If you need answers to broadband jargon or technical terminology you're in the right place
Welcome to our jargon guide! You're not alone if you've ever felt like you're drowning in a sea of technical terms. The world of technology is filled with jargon that can be confusing and intimidating, especially for those new to the field. That's why we've created this guide to help by breaking things down into simple, easy-to-understand terms. We aim to help you feel confident and informed when navigating the technical landscape without feeling like you need a degree in computer science to understand it. So, let's dive in and start decoding the mysteries of technical jargon together!
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We're proud to offer a jargon guide that covers over 250 technical terms, but we know there's always room for improvement. If you have a suggestion for a term we haven't included yet, we'd be delighted to hear from you!
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ADSL stands for 'Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line'. It's a type of broadband connection that uses copper phone lines to deliver internet access to homes and businesses. It's also known as 'Standard Broadband'.
In the UK, ADSL broadband is widely available, with very few areas that don't have access to it. However, it's worth noting that ADSL is the slowest type of fixed-line broadband and may not be the best choice if a faster option like FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) is available in your area.
Compare ADSL broadband deals in your area.
Alt-Net (Alternative Network) providers are independent broadband companies that build and maintain their own broadband infrastructure. There are many Alt-Net providers to choose from in the UK, some of the largest are; CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre, G.Network & Gigaclear. Alt-Net providers are typically operated by privately funded companies, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.
Asymmetrical broadband is a type of internet connection in which the download speed is significantly faster than the upload speed. In this type of connection, the available bandwidth is unequally distributed between the downstream and upstream channels. Asymmetrical broadband is commonly used for consumer internet connections, where users typically download more content than they upload, such as streaming video, browsing the web, or downloading files.
The asymmetrical nature of the connection allows for higher download speeds, which is more important for most users, while sacrificing some upload speed, which is typically used for activities such as video conferencing or uploading files to the internet. Asymmetrical broadband is different from symmetrical broadband, which provides equal download and upload speeds and is often used for business-grade internet connections or applications that require high upload speeds, such as video production or cloud computing.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time, typically measured in bits per second (bps). Think of it like a water pipe - the larger the pipe (i.e. higher bandwidth), the more water (i.e. data) that can flow through it at once.
Having a high bandwidth connection means that you can transfer large amounts of data quickly, which is important for activities like streaming videos or downloading large files. On the other hand, a low bandwidth connection may result in slower loading times and lower quality video or audio.
It's worth noting that bandwidth can be affected by a variety of factors, including the type of internet connection you have, the number of devices using the connection, and the quality of the connection itself.
Bit rate refers to the amount of digital information that can be transmitted or processed per second. It determines how fast data can be sent or received over a communication channel, such as the internet. The higher the bit rate, the more data can be sent and the faster the speed of transmission. Bit rate is important when it comes to digital media, like streaming videos or music, because it affects the quality and smoothness of playback. A higher bit rate generally means better quality, but it may also require more internet bandwidth or storage space.
A broadband-only package is an internet service plan offered by an internet service provider (ISP) that provides customers with a broadband connection without any bundled services such as TV or phone. This means that customers only pay for the broadband service and have the freedom to choose and subscribe to other services as they see fit. Broadband-only packages are ideal for people who primarily use the internet for browsing, streaming, and online gaming and do not require additional services like a landline phone or TV service. It is a cost-effective way of getting a reliable and fast internet connection without paying for services that may not be needed.
Bufferbloat is a term that describes the lag or delay in data transmission in a network when a buffer (temporary storage) becomes too full. When data is sent over a network, it is usually stored in buffers along the way to ensure a smooth flow of data. However, if the buffers become too full, data can get delayed and cause buffering or lagging issues. This can be a problem for real-time applications such as online gaming, video conferencing or streaming, where delays can negatively impact the user experience. To avoid bufferbloat, network engineers may use techniques such as Quality of Service (QoS) and traffic shaping to manage and prioritise network traffic.
Cable broadband doesn’t use copper phone lines to connect users to the street cabinet. Instead, it uses Virgin Media’s coaxial cable infrastructure to make the last leg of the journey. Virgin Media's network is not as widely available as the Openreach network.
