Working from home and remotely using Hosted VoIP

Hi. Today, I’m going to talk about what is a leased line and bearing in mind that this is recorded on the 17th of April, 2020, so things do change.

What isn’t a Leased Line

To start with, it’s probably best to say what isn’t a leased line. The easiest way to talk about this, and I’ll come onto this in a little bit more detail later on, is to look at the cost of a connection. A leased line really costs a minimum of £200-250 a month and upwards. So, if you’re looking at an internet connection that’s anything less than that, there’s a very good chance that it won’t be a leased line.

Definition of What is a Leased Line

To answer the question, what is a leased line? A leased line is an internet connection that is a dedicated connection just for your use, and for your use alone. It’s not shared with anybody else. You get a guaranteed fixed speed, so if you are paying for 100Mbps connection, then that’s what you’re going to get. Just to compare that to a computer connecting to another computer in your office, that tends to run at 1000 megabits. So, even 100 megabits per second is a 10th of the speed of a normal connection between PCs.

Same speed up and down

The speed is the same upload, as it is download, so you are basically always going to get a good connection. Obviously, the speed will go down depending on how many people are using it and what they’re using it for.

Service Level Agreement

The other thing with a leased line is you get what we call a service level agreement or an SLA.

This is a guarantee from your service provider of a certain level of service (normally the % of time when the connection should be working/available – typically 99% or 99.something %).

This is generally a six-hour service level agreement, normally with most suppliers. Basically means that if you have a problem with it, then it’s guaranteed to be fixed within six working hours, depending on what the problem is.

There is a small caveat here, that if the fault is not with the provider, i.e., it’s not with their equipment and it’s some kind of fault that’s outside of their control, then that six-hour service level agreement won’t really apply. You can get compensation for when faults take longer to fix than six hours, but only if it’s all to do with the supplier itself, and not something beyond their control. Something might be wrong at the exchange, which is nothing to do with them, although their equipment’s in it. There could be other reasons for it being outside of their control. Like, for instance, a contractor digging through a duct outside your premises or something of that nature.

A leased line can have problems just like any other connection although normally they tend to be less prone to issues (as most leased lines are delivered on direct fibre optic cable which is mostly underground and free from problems like wiring issues and interference – copper wires suffer from this alot).

What type of cabling is installed?

A leased line is normally delivered underground on fibre optic cabling, so that it’s nice and resilient. It can sometimes be delivered aerially, just depends on your premises. Most leased lines are fibre. There are, however, one or two connections that have copper parts to them. Ethernet First Mile, for example, or EFM, is all copper-based, much slower but still is a leased line. You also can have something called FTTC Ethernet, which is based on fibre broadband technology, where the small part of the cabling that comes out of your premises to the local green cabinet is copper, but then it’s fibre all the way back to the exchange. But, most of the time when we talk about leased lines, they’re fibre optic cabling.

Leased line back up and failover

With a leased line, you normally get a back-up. It’s up to your provider, whether or not they provide a back-up. This generally tends to be a broadband back-up, so your router will be connected to both connections and should your leased line fail, then your fibre broadband would take over, albeit at a reduced speed. But, for most businesses this should be enough whilst the leased line is being fixed.

Sometimes, fibre broadband isn’t available, so you’d have a copper broadband, which would be even more slow. You could also put a lesser leased line in. So, for example, we have customers that have a gigabit leased line for their main connection, and then they might have 100 megabit connection, maybe from a different supplier, for their back-up. That’s quite an expensive way of doing it, but if you want really good continuity and resiliency, then that’s the best option. Years ago, where you had a business with multiple sites, you would have two connections, for example, connected to each other. These days, you don’t. You just have two leased lines, and then you would have your routers and firewalls connecting them together.

Types and sizes of bearer

Let’s talk about bearers. You hear that the term bearer. Fibre leased lines generally have two sizes to them. You can have 100Mbps bearer, which basically means you can have, say a 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, up to 100Mbps connection, working on that 100Mbps bearer. But, you would never be able to have more than 100 Meg on a 100 Meg bearer without installing a new bearer. A new bearer that’s faster would be a gigabit bearer, gigabit being 1000 megabits per second. So, it’s 10 times faster than a 100 Meg. Once you’ve got a gigabit bearer, again, you can have any speed upwards of 100 to 200 say, 250, 500, you can choose whatever speed you want up to 1000 Meg or a gigabit.

