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Guide to Sharing Broadband Capacity

New and existing broadband users alike are often unsure why or how the broadband service they receive is shared (sometimes described as contended). Find out what this means and how it affects your broadband service.

Why is my broadband shared?

When you connect to the Internet using broadband technology you are in effect sharing the connection infrastructure with other users. For example; you and up to 49 other broadband users could share the same portion of bandwidth at the same time.

Traffic Contention Example

This could be referred to as 50:1 contention (50 customers sharing a single unit of available bandwidth). This industry-wide method is proven to provide reliable, high-speed service at an affordable price. To help we also prioritise time-sensitive activities such as browsing, gaming and emails.


Have you ever been to an all-you-can-eat-for-a-fiver pizza buffet?

Imagine there is one buffet cart constantly topped up with pizzas; this represents available bandwidth. Now imagine the restaurant can seat up to 50 people; this represents broadband users.

50 people are then able to share the food on one buffet cart.

The restaurant's manager is confident that even when the restaurant is full (50 diners) the buffet cart will have enough pizza for every guest to have a fair and belly-filling amount. This is because people usually take one or two slices at a time.

However, if some diners in the restaurant are feeling particularly hungry, they may be tempted to take several pizzas at once, leaving none for the other diners.

The buffet can therefore only work as intended if all diners appreciate it's a shared service.


Sharing and connection

It may be easier to think of broadband usage as a series of bursts. Each time you open a web page or receive an email, there is a short burst of usage followed by a period of idleness.

Broadband technology cleverly handles usage on this basis; allowing simultaneous high speed usage for many users.

Yet problems arise when these 'bursts' become consistently lengthy; caused by large files that take a long time to download.

Great demand is placed on the available bandwidth and usage speeds consequently drop.


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