Broadband contention ratio refers to the number of users sharing the same internet connection or network bandwidth at the same time. It is calculated by dividing the maximum potential bandwidth of a broadband connection by the number of users who are accessing the network simultaneously. For instance, a contention ratio of 10:1 means that up to ten users are sharing the same bandwidth at any given time. A higher contention ratio means more users are sharing the same bandwidth, which can lead to slower download and upload speeds, especially during peak hours when many users are accessing the network.
Dial-up internet is a type of internet connection widely used in the early days of the internet, before the advent of broadband. It relies on a telephone line to connect a computer to the internet via a modem. The modem then converts digital signals into analogue signals that can be transmitted over the phone line.
To connect to the internet using dial-up, a user would need to dial a specific phone number using their computer's modem. Once connected, the user's computer would be able to send and receive data over the internet. However, dial-up connections are very slow compared to modern broadband connections, with typical speeds of up to 56 kbps.
Dial-up connections are also notoriously unreliable, as they can be easily disrupted by interference or noise on the telephone line. As a result, dial-up is now an obsolete technology and has been replaced by broadband.
A broadband download limit is a cap on the amount of data that can be downloaded from the internet using a broadband connection within a specific period, usually a month. The internet service provider typically sets the download limit which varies depending on the broadband plan.
Once the download limit is reached, the internet speed may be reduced, or additional fees may be charged for further data usage. Download limits are designed to prevent excessive or abusive use of the network that can negatively impact other customers' experience and to ensure that the network is used reasonably and efficiently.
It's important to check the download limit and any associated fees or speed reductions when selecting a broadband plan to ensure that it meets your needs and budget. Some broadband plans may offer unlimited data usage or higher download limits for an additional fee.
Broadband download speed refers to the rate at which data can be transferred from the internet to your device through your broadband connection. It is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps). A higher download speed means that data, such as website content, videos, or music, can be accessed and downloaded faster. It is an important factor to consider when choosing an internet service provider. Discover the best broadband deals in your area with our postcode checker.
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A broadband fair usage policy is a set of guidelines established by internet service providers to ensure that their network resources are used fairly and efficiently by all customers. The policy typically specifies the amount of data that can be used by a customer within a specific time period, such as a month, before the provider may reduce the customer's internet speed or charge additional fees.
The purpose of a fair usage policy is to prevent excessive or abusive usage of the network that can negatively affect other customers' experience. It's important to note that fair usage policies are not intended to limit a customer's internet usage but rather to encourage responsible use of the network. The exact terms of a fair usage policy can vary depending on the provider and the specific broadband plan, so it's essential to read and understand the policy before you sign up for a new broadband service.
FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) fibre broadband is a type of high-speed internet connection that uses a combination of fibre optic and copper cables. In an FTTC connection, fibre optic cables are used to connect the exchange to a street cabinet, and then copper cables are used to connect the cabinet to individual homes or businesses.
The distance between the street cabinet and the premises can impact the speed of the connection as copper cables are less efficient at transmitting data over long distances than fibre optic cables. However, FTTC connections still offer significantly faster speeds than traditional broadband connections that rely solely on copper cables.
FTTC connections can provide download speeds of up to 80Mbps, depending on the service provider and package. This allows users to stream high-definition videos, download large files and play online games with minimal lag. FTTC connections are widely available across the UK. Enter your postcode into our broadband availability checker to compare broadband providers in your area. FTTC broadband offers a cost-effective option for those who want faster internet speeds without paying for a full-fibre connection.
FTTP (Fibre-to-the-premises) broadband, also known as FTTH (Fibre-to-the-home), or Full-fibre, is a type of broadband internet service that provides high-speed internet access using fibre optic cables. Unlike traditional broadband, which uses copper cables to transmit data, FTTP broadband uses fibre optic cables that transmit data using light, providing faster and more reliable internet speeds. FTTP broadband offers faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and a more stable connection compared to other broadband technologies. It is considered the most advanced and future-proof broadband technology available in the UK. Compare FTTH broadband deals in your area.