Rental charges increase with speed

The faster the speed you choose, the higher the rental charge will be. Also, if you had a choice between two 100 megabit connections, one being on a 100 Meg bearer, so it’s fixed at 100 Meg maximum and one being on the gigabit bearer, the cost for the gigabit bear option would be a bit more.

Wires only or managed connections?

A leased line is a managed connection in that it is normally monitored by the provider. So if it stops working they often know about it before you do. However, it is just a ‘pass-through’ connection to the internet. It is up to you or your IT support people to install and configure a firewall/router to provide security and other things like remote access, web filtering and bandwidth management.

A leased line can sometimes be a wires only connection and that’s what we tend to install for our customers. That basically means, that it’s just delivered without any routing and it’s up to us or up to our customer to install their router and firewall. That’s probably the best way of doing it. There is a more expensive option, which is a managed connection, which basically means that the supplier that’s supplying the internet connection supplies it with a Cisco (normally) router which is monitored. So, the supplier is doing the monitoring. We think this is unnecessary. We prefer to put our own router in, with our own monitoring. Also, if we put our own router in, without the managed router, it just means that there’s less bits of kit to go wrong. So, wires only is the best option, in our opinion.

Just a thing, when we talk about megabits and gigabits, we’re talking about megabits per second (mbps). Just to clear that up. So, it can get quite confusing with regards to megabits, megabits per second, what the difference is.

Actually, strictly speaking we are using the wrong terminology! A “100Mb” connection should really be described as a “100Mbps connection” – Mbps stands for Megabits per second. Also, people talk about ‘Megabits and Gigabits’ and ‘Megabytes and Gigabytes’. A ‘Bit’ is actually 1/8th of a ‘Byte’. Connection speeds are measured in Mbps and Gbps (Megabits/Gigabits per second). It is important to point out that file sizes are always shown in MB and GB (Megabytes and Gigabytes). In other words, to transfer/download a file of 1MB in one minute, you would need a speed of 8Mbps. Very often, IT providers and experts get this wrong and refer to Megabytes (MB) when they actually mean Megabits (Mb). Also, they often shorten it to ‘Meg’ and ‘Gig’. So the size of a file should always be referred to in Bytes and the speed should always be referred to in bits!

How long do they take to install?

Leased lines tend to take a while to install, so we would normally go and do a survey and we can tell you whether or not you already have fibre into your building.

A fibre ethernet can take 3 months or 60 working days (sometimes alot longer – occassionally more quickly if there is already fibre in the building).

If you’re in a building with other businesses, there’s a good chance that someone’s already had fibre put in. If you’re looking to get fibre put in yourself, and I’m talking about a direct fibre leased line, then if there’s already fibre in your building, then although Ofcom‘s lead time is generally three months to install it, it might get installed much more quickly than that. Typically, one to two months, because BT Openreach will treat it as a Quick Win because there’s already fibre into the building. They may just have to extend the fibre into your floor or wherever you are in the building.

Fibre Excess Construction Charges (ECC’s)

There is a problem with getting fibre direct into the building, where there’s not currently fibre. It just depends on where the nearest fibre connection is in your area. It may be just outside on the pavement, it may be across the road, it may be 100 meters from your premises, it could be a long way from your premises.

It could be as simple as extending the fibre from within your building (eg the basement) or it could be 10 kilometres of digging up roads and fields. The costs incurred here are called ECC’s (Excess Construction Costs) and are not to be confused with the ‘Installation’ cost. The only way to discover the ECC’s are by placing an order which results and a survey being completed. The ECC’s are then known and presented to the provider and in turn to the customer, at which point they then either proceed or cancel.

What will happen is, when we place an order for a fibre ethernet leased line, after two weeks you’ll get a surveyor in to survey the premises. And then, they’ll tell us what the Excess construction charges or ECC’s are, to actually dig up the road and do whatever is necessary to get the fibre to your premises.

