Welcome to our comprehensive glossary of broadband terms, where we believe staying informed and understanding the terminology is almost as crucial as the service itself. Whether you’re a technology enthusiast, a business professional navigating the digital landscape, or a casual user eager to optimise your home internet setup, this glossary is designed to demystify the jargon and technical terms that often accompany discussions about broadband. From the basics of ADSL to the cutting-edge developments in fibre-optic technology, we’ve compiled an extensive list of terms to help you navigate the complexities of broadband technology with ease and confidence.
4G: The four is simply the generational number for mobile phones. The first mobile networks were 1G (voice only), then 2G (voice and text), then 3G (voice text and internet), then 4G (voice, text and fast internet). So 4G simply means fourth generation mobile network.
5G: Refers to the fifth generation of mobile network technology. Following its predecessors—1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G—5G represents a significant advancement in network technology. It offers much faster data download and upload speeds, lower latency, and greater capacity, enabling more simultaneous connections. This enhanced performance supports the growing demand for high-speed internet and is crucial for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and advanced mobile applications.
ADSL: The acronym for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, represents a legacy broadband technology enabling data transmission over telephone lines, albeit with a speed ceiling of 8 Mbps, or 16 Mbps for ADSL2. This technology is gradually being supplanted by fibre and full fibre services, offering enhanced internet speeds for domestic use.
Broadband: A high-speed internet connection, which can be delivered in a number of ways but is distinct from the old dial-up or ‘narrowband’ connections
Bandwidth: Signifies the peak data transmission capacity of a network or internet connection. For instance, a network with a bandwidth of 100 Mbps is incapable of transferring data at speeds exceeding 100 megabits per second. Broadband delineates high-speed internet service and is a collective term encompassing multiple rapid transmission methods, such as fibre optic and wireless broadband.
Copper Broadband: Refers to internet services provided through copper telephone lines. This technology leverages the existing copper wire infrastructure, originally designed for telephone services, to deliver digital data. Unlike newer fibre-optic technology, which uses light to transmit data, copper broadband relies on electrical signals.
Contention: Internet contention is the ratio of potential demand to actual bandwidth available on a network. It describes how many users are sharing the same data bandwidth at any one time and affects the quality of internet connection each user experiences. A lower contention ratio typically indicates a higher quality of service, as each user’s share of the bandwidth is greater, leading to faster internet speeds, especially during peak usage times.
Dial-up Internet: Which exploits telephone lines for web access, is a dated technology with inherent speed constraints, thus it is gradually being phased out. It enjoyed widespread popularity as the primary internet service in the late 20th century.
Download Speed: Essentially the velocity at which your broadband operates, determines the rapidity of online data retrieval. Insufficient download speeds lead to prolonged downloading duration.
Duct: A duct is a physical tunnel for internet cables. It provides a passage which is used to house and protect the cables and wires that carry signal. Ducts can sometimes be run overhead using telephony poles, but are more commonly found underground.
DSL Only Line: A “DSL Only Line” refers to a telephone line that is exclusively dedicated to providing DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) internet service, without traditional voice (telephone) service. This setup is distinct from the more common scenario where DSL internet is delivered over a line that also supports regular telephone service.
Ethernet: A wired connection providing computers or laptops to an internet service, linking devices to a LAN or WAN. When Wi-Fi is insufficient, connecting to a router’s ethernet port may enhance speed.
Fibre Broadband: Broadband delivered over cables that are, at least for part of the network, fibre optic in nature. Fibre optic cables transmit signals as light through glass, which is capable of far faster rates of data transfer than traditional ADSL connection where the cables are made of copper.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC): Known as FTTC, this older fibre-optic technology employs copper wires and is limited to download speeds up to (200Mbps). The IoM is progressively discontinuing FTTC due to its high maintenance costs and obsolescence.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP): FTTP, is a type of fibre-optic broadband technology where the fibre-optic cables run directly to your home or business. It’s like having a high-speed freeway built right up to your doorstep, exclusively for your internet traffic.
Fixed Line: Any broadband delivered using a physical cable, such as fibre or ADSL. The alternative would be mobile or satellite broadband, both of which transmit data wirelessly.
Gigabit (Gb/Gbps): In broadband terms, a gigabit connection facilitates data transfer at a rate of one billion bits per second, suitable for intensive online activities such as gaming or virtual reality. Gigabit speeds select providers now offer Gigabit broadband, enabling users to experience download speeds of up to 1Gbps, the pinnacle of current UK internet speeds. Gigabyte (GB) distinguishable from gigabit, a gigabyte quantifies digital storage capacity, with consumer devices like the Apple iPhone offering storage ranging from 128GB to 1TB.
Hotspot: A hotspot serves as a Wi-Fi access point, enabling internet connectivity on the go. Certain mobile devices permit the creation of a personal mobile hotspot, sharing the user’s internet access with additional devices.
