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Beginner's Guide To Contention

Find out what contention is and what it means to your broadband service.

New and existing broadband users alike are often unsure what the widely used term ‘contention’ actually means. Find out what it does mean and how it affects your broadband service.

What is contention?
When you connect to the internet using ADSL broadband technology you are in effect sharing the connection infrastructure with other users. The term contention is simply a ratio used to measure the extent of this sharing.
For example; a 50:1 contention theoretically means that you and up to 49 other broadband users share the same portion of bandwidth at the same time.

This industry-wide method is proven to provide reliable, high-speed data-transfer at an affordable price.


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.

The contention ratio is therefore 50 people to 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 'contended' service.


Contention and connection speed

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 data-transfer followed by a period of idleness.

ADSL technology cleverly handles data-transfer on this basis; allowing simultaneous high speed data-transfer 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 data-transfer speeds consequently drop.

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