Updated February 2021. In areas where superfast or ultrafast broadband is not available, telecom suppliers often point businesses in need of reliable high-speed Internet access towards leased lines, particularly in areas where superfast broadband is not available. However, leased lines can be very expensive and bonded ADSL can potentially provide a much cheaper alternative.
A leased line is a dedicated connection, which (unlike a typical broadband connection) is not shared by any other user. Leased lines have, at face value, a number of benefits, notably:
- guaranteed high-speed Internet access (with speeds up to 1 Gbps, or above)
- unlimited data usage (although many businesses – particularly smaller ones – may not need this)
- the same bandwidth available in both directions
- no contention. As a leased line is not shared, it delivers a dedicated guaranteed bandwidth
- service level agreements.
The major downside of a leased line is cost. The initial installation cost of a leased line (typically thousands of pounds) generally varies according to the distance between the ISP’s Point of Presence (POP) and the physical location of the customer and the nature of the terrain between these two points. In order to avoid putting off customers, most leased line providers amortize all or part of the initial installation cost over the contract period (and typically specify minimum contract periods of several years). For example, BT offers free connection for leased lines with three and five year contracts.
Despite leased lines being available from a number of telecom providers (such as BT, Virgin and TalkTalk Business), the monthly cost of a leased line is substantially greater than an ADSL line. Monthly costs vary significantly according to user location and speed required, and can typically vary between £400 and £2000 per month. The lowest monthly costs are associated with the slowest leased line speeds (2 Mbps and 10 Mbps). It is possible to choose leased lines offering fast speeds (for example, 100 Mbps or even 1 Gbps and above).
Given the cost of a leased line and the long minimum contract periods, we advise caution before signing up to a leased line. Careful consideration should be given to alternatives, particularly bonded ADSL. Bonded ADSL effectively amalgamates the downlink (and uplink) bandwidth of two or more ADSL lines together (to substantially increase Internet speed) while improving service reliability (since service is not lost if a single line goes down). Maximum resilience is achieved through the use of ADSL lines from different suppliers.
As an example, with ADSL2 lines each offering a relatively modest 6 Mbps (downlink) and 1 Mbps (uplink), bonded ADSL would be able to deliver nearly 12 Mbps (downlink) and 2 Mbps (uplink) with two ADSL lines, and nearly 24 Mbps (downlink) and 4 Mbps (uplink) with four ADSL lines. Even with four ADSL lines, the cost would be cheaper than a leased line and without a long minimum time commitment.
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