Leased Lines Explained: Does Your Business Need One?

Broadband lines

A leased line provides a business with a dedicated, private, and super-fast internet and/or phone network that doesn't need to be shared with any other buildings or organisations. Leased lines are good for businesses that rely heavily on the internet, and don't want to risk outages and slow speeds.

But what else is there to know about leased lines? A lot, it turns out. Read on for our exploration of how leased lines can be used, the different types of lines, their pros and cons, their costs, and more.

You can also use our free quote-finding tool to compare tailored, no-obligation quotes from the best leased line providers for your business.


What is a leased line?

Also known as dedicated internet access (DIA), a leased line is a dedicated data connection that runs between one location and another. They're most commonly used to establish a private telecommunications network between business premises in different locations – for example, you would set one up between an office in London and an office in Manchester.

Leased lines have two key characteristics, which differentiate them from other telecommunications services:

1. They're uncontended

This means your business won't share the data connection with anyone else.

Think of your broadband at home, for example. You share that connection's bandwidth with other local households, meaning your connection speeds can slow down at peak times, when everyone checks Instagram, turns on Netflix, and signs into an online game. In other words, it's a contended network.

With a leased line, the bandwidth is allotted to your business and your business only, meaning your connection won't suffer at peak times.

2. They're symmetric

With a leased line, your upload and download speeds are exactly the same. Traditional broadband, on the other hand, tends to favour faster download speeds. Symmetric (also known as synchronous) speeds make it easier to send large files, upload to your website, perform data backups, make VoIP calls, host on servers, and more.


Broadband lines

What can I use leased lines for?

Leased lines can be used to carry a variety of data services, including internet and phone services. Nowadays, leased lines are most commonly hailed as a super fast alternative to conventional broadband setups.

Leased lines have a few different applications:

  • Giving your different business sites access to a single, uncontended internet connection
  • Linking your computers and servers up as a single network across different sites
  • Carrying phone calls between the sites, instead of making calls via the traditional landline (otherwise known as the public switched telephone network – PSTN)
  • Providing a private network for your employees to connect to from home
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How does a leased line work?

Leased lines are available in three different varieties: wired, wireless, or both.

  • Wired leased lines are delivered by fibre to the premises (FTTP) – physical fibre cables which travel underground between your business premises and your ISP's (internet service provider) supply point. Wired leased lines work in the same way as fibre optic broadband: by transmitting data via light pulses along the cables. We won't go into the exact science of this because, let's face it, that's not what you're here to read!
  • Wireless leased lines are delivered by radio, via antennae installed on your premises' roofs by your ISP. Each antenna must be within the line of sight (LOS) of the connection route: in other words, the antennae at your separate sites must be ‘lined up' with one another in order to transmit data via radio signals. It sounds complicated, but this is something your ISP will sort out.
  • Leased lines that are both wireless and wired make use of both antennae and fibre cables. The benefit here is that, if an antenna fails for some reason, you can rely on your cables – and vice versa.

Not sure whether you'd prefer wired or wireless? Check whether fibre optic cables have already been laid in your area. If so, establishing a leased line using the cables will normally prove cheaper.

However, if there are no fibre cables available for you to use, setting up a wireless leased line will be much faster and easier, usually taking between 10 and 21 days. In contrast, laying new fibre cables can take 60 to 90 days, and cause disruption to the surrounding area.


The different types of leased line

We've already discussed wireless leased lines versus wired leased lines. But within the category of wired leased lines, there are a few different setups to be aware of:

Type of wired leased lineDescriptionPrice range
Full fibreUsing full FTTP (fibre to the premises), this is when fibre optic cables – and only fibre optic cables – connect your premises directly to your ISP's supply point.Most expensive
Ethernet in the first mile (EFM)For businesses that don't have a local fibre cabinet, this uses the traditional copper network to connect you to an exchange, and then switches to fibre optic cables from there.Cheaper
Ethernet over FTTC (EoFTTC)This uses a mix of fibre and copper cables, but still requires businesses to have a local fibre cabinet – so it's essentially a cheaper alternative to full fibre.Cheapest

Why do I need a business leased line?

Before deciding whether or not to invest in a leased line for your business, it's important to understand the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Consistently super fast download and upload speeds
  • No outages or slowdowns at traditional peak times
  • Fewer security risks, as the connection isn't shared outside your business
  • Leased line providers have SLAs (service level agreements) that commit them to fixing connectivity issues quickly

Cons

  • More expensive than traditional data connections
  • Complicated installation that can take a long time

To understand whether you'd genuinely benefit from the pros of a leased line, it's worth asking yourself a couple of questions:

  • How much does your business rely on the internet? Is the majority of your operation internet-based?
  • How often do your employees communicate with one another over the internet?
  • Do internet connectivity issues cause big problems for you? Can your team still do their jobs without internet? Could you end up losing revenue?

How to get a leased line

Getting your business a leased line is essentially a case of:

  1. Choosing a leased line provider
  2. Contacting your chosen provider
  3. Agreeing on a contract and starting up the installation

That first step isn't as simple as it sounds, but after 10+ years of helping businesses discover the services they need, we do know a thing or two about choosing providers.

First, take a look at the options available in your area. You can get leased lines from many familiar telecoms companies, including TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media, and Vodafone, but you can also get them from dedicated alternative providers such as Local Telecom, Colt, and CityFibre. Take a look at our comparison of the best leased line providers in the UK to see what the top options are.

When you know which suppliers you'd like to investigate, there are a couple of factors you should compare, including their download and upload speed, the amount of bandwidth they can offer, and – crucially – how much they charge for a leased line.

