stores it back as 1s and 0s.

As this data is being transmitted, it travels at the speed of light. And you don’t get faster than that. The limiting factor is more often how quickly the equipment at either end can send or recognise the light.

leased-line_how_they_work

How fast are leased lines?

In one word, fast. Really fast. With fibre optic broadband, the maximum speed you’ll probably be receiving is around 76Mbps. That is a fairly good speed, but it will fluctuate and be affected by peak times throughout the day. This is because the connection isn’t pure fibre optic all the way (the last bit to your property is copper cable, which can’t transmit data as fast). Also, bits of the connection are shared with other people (i.e. the fibre optic cable isn’t just being used by you, and people are having to take turns using it – the technical term for this is ‘multiplexing’ and helps keep your broadband costs low).

With a fibre optic leased line, the speeds are incredible – packages are available delivering 10Gbps. Yes, you did read that correctly, 10Gbps. As leased lines are uncontended symmetrical lines, you can even define how much speed you require from a leased line to suit your personal business requirements, meeting both your requirements for capacity and budget.

As an example, if you run a printing business, you may need to upload large graphic design work files to cloud storage for clients to review. Standard broadband services are usually asymmetrical, meaning the upload speed is nowhere near as fast as the download speed. You will be waiting around for large chunks of the day whilst your work is uploaded. However, with a fibre optic leased line, you can choose your dedicated upload speed to supercharge these transfers and allow you to get on with the important stuff. As the speed doesn’t fluctuate because of other users, you have an unwavering assurance that the speed is there when you need it.

Below is a screen shot of what a leased line speed test result looks like. Impressive, right?

Leased line speed

Fibre optic leased lines are usually described in two parts, a line speed and a bearer speed. They are usually quoted like this: 20/100. The number before the slash is the line speed and the number after is the bearer.
The line speed is what you experience when you use the connection. It’s usually a symmetrical speed, meaning that you can upload at the same speed as you can download.

The bearer is the maximum speed that the line can go to. This means that in the future if your needs change (for example, your business grows) and your current line speed is lower than the bearer speed, you should be able to upgrade your bandwidth and pay just a bit more per month.

Let’s look again at that 20/100 circuit we mentioned in the first paragraph. On this, you can upload and download at 20Mbps (megabits per second). From here, you can upgrade in increments all the way up to 100Mbps, given you reassurance that your connection can change with the needs of your business.
The most common bearer sizes are 100Mbps and 1Gbps, with 10Gbps also being available.

What are the benefits of a leased line?

The benefits of a leased line can easily be summed up in the following statement:

How do you know if you need a leased line?

I’m sure we’ve all had one of these days.  You’re trying to download a large file that a client has sent you and as soon as you click the “download” button, you slowly watch the download time creep up and up. This is not only frustrating, but can slow you down and make you less efficient.

Perhaps you are on a conference call using Skype for Business, and there’s a huge delay or the call keeps dropping out.

Perhaps you’re working collaboratively in the cloud on a document with other colleagues or are updating your website, but because your connection is poor, changes aren’t being saved or editing your website is slow and painful.

With the world becoming an ever more connected place and more and more businesses relying on a stable, secure connection to run their business, a leased line could provide a way to future proof your business.

With a leased line, you’ll never shout at the top of your voice “C’mon, hurry up!” waiting for a download. Your voice will be crystal clear on that conference call and you’ll win that big contract. Your colleagues will be able to work seamlessly together on a presentation and save it to the cloud.

At the end of the day, if you think your business could benefit from a leased line the positives outweigh the negatives. You’ll gain you access to a super-fast and an incredibly reliable broadband connection. However, buying into a leased line is an investment, but one which will make your more efficient, productive, faster and future proof your business connectivity.

Are there any alternatives to leased lines?

Quite often a business will purchase a speed which, on the face of it, looks slower than traditional broadband services. For example, they may commit to a 50/100 circuit which seems slower than a superfast fibre broadband circuit, which can operate at up to 80Mbps down. Why wouldn’t you go for the cheaper broadband service?

Well, firstly broadband is an “up to” service. The speed you get can be affected by factors such as how far you are from the exchange. It also uses a shared local network, meaning that speeds can fluctuate throughout the day as other people also use their broadband service. A fibre optic leased line gives you a guaranteed speed – the speed you buy is the speed you get.

Secondly, broadband usually has slower upload speeds than download. The maximum upload speed of a superfast fibre broadband service is 20Mbps. This can also be affected by distance from the exchange and how busy the network is. On the other hand, a fibre optic leased line with a download speed of 50Mbps will also have an upload speed of 50Mbps, massively useful whenever you want to take part in VoIP calls, video conferences or sync files with an online server.

Finally, whilst a total outage on your broadband circuit may take more than a day to resolve, fibre optic leased lines are usually targeted to be fixed within hours.