So, when we give you that figure of the excess construction charges, you then have a choice to abort the order or continue with the order.

Government Subsidy to cover costs of direct fibre installation ECC’s

It’s worth noting that as we speak, the government is still providing a subsidy of up to £ 2,800 to cover these excess construction charges. So, if the charges come in under £ 2,800, which basically means that you’ve got zero charge to install the fibre, you will be obligated to go ahead. If, however, the Excess construction charges are more than this, then you have the option to abort the order and just do something else. It’s difficult to know how long that government subsidy is going to last. There has been talk of the government suspending that, because the funds have nearly run out. But, as we speak that’s still available.

This subsidy means that, in around 85% of cases, there will be no additional cost to install it.

When you get your quotation from your supplier, they will quote you a monthly rental charge subject to survey. If you opt for a 3 year agreement, there shouldn’t be an installation charge (different to an ECC).

Leased Line tail options

We need to talk about something called a tail. So, regardless of who you get your leased line from, who’s going to be billing you and managing the connection, generally there are different types of tail available. They tend to be BT Openreach tails or BT Wholesale tails, I should say, where BT are providing the direct fibre into your premises back to the exchange, and that’s all. Once it’s back at the exchange, then that will go onto your suppliers equipment. For example, in our case we use Gamma. So, with a BT tail, BT will install the fibre into the premises back to the exchange from where it will then connect to the Gamma equipment and that’s their part of the connection.

But, you can also have tails direct from your supplier sometimes, in certain areas if they have local fibre. Another good option is maybe a Talk Talk tail, because Talk Talk use BT Openreach wiring and cables. You can also have a Virgin tail, which means the Virgin are providing the local fiber. So, those tend to generally be the options.

A cautionary note about wayleaves

If you rent your premises and/or if BT need to install any cabling or equipment on property that belongs to a third party, a wayleave may be required which is a legal agreement for BT to complete the work.

Normally, landlords are reasonable and will accept BT’s standard wayleave.

However, some landlords are very fussy about the wording and it can cause severe delays and even cancellation. If the wording cannot be agreed, after 90 days of delay, your order will automatically be cancelled! And you will be charged over £ 2,000! So be very wary.

Note all wayleave associated costs will be borne by you! Plus you will have legal fees from your solicitor.

So check out the situation with your landlords before you place an order.

Site Specific RAMS

Some landlords are also very fussy when it comes to RAMS (Risk and Method Statement). They will not accept BT’s standard RAMS and insist on Site Specific RAMS which means the supplier has to do more work to explain how the project is going to be installed and completed.

Site Specific RAMS are often chargeable and are normally around £ 500.

Explanation of Converged Leased Lines

There was another option that you pick when you’re choosing your leased line, which might be called converged. This is where the supplier is apportioning a certain amount of bandwidth for voice, which might be a SIP Trunk for your voice line into your phone system or PBX. Or, if you’re using hosted telephony, which a lot of small businesses are now, that might be just sectioning off certain amounts of bandwidth for the voice so that you can guarantee call quality.

We tend to not bother with these converged connections anymore. We’d rather do the voice segmentation and prioritization ourselves on our own router. But, that is an option that some suppliers will offer you.

So, that is what a leased line is. The costs do vary from premises to premises. If you have a postcode and an address and you give it to us, we can tell within five minutes what the leased line options are for you and what the likely costs will be. And then, we can manage it all.

Where it’s not possible to install a leased line, I’m afraid your only option really, is to have a conventional, ADSL broadband, which is the thing that you tend to pay about £ 40 a month for, or it does vary from supplier to supplier.

What is Broadband?

Let’s clear this term broadband up. Broadband’s talked about a lot. It’s just a term for a big internet connection, isn’t it really, but when people talk about broadband, what they’re really normally talking about is a consumer type or a business type broadband, where you’ve got a £ 40 pounds a month charge. That service is shared and contended with lots of other customers. It will vary. If you’re lucky enough to have a fibre broadband, it will have a maximum speed of 80 megabits per second down and 20 megabits per second up. But, that does depend on how far you are away from your local green cabinet.

