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Contentious networks – Learning to share the network with your household

Fibre has well and truly hit the home in the last few years and in recent months you may have started hearing the term contention being bandied about.

A contended service is one that offers network users a minimum statistically guaranteed contention ratio, while typically offering peaks of usage up to the maximum bandwidth supplied to the user.

Snore! To put it in layman’s terms, contended means that you’re sharing everything, so the more people there are on the line, the longer uploads and downloads take. It is possible to get a leased line if you really felt the need, many businesses choose this option if their connectivity is vital to deliver their services.

But for most people right now, no matter what the unlimited or super fast internet package you signed up for, you will rarely be getting the advertised amount.

Internet speeds have been greatly impacted by the astronomical increase of remote workers as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Think of how many people were in your office. Whereas you were all sharing your company network, now each person is trying to gain the same access and connectivity from their home.

Every household line has become eternally busy, not just with home workers but with everyone in the house depending on the internet to communicate with the outside world, stream video content and play games.

The new point of contention is: who takes priority to use the internet?

Is it the parent who needs an urgent video call, the teenager needing to connect with teachers and classmates for their virtual lesson on Teams, or the younger child that needs to be occupied with another episode of their favourite show on Netflix to avoid interrupting the business call?

Peak demand of the household network has shifted. Whereas previously the peak came in the evening when everyone arrived home and used the internet during their leisure time, the peak is now during business hours.

But business hours are also school hours.

A colleague had to sheepishly apologise for not being able to join a Teams meeting as her partner was running an online tutorial and her teenage children were both attending online interactive lessons.

So in the current climate, what do we prioritise? Business over school, Netflix over Spotify, online pub quizzes over online gaming? And let’s hope nobody tries to do a software update or we’re all going to suffer!

It becomes even more complicated when we add smart metering, IoT devices and work VPNs into the mix, all trying to hog the bandwidth.

Is there a solution?

Do you upgrade your internet package, create a schedule to accommodate everyone or make the switch back to more traditional voice calls to ease the burden on the line?

For me, the answer has been to install a second business only line. I can now guarantee compliance with my business’s security policies and have access to the VPN. I have a failover router on the business line, so if the line drops I have a mobile backup for those important virtual board meetings.

As I don’t need the same connectivity in the office I used to work from, I’m lucky my company has paid for this.

This eases the burden on the home line, meaning my family can now use this for lessons and personal use. So everyone wins!

If remote working looks to continue for the foreseeable and you’re considering a more permanent remote setup for your team after lockdown is lifted, now might be the time to invest in business lines for your employees.

 

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