Internet: The Internet, not to be confused with wifi, is a vast network that connects computers all over the world. It allows users to communicate and share information using standardised communication protocols. It includes things like the world wide web, electronic mail, telephony and file sharing.
ISP: ISP stands for ‘Internet Service Provider’ and refers to companies that provide broadband services.
Kbps (Kilobits per second): Kbps is a unit of data transfer rate equal to 1,000 bits per second. It is much less common now as broadband speeds have increased and are more frequently measured in Mbps.
Latency: In the realm of broadband, latency measures the delay in data transmission and its response. Low latency correlates with faster internet response times, while high latency can hinder activities like streaming or online gaming due to lag. Landline A landline constitutes a fixed telephone line, unlike mobile phones that communicate via radio frequencies.
Leased Line: A dedicated connection typically between a business premises and the local exchange. Leased lines offer a symmetrical connection (i.e. with the same download and upload speeds) with no contention (i.e. they are not shared with other users).
Megabit (Mb/Mbps): The megabit, abbreviated Mb, denotes data transmission speed, with Mbps indicating the quantity of megabits conveyed each second. Megabyte (MB) A megabyte, not to be confused with a megabit, gauges file size or digital storage capacity, exemplified by a computer video file that could measure 100MB.
Mobile Broadband: Offers portable internet access, facilitated through devices such as dongles, mobile hotspots, routers, or data-only SIM cards.
Metered Billing: is where you pay for what you use, as you do with your gas or electricity provider.
Network: Is the interconnection of multiple devices that can communicate with each other.
Node: A node is any device that is connected to a network such as a computer, phone or printer.
ONT: An ONT or Optical Network Terminal is a device commonly used in fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services that acts as an endpoint for the fibre optic line in a home or business, converting fibre optic signals to electrical signals that can be used for the router.
Optical Fibre: A medium and the technology associated with the transmission of information as light pulses along a glass or plastic strand or fibre. It’s a fundamental element of broadband infrastructure, especially in FTTH or FTTP deployments.
Packet: A formatted unit of data carried by a packet-switched network. In Wi-Fi and broadband, data is transmitted in packets.
Ping: A network utility used to test the reachability of a host on an Internet Protocol (IP) network and to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from the originating host to a destination computer.
QoS (Quality of Service): A set of technologies that manage network traffic to reduce packet loss, latency and jitter on a network. QoS is used to prioritise certain types of traffic to ensure the performance of critical applications.
Router: A router is an apparatus that enables domestic internet connectivity.
Streaming: Streaming encompasses the real-time playback of internet-based media, including live broadcasts, films, podcasts, and music videos, with platforms like Netflix and YouTube being prominent examples.
Superfast Broadband: A broadband that exceeds 24Mbps, but is slower than 300Mbps. If it’s less than 24Mbps, it’s just ‘broadband’ and if it’s faster than 300Mbps, it’s ‘ultrafast broadband’.
SLA: This is the contract between you and your broadband provider where you agree to certain terms on the provision that they fulfill certain service obligations in return.
Throughput: The rate at which data is transmitted through a system, typically measured in bits per second (bps).
Traffic: The flow of data over a network.
Throttling: The intentional slowing down of an internet connection by a broadband provider. Typically happens at peak times when the network is busiest or to users who have contravened a fair use policy.
Upload Speed: Upload speed quantifies the dispatch rate of data from your device to the web, critical for tasks such as emailing or video conferencing, and expressed in Mbps.
Unlimited Broadband: Any broadband connection where there is no limit on the amount of data you can download and/or upload on a monthly basis.
VOIP: Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, integrates telephony with broadband routers, allowing voice communication via the internet. The transition to VoIP services is forthcoming, yet it is assured to incur no additional costs.
Wi-Fi: Is a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide high-speed internet and network connections to devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and other capable devices without the need for a physical wired connection. It allows these devices to exchange information with one another, creating a network.
Whole Home Wi-Fi/Mesh: Wi-Fi Whole, Home Wi-Fi and also Mesh Wi-Fi, solves weak signal issues in residences by deploying multiple access points to form an extensive network.
Wi-Fi Booster/Wi-Fi Extender: A Wi-Fi booster amplifies the Wi-Fi signal in areas of your home otherwise unreachable by your router’s signal.
Wireless Broadband: Any broadband connection where there is no limit on the amount of data you can download and/or upload on a monthly basis.
We trust this glossary has provided you with valuable insights into the world of broadband technology. With rapid advancements in internet services and the continuous evolution of digital communication, understanding these terms is more vital than ever. Whether making decisions about your home internet, discussing options with a provider, or simply seeking to expand your knowledge, being well-versed in this terminology empowers you to make informed choices.
Remember this is intended as a dynamic document, so if you want a definition or term to be added, be sure to leave a comment below!