When people talk about broadband these days, they often mean ADSL (Asymmetric Subscriber Line) which is basically the products you hear about on TV (BT Infinity, SKY, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, Plusnet). So this tends to cost are little as £ 5 per month or as much as £ 60. It needs a normal phone line and home users all tend to have this type of connection.

Where there isn’t fibre broadband availability, then you will probably start with conventional copper broadband, which is asynchronous. Again, basically means that the maximum speed will be 24 megabits per second down and probably something like two megabits per second up. It may be a lot slower than that and it just depends on where you are. Again, if you give us an address and a postcode and a landline number of your premises that you’re looking to put connection into, we can tell you what the indicative speed will be.

You hardly ever see speeds of more than about 15Mps down and 1Mbps up. If you are a long way from the BT exchange, your speeds will be very slow or possibly you might not be in range at all! Then you have to consider having your own cable put in or use satellite or microwave technology (if available). Checkout www.samknows.co.uk to find out about your local exchange

It is a shared public internet connection. It is ‘contended’ meaning that you probably share it with up to 20 other broadband users!! Not great when all the kinds come back from school and hop on their Playstations and XBoxes! So the speed constantly varies.

Also, these broadbands have to be put on an analogue line, so you need an analogue line, a normal analogue line there. The digital broadband service just sits upon the analogue line. So, these broadbands that are £ 40 pounds a month aren’t leased lines, I can assure you.

They don’t have any service level agreements, so they tend to get fixed when they get fixed. When you have a fault with one, it could be a line fault, which means that you have to get a line check or a line engineer. It might be a broadband fault, which means a different engineer will come out. Sometimes, you find that they get affected by electromagnetic interference from things like power sources and various other things. Of course, they’re prone to the elements because there tend to be bits of copper that have hundreds of joins in before they go back to the exchange. Could be affected by weather, water ingress, rodents, trees, it goes on and on.

Broadband normally comes with a cheap router – no good for business use. It is worth paying for something reasonable like a Draytek router (with wi-fi of course). You will need to program this with your user name and password (quite easy if you are reasonably tech-savvy).

That’s basically my summary of leased lines and just a little bit about broadbands.

Can you use ADSL Broadband for VoIP?

Yes.

If you can’t get a leased line and you’re considering moving to a VoIP solution, VoIP being Voice over Internet Protocol, which basically means you’re using your internet or data connection for voice and not just for internet and data use, you can use these connections for voice pretty reliably, as long as the speed’s good. So, bearing in mind if you’re running an office with say 10 people and you’ve got a fiber broadband, we can prioritize the voice on that for you, so you can use it for VoIP very reliably. That’s not a problem at all.

One phone call uses up to 100kbps (or 40kkps if your speed is slow and you cannot get anything better) so if you have a broadband with just a 500kbps upload, this can only support 5 simultaneous calls. Plus the speed varies so 5 calls may not always be possible – and you can forget about using this for general emailing and browsing – it should be dedicated for voice use only.

If you can get better speeds than this (the upload is the critical bit as that is the ‘bottleneck’) and , for example, Fibre Broadband is available, you can get (through us anyway – we cannot speak for other providers) a Converged Fibre Broadband which, like the leased lines mentioned above’ has a small amount of bandwidth reserved for Voice (SIP trunks or Hosted Telephony). Or we put in a wires only connection and tweak your router settings – the best option.

What size of business will need a leased line?

If you’ve got 20, 30, 40 people, you really ought to be considering having some kind of a leased line, particularly as you may be planning, or may have already moved your IT out into the cloud. So, your internet connection becomes even more critical than it was before. Although you might think, “Well, I can’t afford a leased line Nick because it’s sort of £ 250-300 plus a month.

How to get a leased line to pay for itself

If you’re still using ISDN technology and a phone system, there’s a very good chance that you can move to a hosted phone system and save the money on the ISDN line rental and all the call charges and also the phone system maintenance. That’s quite often pays for and more, the extra cost of the leased line.

That’s it from me. If you have any questions, please visit our website, which is www.tecwork.co.uk. . Give us a call on 01892 578666, or you can email us helpme@tecwork.co.uk. Have a pleasant day and thanks for listening.