The ratio of the potential maximum demand to the actual bandwidth. In practice, they are planning rules which are used to design a network offering (typically) an Internet access service: the higher the contention ratio, the greater the number of users that may be trying to use the actual bandwidth at any one time and, therefore, the lower the effective bandwidth offered, especially at peak times. A contended service is a service which offers (or attempts to offer) the users of the network a minimum statistically guaranteed contention ratio, while typically offering peaks of usage of up to the maximum bandwidth supplied to the user.
For example, a connection marketed with a contention ratio between 20:1 and 50:1 within the network, means that 20 to 50 subscribers, each assigned or sold a bandwidth of 'up to' 8 Mbit/s for instance, may be sharing 8 Mbit/s of downlink bandwidth. Contended services are usually much cheaper to provide than uncontended services, although they only reduce the backbone traffic costs for the users, and do not reduce the costs of providing and maintaining equipment for connecting to the network.
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