WHAT IS CONTENTION RATIO?
Firstly, look at bandwidth (see also below) as a pipeline full of water that comes to your house. The municipality (ISP) has a couple of large pipelines and then connects your house and all the other houses in your street to the pipeline. The amount of people connected to that pipeline would be the contention ratio.
So if the pipe has 10 people on it, the ratio is 10:1. In this scenario it is unlikely that you will all be using the water at the same time so the water pressure should always be good. Imagine what would happen if they put a townhouse complex on that same line and 100 people used it. The water pressure would drop and everyone would complain.
With uncapped accounts internet service providers (ISP’s) try to determine how many people can be put on one pipeline before the “water pressure” drops to an unacceptably low level and then price their product accordingly.
HOW DOES CONTENTION RATIO AFFECT MY BROADBAND?
In the context of internet access, broadband is used to mean any high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than dial-up access. Bandwidth is the maximum data transfer rate from one point to another at a given period over a network – 4 Mbps, 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps etc.
When your contention ratio is high (meaning a lot of people are connected to the same line as you) it can potentially drag down your broadband speeds.
If you have access to a 10 Mbps line, for example, you can easily get average speeds of around 3.5 Mbps or 6.3 Mbps on a good day. However, if your contention ratio is 20:1, with 20 people connected to it, and you’re all using it at once, you will only get speeds of about 0.5 Mbps.
If you are in an area with a high contention ratio, you will probably get slower speeds when more people are online. When applying for internet, it is, therefore, very important to ask the correct questions.