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What is a contention ratio for fibre internet?
25/10/21
What is a contention ratio for fibre internet?

The contention ratio for the internet may seem like an obscure technical term, but it is actually quite a common thing. Essentially, it is how many users are sharing the same network. Higher contention ratios mean that there are more users sharing the network, and a low ratio means there are fewer users per connection. 

Low contention ratios suggest a higher quality service and more stable internet speeds. But how does this affect you? Well, you may have noticed that your connection speed can fluctuate at different times of the day. For those using a DSL line, you’ve probably noticed variable changes to upload and download speeds, especially at peak times. This is often caused by a high contention ratio. 

In the evenings and at weekends, there are probably a lot more people in your area doing things online and this has a big impact on how fast your internet is. If this is frustrating for you, then it’s probably time to move to a better quality Internet Service Provider (ISP) that has a lower contention ratio – or make the switch to fibre. WonderNet has no contention ratio, which means you won’t be sharing your fibre internet connection with your neighbours. 

Example of contention ratios

To help you understand contention ratios a bit better, let’s look at an example. Imagine you sign up for a fibre connection and you decide to go for a 100Mbps line, excited to be in internet heaven. The advertised speed of 100MBps turns out to be reeeeeeally slow, even though 100MBps is enough bandwidth to run a small company. 

What you didn’t realise, is that the ISP has a heavily contended network. Basically, it has a huge client base, all using the same network and connections. Some ISPs oversell bandwidth. The ratio at which they oversell their services is called a contention ratio. If this ratio is set at 10:1, this means that 10 other clients are using the same internet line as you. So, if you sign up for a 100Mbps line with a 10:1 contention ratio, only 10Mbps are actually yours. 

ISPs generally don’t advertise their contention ratio. You might have noticed that advertisers will usually say something like “guaranteed speeds of up to 100MBps.” This can be quite misleading because 10MBps is somewhere on the scale of up to 100MBps.  

Contention ratios are normally estimated. But, if your ISP doesn’t explicitly say that there is no contention ratio, then be cautious. You might be getting significantly less bandwidth than what you were expecting. 

Improving internet speeds

WonderNet does not have any form of contention on their networks. What you pay for is what you get. If you sign up for a 50Mbps line, you can expect to get upload and download speeds of 50Mbps. Of course, there are other things that can affect your internet speed, such as the strength of your WiFi signal, how close your device is to the router, and whether your hardware and software are up to date. 

If your device is far away from your router, then set yourself up closer to your router to see if that improves your signal strength. Thick walls, especially those made of cement, brick and metal will block WiFi signals. For best speeds, you should consider connecting your device directly to your router using a LAN cable. 

Having up-to-date hardware (e.g. router, laptop, smartphones, cables) can also really help to stabilise your internet speed. Check that all the cables are firmly plugged in and are in a good condition. Update the software on your device so that you have the latest version of your internet browser and anti-virus software. 

Internet infrastructure

If your home set-up is up-to-date, then maybe the issue with your internet speed is the result of using a heavily contended internet network. Let’s look at how internet lines are set up, so you can make the best internet choice for your needs. 

ISPs generally don’t run on their own infrastructure. They rent lines from fibre network operators (FNOs), which can be expensive. The underlying belief is that not everyone is going to be downloading a huge file at the same time, so, for the most part, the internet will be okay for all users. 

In general, ISPs prioritise video over data. This means that streaming a show is given priority over downloading a file. Internet companies might impose this only at peak times, limiting the number of file downloads so that people can watch their favourite shows or have Zoom calls with their friends and relatives.  

Other things certain ISPs do to ensure that data is distributed among users is to impose data capping or throttling. This is when you have a limit as to how much data you can use each month. If you use more than your allocated amount, you’ll either be cut off or have to buy out-of-bundle data at higher prices. Throttling is another form of restriction or control. This means that your internet speeds are reduced after you have used a certain amount of data.

Check the fine print and fair usage agreement in your contract. You can’t improve your contention ratio, but you can check whether your line is capped or throttled. WonderNet does not throttle or cap your fibre connection in any way! 

Stable speeds with fibre internet

Many older internet connections make use of copper phone lines, not just DSL. These cables are shared between many households, which increases their contention ratio. Online work and remote learning in the modern era need fast, stable and reliable connections. A lot of bandwidth is needed for video-conferencing, transferring big documents and remote collaboration. If you are working or studying from home, it can be very frustrating to have a slow internet connection. 

Slow internet means poor productivity. For the best connections, look for fibre to the home (FTTH) technology. This is a solution whereby fibre optic cables run straight to your home, providing you with a high speed, stable connection. By choosing an FTTH internet connection, you are able to get the best possible internet speeds and a 1:1 contention ratio.

This ensures that what you pay for is what you get. There might be some fluctuations in your internet speeds, but this will have more to do with your home set-up, than your ISP. If you are getting dramatically slower internet speeds at peak times, then you are probably using a heavily contended network. The best thing to do is to switch to an ISP that offers a 1:1 contention ratio. For more information about our fibre offerings or to get a quote for an internet upgrade, please contact us today or check if we’re connected to your address.

WonderNet brings affordable broadband internet to South African homes. We work alongside leading fibre network providers to maximise our reach and to offer fast, reliable and secure internet connectivity to your home. We are owned by SEACOM; one of Africa’s top information and communications technology (ICT) companies with an expansive network of subsea cables, landlines and fibre connections. WonderNet strives to offer the best customer service in the country. We will go above and beyond to ensure that our customers are satisfied with their internet access.

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