Monday 26 March 2012

Which is better, BT Infinity (FTTC) or a Leased Line?

In this article I am going to discuss leased lines versus BT Infinity or FTTC and does FTTC even compare with a leased line?

The relatively new ‘Infinity’ product from BT is touted as the next generation super-fast broadband service which can deliver download speeds of up to 40Mbp/s and upload speeds of up to 10Mbp/s. The added benefit of this new delivery is that it costs the same as a standard ADSL service which on average is about £30 per month, making it an extremely affordable for a very fast internet connection.

As such, many home users and businesses are migrating over to FTTC in order to make use and take advantage of the improved speeds and lower costs. However, as ever with these things that appear to be too good to be true, they often are, and that detail is always found in the small print.

To explain, whilst FTTC can indeed offer download speeds of up to 40Mbp/s, there are often data download limits on FTTC contracts which means that whilst you can download data a lot faster, it doesn’t take long to reach the monthly download limit. Once this limit is reached, an ISP will either charge more for over usage or simply throttle the connection down to a much slower speed. In some ways it’s a bit like owning a car which has a top speed of 200Mph but UK speeds limits dictate that anything above 70Mph is breaking the law.

The faster is it, the more you use and the more you use, the more you pay.

ADSL and FTTC are all technologies that are delivered to homes and businesses on copper pairs of wires. It is an efficient way of doing things as there are more often than not, copper pairs are already connected to premises as this is how telephone lines are delivered. However, in some cases copper is not always used and instead, aluminium wire form part of the delivery to site. If this is the case then any guaranteed speeds which are promised for FTTC often go out of the window. This was highlighted in a recent case whereby a home user ordered an upgrade to FTTC from his current ISP as it had been announced that it was now available at his exchange, and that his line qualifies for an estimated download speed of 35Mbp/s. What followed was a comedy of errors with the customer achieving nowhere near the promised ‘up to’ speeds of 35Mbp/s and instead a very unreliable 15Mbp/s which was prone to drop outs on a regular occasion. It finally came to light that the reason for the poor performance was that part of the copper delivery was indeed on aluminium wire. Open Reach (who is responsible for that part of the network) could only respond by saying that it was essentially ‘tough luck’, as it was not economically viable to replace the aluminium with copper.

This begs the following questions;

  • How much aluminium is out there?
  • Is aluminium still being laid?
  • If Open Reach were not prepared to replace / upgrade the aluminium as outlined above then is this their default stance in cases where buried aluminium cable is seriously affecting the performance of FTTC deliveries?

In any event it is our opinion that FTTC / Infinity can be an excellent product but it does still have its flaws and should in no way be considered as a viable alternative to a fibre based leased line. FTTC still does not come with any sensible SLA or guaranteed fix time. Leased lines do, and many businesses simply cannot survive with extended periods of internet down time.

Additionally leased lines are not subject to any kind of contention, download limits, bandwidth throttling or traffic shaping.

I hope that this article sheds some further light on FTTC and that it has been informative. We do welcome your comments on this article and indeed any others.


  1. Excellent piece - which raises many questions regarding broadband connections. The main problem is that most people, even those in business, are not aware of the issues. Too often they take at face value the maketing put out by a lot of ISPs without any understanding how it will actually be delivered to their premises.
    But interesting to see what other people have to say to add to the debate.

  2. You're right. It is far too easy to simply look at the download speeds and assume that they will be the answer to all your problems. As this article proves, there is often a lot more to consider.