Full fibre broadband, also known as FTTP (Fibre-to-the-premises) or FTTH (Fibre-to-the-home), is a type of broadband connection that uses fibre optic cables to transmit data directly to a user's premises. This means that the entire broadband connection, from the exchange to the user's router, is made up of fibre optic cables. Full fibre broadband is the future of UK Broadband and is currently being rolled out across the country.
G.fast broadband is a type of internet connection that uses advanced technology to deliver very fast download and upload speeds over the existing copper telephone lines. This technology was developed by Openreach, which is a division of BT (British Telecom) and is used by some internet service providers (ISPs).
G.fast broadband is designed to improve internet speeds in areas where it may not be possible or practical to install fibre optic cables, which provide the fastest internet speeds. G.fast technology can deliver download speeds of up to 330Mbps over the existing copper telephone lines. The catch is that G.Fast is only available if the local exchange has been upgraded to accommodate the G.Fast technology and the property is within 500 metres of the street cabinet.
Gigabit broadband refers to internet connections that have a speed of at least one gigabit per second (Gbps). This is an extremely fast internet speed, capable of downloading large files, streaming high-quality video, and playing online games with minimal lag. The term "gigabit" refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted per second and is equivalent to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). Gigabit broadband is becoming more widely available in the UK as internet service providers upgrade their networks with fibre optic technology. When using gigabit broadband, users experience faster internet speeds whilst gaining the ability to use multiple devices simultaneously without experiencing lag.
Broadband interleaving is a technique used to improve the stability and reliability of your internet connection, especially when transmitting data over long distances.
In simple terms, interleaving adds a small delay to your internet connection, allowing errors and data packets that are out of sequence to be corrected before your device receives them. This means that your internet connection is less likely to experience dropouts or interruptions, which can cause slow speeds, buffering, or disconnections.
Broadband interleaving is typically used in situations where the internet signal has to travel over long distances, such as in rural areas or when using older copper telephone lines. It can be turned on or off by your internet service provider, depending on the quality and stability of your connection.
While broadband interleaving can improve the stability and reliability of your internet connection, it can also add a small amount of latency or delay to your internet speeds. This may not be noticeable for most activities like browsing the web but could be noticeable for activities that require very low latency, such as online gaming or video conferencing.
ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. An ISP is a company or organisation that provides internet access to individuals and businesses. ISPs offer various types of internet connections, such as broadband, fibre-optic and wireless, to connect their customers to the internet. They typically charge a monthly fee for their services and may offer different plans with varying speeds and data allowances. ISPs may also provide additional services like email, web hosting, and virtual private networks virtual private networks (VPNs). Some ISPs operate at a local or regional level, while others provide services nationwide or even internationally. Find a local ISP in your area.
Lag or latency refers to the delay or time it takes for information to travel from one device or computer to another over a network connection, such as the internet.
When you're using an online service or playing a game that requires an internet connection, the information must travel between your device and the server where the service or game is located. If there's a delay in this communication, it can result in lag or latency, which can cause things like slow response times, video glitches, or delayed actions in games.
Lag or latency can be caused by various factors, such as the quality and speed of your internet connection, the distance between your device and the server, or the amount of data being transferred. It can also be affected by network congestion or other technical issues.
Read our article on how to improve gaming latency
In the context of broadband, the term 'last mile' refers to the final stage of the connection between your home and the street cabinet, which connects you to the internet.
Issues with the 'last mile' can impact the speed and reliability of your broadband connection. For example, if the cables or other infrastructure used for the 'last mile' are outdated or poorly maintained, this can result in slow speeds or frequent disconnections.
To improve broadband connectivity, Open Reach and many other Alt-Net providers are investing in infrastructure projects aimed at improving the 'last mile', such as laying fibre optic cables or deploying wireless broadband networks.
