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What is EFM?

EFM stands for Ethernet in the First Mile (also known as Ethernet broadband) and uses the traditional copper network to deliver a connection from the exchange to your premises. As far as leased line products go, EFM is the mid market option, sitting between entry level GEA and high performance Fibre Leased Lines. It’s a bit faster than the former, and a bit cheaper than the latter. It doesn’t offer anywhere near the speed and flexibility of fibre optic leased lines, but can be a good option for smaller businesses that need symmetrical speeds and resilience guarantees rather than lightning fast performance.

EFM’s other benefit over fibre is at the installation stage. Because it’s delivered over the copper network, there are lower installation fees and lead times are greatly reduced. Unlike GEA, it doesn’t utilise the FTTC network, so tends to be a preferred option in rural or remote locations.

What’s the difference between broadband and a leased line connection?

While EFM can’t compete with fibre on speed, it does offer many of the same benefits over a standard broadband connection.

  • It’s uncontended. Like any other leased line product, EFM is a dedicated line for your business. Only you have access to the line. Because you don’t share the line with other businesses in the same area (as you would with standard broadband), it won’t slow down at peak times. With EFM, the bandwidth is reserved for you and you alone.
  • It’s symmetrical. That means you get the same speed in both directions. With normal broadband many businesses experience delays in uploading to the internet because download speeds are prioritised. But VoIP, video calling and other internet-based communication services are likely to be smoother, clearer and more reliable across an EFM service than standard broadband.
  • It’s guaranteed. With EFM, as with Fibre Leased Lines and GEA, you’ll get service guarantees, detailed in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). For example, you’re likely to get an uptime guarantee of 99.9% or above, and fix times that are measured in hours rather than days. That’s essential for businesses that depend on online services.
  • It’s reliable. Though not as reliable as fibre, the technology used in EFM connections make them more reliable than standard broadband. The use of extra circuits means that, should one fail, the connection can still operate.

How does EFM work?

EFM leased lines deliver data between your premises and the exchange over twisted copper pairs. The major advantage of using copper pairs is that if one fails, the other takes over, giving you a connection your business can rely on. You already have copper wires entering your premises as part of the traditional telephone network, but EFM doesn’t touch these. Instead, new sets of wires are installed, increasing your bandwidth and resilience.

Because EFM utilises a mix of copper and fibre (fibre takes over from the exchange to the internet), it’s faster and cheaper to install than a full fibre alternative. Lead-times range from 25 to 45 working days.

No specialist equipment is required. When the new copper pairs are installed, an engineer from your EFM provider will install the NTE (Network Terminating Equipment), a box that joins up the new wiring.

How fast is EFM?

The fastest speed available with EFM is up to 35Mbps. Many EFM solutions use two pairs of cables, giving speeds of up to 20Mbps, but if you need more speed a four pair circuit will deliver the maximum speed of up to 35Mbps.

It’s worth noting though that, like all copper-based connectivity, the actual speed you get with EFM will depend on your distance from the exchange.

What are the downsides of EFM?

The downsides of an EFM connection are the same as you’d face with any internet service that uses copper for part of the journey. Speeds are limited, though significantly faster than standard ADSL internet, and you might not get the maximum theoretical speed if you are a significant distance from the exchange.

Do you need EFM?

Like all leased lines, EFM will benefit any business that needs a more resilient, uncontended service and service guarantees. EFM is designed for businesses that find standard ADSL services too slow, but can’t justify the expense of a Fibre Leased Line. You should consider EFM if any of these use cases apply to you.

  • VoIP communications: having multiple employees using internet-based telephony at the same time can put a strain on standard connections. Consider EFM to increase bandwidth and give you the symmetrical speeds that make VoIP calls clearer and more reliable.
  • A growing business: you have outgrown standard broadband, and want faster speeds and more reliability as you transfer more services and applications to the cloud.
  • Guaranteed service: you run the kind of business that would be seriously affected by long periods of downtime. If you run an e-commerce store or share real time data with cloud applications, the reliability of EFM, alongside a business-grade SLA, is worth considering.

Many small businesses and branch sites can benefit from high performance EFM, but if you’re not sure whether it’s the right connectivity option for you, don’t worry. Get in touch on 0161 6946000 and we’ll be happy to analyse your business needs and suggest exactly the right solution for you.