What is contention ratio?

It’s important to take several different factors into account when you think about your home broadband speed and one of those factors is contention ratio. Here we explain what contention ratio is and how it could affect your broadband speed.

What is contention ratio?

Contention ratio is the term used to for the number of users that are currently sharing data capacity. If you have a lower contention ratio you will get faster broadband. For example, a contention ratio of 75:1 means that 75 broadband users are currently sharing the same bandwidth.

How does contention ratio affect me?

If you live in an area with a high contention ratio, this means that a large number of people are connected to the same data source as you. Imagine if you were waiting for a coach with 50 other people. If you all tried to board the coach at the same time hardly anyone would be able to get in, so you would have to queue and wait. This is what contention ratio is. You are sharing one resource with the whole neighbourhood which slows down everyone’s broadband so everyone has a chance to connect.

Contention ratio is not so much of a problem now that broadband infrastructure has been modernised, but it could still occur at very busy times. This is why internet service providers have web traffic management systems. These systems ensure stability for your line at busy times, like 5 - 7pm on a weekday evening. 

If you share your broadband with a large number of people in your home, a similar thing occurs. You’ll notice that when everyone tries to access the internet on various devices that your speed suffers. This is likely to be more of a problem than wider contention ratio issues.

How do I find out my contention ratio?

At the moment you cannot find out what your contention ratio is. The average used to be 50:1 for home customers and 20:1 for businesses, but improvements to broadband infrastructure have rendered these figures obsolete.

Should I worry about my contention ratio?

No, it is very unlikely that your speeds are severely hampered by contention ratio. If you are noticing slowdown at busy times, it’s more likely to be an issue with your home Wi-Fi network than a wider contention ratio issue.

There is also no way that you can find out the contention ratio for the area you live in. If you’re planning to move, you also cannot find out the contention ratio for the area you are moving to. One thing you can do is check broadband speeds in advance before you move.

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