Questions you should ask your potential leased line provider before you order.

How will you assist me to get it installed?

You really need to view the installation of your fibre optic leased line as project. There are various queries to handle, appointments for surveys of your premises to be present for and engineer visits to be aware of. You need your chosen provider to have a team dedicated to managing installations whilst, keeping a close eye on how things are progressing and clearly communicating updates to you as soon as they have them. There’s also often a lot of industry jargon involved, and you will rely on this team to explain things to you in plain English so you know what is happening every step of the way.

How will you support me?

Where is the support team based, and what hours do they work? How will you raise issues to them? Whilst a provider will not necessarily help you setup all the computers, switches and wireless access points in your office network, will they at least hold a handover call to help you plug your gateway or main switch into the termination equipment on site and ensure that your connection is up and working?

How resilient is a leased line service?

Fibre optic services are extremely reliable. Unlike copper based broadband services, they aren’t susceptible to environmental factors like electronic interference and water ingress in the network. And when they do go down, they are treated as a priority fix, usually with a five-hour target for a fix if there’s a total loss of service (versus several days for standard broadband services).

However, five hours will feel like an awfully long time if your whole business has gone offline. That’s why you should ensure that your provider includes some form of backup circuit to at least keep you online, even if it’s on a slower service. Ask whether there is a broadband backup included, and if you consider your connection as business critical ask whether they will even provide a second fibre optic leased line through a different route into the building. Another option could be to have a backhaul supplier to help make downtime even less likely.

How will backup be handled?

One final thing to check on any backup service that the provider gives you is – how do you switch over to it? The most basic way is that if your primary circuit goes down, you manually plug your equipment into the backup line. However, a much better solution is for the provider to ensure that this happens automatically, with a box on site handling the shift to the backup service within seconds of it detecting that your main circuit is down.

What visibility of the circuit will the provider have?

Ensure you know what type of service you are buying. You can purchase a fibre optic leased line as “wires only”. This has the benefit of you simply plugging in your equipment to the termination point and configure your network as you see fit. However, it will give your chosen provider very little visibility of your circuit, potentially slowing down support resolution times if you have an issue.

Alternatively, they may provide a managed router as part of the circuit, which will provide them with some visibility of your circuit that they can remotely monitor. They may even be able to set up some quality of service rules for you, allowing you to prioritise traffic that you think is important.

How do I get a leased line for my business or even my home?

Once you have accepted a quote and completed the order form, a range of activities happen in the background to get a fibre optic leased line to your property.

We have an in-depth guide that sets out each step of the process, but as a summary, first have a very clear idea where in your property you want the circuit to terminate (most business premises have some sort of communications rack or room). As part of the installation, you will have a site survey where an engineer plans how to get a fibre optic cable from the exchange to your premises. As part of this they need to work out how much work is involved in getting the last bit of cable into your premises and to your chosen termination point. Changing your mind later on in the process where you want this termination point to be will cause delays and additional cost.

If you don’t own your property, talk to your landlord as soon as possible as their permission will be sought to install the circuit. Your landlord may insist on legal paperwork being drawn up (eg a wayleave) which can also slow the process and incur additional cost.

A certain amount of the installation cost will be covered as part of the setup of your fibre optic leased line. However, any cost above this amount will be charged to you, and is referred to as an “Excess Construction Charge”. A provider has no way of knowing what this may be when you place the order, although often they can give you a good (but not guaranteed) indication of whether any will apply to your installation. The good news is that whenever an Excess Construction Charge applies to an order, you will have 30 days to decide whether to accept and pay the charges, or cancel the order without penalty.

If you do proceed and additional work is identified at a later date you won’t be asked to shoulder the additional cost. So at least you know if you do proceed that you won’t suddenly get another invoice for additional work at a later date.

How long will a leased line take to install?

Leased line installation times can vary and depend on several factors, such as what local infrastructure is already in place. Usually the results of the site survey give a reasonable indication of how long an installation may take, although there is never a guaranteed delivery date for your circuit because multiple parties (many of which aren’t involved in the installation) need to work together to deliver the circuit. For example, if a road needs to be dug up to install a new duct, applications to implement road closures or restrictions need to be made to the local council. These leased line orders may take many months to complete.

Occasionally, most of the infrastructure is in place, including available fibre optic cable into the building. These orders can complete within a few weeks.

However, you’ll often hear timescales such as “45 to 90 working days” quoted for a new fibre optic leased line installation.

One way that you can assist getting your circuit provisioned is to work with your provider to provide quick turnaround times for any queries they send to you (as often the order is placed on hold until you answer). This ensures that if an engineer is due to visit site that absolutely everyone they may have contact with is aware that they are visiting – all too often a few people at a company know that an engineer is due to attend site to do work, but whoever answers the front door isn’t and turns them away.