A leased line is a type of internet connection that provides a direct, dedicated and fixed-bandwidth connection between two locations. Unlike traditional broadband connections that are shared by multiple users, a leased line is exclusively reserved for the use of a single customer. This means that leased lines provide high-speed and reliable connectivity with guaranteed bandwidth and service level agreements (SLAs). Leased lines are often used by businesses and organisations that require fast and reliable connectivity for activities such as data transfer or video conferencing. Although leased lines can be more expensive than traditional broadband connections, they are essential for mission-critical applications where downtime or disruptions could have serious consequences.
Local loop unbundling (LLU) is a regulatory process that allows telecommunications companies to rent access to the physical copper or fibre-optic lines that connect homes and businesses to the telephone exchange. This process is regulated by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and is intended to promote competition in the telecommunications industry by giving customers a greater choice of providers and services.
Openreach owns and operates the majority of the local loop infrastructure. Other telecommunications companies can apply for access to these lines, which they can then use to offer their own phone and broadband services to customers. This process is known as local loop unbundling or LLU.
LLU has been a significant driver of competition in the UK telecommunications market, enabling a number of alternative providers to offer broadband services over the Openreach network. This has led to increased choice and lower prices for consumers, as well as increased investment in new technologies and services by competing providers.
Mbps stands for 'Megabits per second', which is a measure of data transfer speed in computer networks or internet connections. It refers to the amount of data that can be transferred in one second, measured in millions of bits.
The higher the Mbps, the faster the data can be transferred, and the quicker you can download or upload files, stream videos or browse the internet. Mbps is commonly used to measure the speed of a broadband connection, with higher Mbps values generally indicating faster and more reliable connections. Compare broadband deals by speed.
MiFi is a small, portable device that allows you to create a wireless Internet connection using mobile data. It works like a small router which connects to the internet using a mobile network. It then creates a personal wireless network that you can connect to with your phone, tablet, or laptop. This means that you can access the Internet on the go without needing to connect to a Wi-Fi network or use your phone's data plan. MiFi devices are often used by travellers, students and people who work remotely. They provide a convenient and reliable way to stay connected to the internet wherever you go.
Mobile broadband is a type of internet access that allows you to connect to the internet wirelessly. It uses a mobile network (e.g. 4G/5G) rather than a fixed-line broadband connection that comes through a cable or phone line. Mobile broadband requires the use of a special device, e.g. a dongle, a Mi-Fi device or a SIM card (inserted into your device). This then connects to the mobile network to give you internet access.
Mobile broadband is typically used on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other portable devices. It can be used almost anywhere where there is mobile coverage. It's a convenient option for people who are always on the go, those who want to stay connected whilst travelling or those who don't have access to fixed-line broadband.
However, it's important to note that the speed and quality of your mobile broadband connection can vary depending on factors like: signal strength, network congestion and the type of device you're using. Additionally, some mobile broadband plans have data usage limits, which means you may need to pay attention to how much data you're using to avoid extra charges.
A mobile hotspot is a feature available on some smartphones and other mobile devices that allows them to function as a wireless access point, providing internet connectivity to other nearby devices that are Wi-Fi enabled. Essentially, a mobile hotspot turns a mobile device into a wireless router that can share its cellular data connection with other devices, such as laptops, tablets and other smartphones.
To use a mobile hotspot, the user typically needs to activate the feature on their device and create a Wi-Fi network with a unique name and password. Other devices can then connect to the network and use the mobile device's cellular data connection to access the internet.
Mobile hotspots are a convenient way to access the internet on the go, especially when a Wi-Fi network is not available, or the user wants to avoid using public Wi-Fi, which can be less secure. However, it is important to be mindful of data usage as mobile data plans often have limited data allowances. Using a mobile hotspot can quickly consume a significant amount of data.
A modem is a device that allows your computer or other devices to connect to the internet over a telephone or cable line.
Think of a modem as a translator between your computer and the internet. When you connect your computer to the modem, the modem communicates with your internet service provider (ISP) over a phone or cable line. It translates the digital signals from your computer into signals that can be transmitted over the line. Similarly, when data is sent back to your computer from the internet, the modem translates the signals into a format your computer can understand.