This can be a time-consuming and bewildering process if you do it on your own. But our free quote comparison tool can help you quickly and easily compare the best leased line providers for you, and bring you tailored quotes and info directly from those providers. Just answer a few questions about what you need from a leased line, and we'll do the rest.


Leased line costs

When it comes to leased line costs, there are two key considerations to be aware of:

  • Installation costs
  • The monthly fee charged by your leased line provider

Installation costs

Type of leased lineTypical installation costCost depends on:
Wired leased line£2,000 to £100,000
  • Your location – installation is much cheaper in major UK cities that already have fibre infrastructure
  • How far you are from the nearest exchange
Wireless leased line£1,000 to £2,000
  • Your location – installation is cheaper when you have clear LOS, as it means less hardware is needed to line things up
Note

These installation costs look pricey, but be aware that you'll only pay these costs yourself if your provider doesn't waive them. Some suppliers offer free installation on particular contracts, or will cover a certain amount of construction charges for you.

Monthly fees

Type of leased lineTypical monthly feeFees depend on:
Wired leased line£90 to £900
  • The amount of bandwidth you need
  • Your connection speed
  • The nature of your leased line (EoFTTC, EFM, or full fibre)
  • The length of your contract (most providers offer 36-month contracts, but 12 months and 24 months are sometimes available)
  • Your location – monthly costs are ususally cheaper in major cities than they are in more rural areas
Wireless leased line£350 to £1,000
  • The amount of bandwidth you need
  • Your connection speed
  • Your location
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How fast is a leased line connection?

Super-fast, ultra-fast… however you want to phrase it, leased line connections are very, very speedy. Available speeds range from 1Mbps all the way up to 10Gbps. At the moment, 100Mbps leased lines are growing in popularity among businesses.

For context, conventional broadband download speeds average at around 10Mbps, with upload speeds significantly slower. Don't forget leased lines offer symmetric download and upload speeds, which is a huge benefit in their favour.


How to test leased line speed

If you suspect your leased line connection speed is slowing down – or you simply want to check that your provider's delivering what you agreed on – there are a couple of ways to carry out a leased line speed test:

  1. Online: You can find a number of leased line speed tests online – choose one you trust, hook your laptop up to your leased line router, and run the test. This is a quick and easy solution, but be wary that the results won't be totally accurate.
  2. Through your provider: Your leased line provider will have specialist equipment for testing connection speeds. Contact the company and arrange a complete speed test. This will take longer, but the test will be much more reliable and the results you get will be totally accurate. If you're serious about understanding your connection speed, this is the best thing to do.

FAQs

What's the difference between a leased line and broadband?
Firstly, leased lines give you an uncontended network that's dedicated to your business and can only be accessed by your business. Unlike conventional broadband, you don't share the line with any other buildings or organisations, so you won't suffer from slow speeds and deterioration at peak times.

Secondly, leased lines are symmetric: this means their upload speeds are the same as their download speeds. Conventional broadband favours faster download speeds and slower upload speeds, which makes sense for households that mostly use the internet to stream television, browse the web, play online games, and so on. Businesses, on the other hand, do as much uploading as they do downloading: sharing large files, hosting websites, uploading data to the cloud, holding video meetings, and more.

Another difference is that leased lines give faster connection speeds. While traditional broadband averages at around 10Mbps for downloads, leased lines can offer speeds as lightning quick as 10Gbps.

Finally, leased lines are much more expensive than traditional broadband, with monthly fees sitting in the hundreds rather than the dozens. That's because of all the differences outlined in this FAQ!

Can you increase leased line speeds?
This depends on the bearer your leased line is running on. A bearer essentially sets the limit of your bandwidth, so it's important to ask about the bearer before signing up for a leased line.

For example, if you choose a 10Mbps leased line on a 100Mbps bearer, you should be able to contact your provider at any point in your contract and request a faster speed (for a higher monthly fee, of course). However, if you have a 100Mbps leased line on a 100Mbps bearer, you've hit your limit, and you'll need to wait until your contract expires before upgrading to a faster speed.

How long do they take to install?
That depends on whether you're plumping for a wired or wireless leased line – in other words, whether you're installing cables or antennae.

Wired leased lines take much longer to install, as new cables may need to be laid underground. This can take two to three months, and sometimes longer. Wireless leased lines, on the other hand, can be set up in 10 to 21 days.

What questions should you ask leased line providers?
We'd recommend asking the following questions of potential leased line providers:

  • How much will I pay per month for the amount of bandwidth I need?
  • What connection speeds can I get for my budget?
  • How much bandwidth is available on the bearer my leased line will run on?
  • How long will installation take?
  • How much will installation cost?
  • How quickly do you tend to fix connectivity problems?
  • What support options do you have available if my team experiences an issue with the line?
What's the difference between leased lines and DSL?
DSL stands for digital subscriber line (or loop). Like leased lines, it's a means of transmitting data. However, in the case of DSL, data is transmitted via the traditional copper landline, rather than via fibre optic cables or radio signals. DSL is currently the primary form of broadband in the UK.
What's the difference between leased lines and dedicated internet?
There is no difference! Leased lines provide businesses with a dedicated internet network that isn't shared by any other organisations or buildings. A leased line connection is also often referred to as DIA (dedicated internet access).
Julia Watts Content Manager

Specialising in the complex realms of telephone systems, business energy, vehicle tracking, asset tracking, and fuel cards, Julia writes content that cuts through the noise to help you find the right solutions and technologies for your business. Having spent five years working across the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.