If the lead times cause you issues, you should ask your provider if they can provide any interim connectivity to your site (e.g. FTTC broadband) until your main service goes live.

How long does it take for leased lines to be installed

How much do leased lines cost?

The cost you pay will depend on many factors; your location and the speed required are two big ones. You can view our leased line prices here.

Are there any disaster management options?

We’ve already mentioned having backup lines. If you really want to protect your internet connection, ensure that you ask that if more than one circuit is installed then multiple backhaul suppliers can be used (this reduces the chance that an equipment fault with one supplier affects both circuits). If you have two circuits coming into your building, but they both share the same physical infrastructure (e.g. ducts in the road) then they are susceptible to issues such as an overly keen construction worker digging through both circuits. Check the cost of routing each line diversely into the building to reduce this.

All of this increases cost of course. However, you should always calculate this additional cost against the potential downtime for your operation. If you run your phones over VoIP and everyone in the business uses Cloud applications to do their work, what is the cost of lost productivity and missing customer calls for a couple of hours whilst your internet is down? It may be higher than you think and be insignificant when compared to the additional cost.

How long will a leased line take to install?

Leased line installation times can vary and depend on several factors, such as what local infrastructure is already in place. Usually the results of the site survey give a reasonable indication of how long an installation may take, although there is never a guaranteed delivery date for your circuit because multiple parties (many of which aren’t involved in the installation) need to work together to deliver the circuit. For example, if a road needs to be dug up to install a new duct, applications to implement road closures or restrictions need to be made to the local council. These leased line orders may take many months to complete.

Occasionally, most of the infrastructure is in place, including available fibre optic cable into the building. These orders can complete within a few weeks.

However, you’ll often hear timescales such as “45 to 90 working days” quoted for a new fibre optic leased line installation.

One way that you can assist getting your circuit provisioned is to work with your provider to provide quick turnaround times for any queries they send to you (as often the order is placed on hold until you answer). This ensures that if an engineer is due to visit site that absolutely everyone they may have contact with is aware that they are visiting – all too often a few people at a company know that an engineer is due to attend site to do work, but whoever answers the front door isn’t and turns them away.

If the lead times cause you issues, you should ask your provider if they can provide any interim connectivity to your site (e.g. FTTC broadband) until your main service goes live.

locally diverse routing leased line
Diverse supplier touting leased lines
Diverse geo routing leased line

What other equipment might I need?

Usually, your fibre optic leased line ends at the termination point in your communications room; so consider carefully the rest of your office network. If you’re moving into a new building now is the time to carefully consider what wireless access points, switches and cabling is required. If you’re making the move to VoIP telephony, you’ll need to consider how you connect all your phones.

More and more networking equipment is beginning to work in the cloud, which provides unparalleled remote visibility of your network. It even allows you to configure hardware before it’s switched on, greatly reducing setup times. Make sure you ask whether your provider can offer you this sort of equipment too.

What about data caps?

You should always ensure that when you chat to a leased line provider about a leased line that they don’t have data caps. This means that you can use your connection without worrying about getting a bill for downloading too much.

A business grade provider should also not have traffic management policies. This means that they won’t purposefully slow down your connection if they believe you’re using too much data. If they do, it gets rid of many of the benefits of having a leased line.

Different perspectives

Different people within businesses will love fibre optic leased lines for different reasons. Here we cover a few.

The IT person

Usually the first person moaned at when the office internet is slow and unreliable. A fibre optic leased line lets you get on with other things instead due to its reliability and better performance. When automatic failover to a backup connection is included, you don’t get the grief if the main connection goes down and everyone is waiting on you to swap connections around to the backup service.

The Finance Director

Whilst a fibre optic leased line costs more than a broadband line, it enables your business to save money in other services. For example, if your company is using ISDN lines or traditional telephone services, switching to VoIP services will save you considerable money on call costs. If staff have historically required, the use of expensive onsite servers you can move all your storage into the cloud to leverage both cost savings and better access to your files wherever anyone is in the world.

The business owner/manager

As the owner or manager of the business, you’ll be aware of the cost of downtime. Phones aren’t being answered, projects aren’t being worked on, and sales aren’t being made. The last time there was a power cut or the internet went down, you were flabbergasted to be reminded of how much of what you do is now reliant on being online. When you total up the cost of wages being paid for no output, customers not being served or sales not being made, you know that the cost of an hour of downtime far outweighs the monthly cost of your fibre optic leased line.

Staff members

Despite what some people might say, most people just want to get on with their work. And you know how frustrating it is when you’re waiting on your internet connection to catch up with whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Once your company invests in a fibre optic leased line, those frustrations become a thing of the past. And that time the main circuit went down, you will still able to complete some mission critical work on the backup line.







Request a quote