Modems come in various types, depending on the type of connection you have. For example, if you have a traditional phone line connection, you might use a DSL modem, while if you have a cable internet connection, you might use a cable modem. The router supplied by your internet service provider will have a built-in modem.
Ofcom is an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. Ofcom's main responsibilities include ensuring that we have access to reliable and affordable communications services, regulating and promoting competition in the communications sector and protecting consumers from harmful or offensive content. Ofcom is responsible for regulating a wide range of communication services, including television, radio broadcasting and telecommunications. Ofcom is also responsible for managing the UK's radio spectrum, allocating frequencies to different services and ensuring efficient spectrum use. As an independent regulator, Ofcom operates independently of the UK government and is accountable to Parliament.
A powerline adapter is a device that lets you use your home's electrical wiring to create a wired network connection. To use a broadband powerline adapter, you simply plug one adapter into an electrical outlet near your modem or router and then connect it to the device using a network cable. Then, you plug another adapter into an electrical outlet in a different room or area of your home and connect it to a device such as a computer, game console, or smart TV using another network cable. The adapters use your home's electrical wiring to transmit data signals between the two devices, creating a wired network connection that provides high-speed internet access.
Broadband powerline adapters are useful in situations where it's not possible or practical to run network cables or install Wi-Fi access points, such as: in large homes, multi-storey buildings or areas with thick walls or other obstacles that can interfere with Wi-Fi signals. They're easy to set up and use and provide a reliable and secure way to extend your home network and provide high-speed internet access in hard-to-reach areas.
A "quad play" service is a bundled service offering that combines four different types of services from a single provider. The four services typically included in a quad-play offering are internet, television, phone and mobile services. By bundling these services together, providers can offer customers a discount compared to purchasing each service separately.
Quad play services are becoming increasingly popular as consumers look for ways to simplify their monthly bills and take advantage of cost savings. In addition, quad-play services can provide additional benefits, such as seamless integration between devices and services, one-stop customer support, and the convenience of having all services provided by a single provider. However, it's important to carefully review the terms and conditions of any quad-play offering to ensure that it meets your needs and budget.
A router connects multiple devices to the internet, allowing them to access online services and communicate with other devices on the internet.
Think of a router like a Post Office for your internet connection. Just as a Post Office receives and distributes mail to different addresses, a router receives and distributes data packets to different devices on your network.
Once you link any hardware like a laptop or smartphone to your router, the router allocates a distinctive IP address to it, which serves as its unique identification on the internet. Subsequently, the router employs this IP address to transmit and receive data packets between the hardware and the internet, which enables it to access various online services and communicate with other devices on the internet.
Routers also provide a level of security for your network by acting as a firewall, which helps to protect your devices from external threats, such as viruses or hackers.
Satellite broadband is a type of internet connection that uses a satellite to transmit and receive data. Unlike traditional broadband connections that rely on cables and wires, satellite broadband sends and receives signals via a satellite dish that is installed at the user's location. This makes satellite broadband a great option for users who live in remote or rural areas where traditional broadband infrastructure may not be available.
Accessibility: Satellite broadband can be accessed from virtually anywhere, as long as there is a clear line of sight to the satellite.
High-speed: Satellite broadband can provide high-speed internet access. At the time of writing (2023) a SpaceX Starlink service in the UK is expected to achieve download speeds of up to 105Mbps and upload speeds of up to 6Mbps.
Reliability: Because satellite broadband is not reliant on physical cables or wires, it can provide a more reliable connection than traditional broadband in areas prone to outages or damage to infrastructure
Flexibility: Satellite broadband can be a flexible solution for users who require internet access on the move or in temporary locations, such as construction sites or festivals.
Overall, satellite broadband can be a great option for users who require high-speed and reliable internet access in remote or rural areas where traditional broadband infrastructure may not be available.
SDSL stands for Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line. It is a type of internet connection that provides equal upload and download speeds. This means that users can upload data, such as files or emails, at the same speed that they can download data, such as videos or web pages. This is different from other types of internet connections, such as ADSL, which typically provide faster download speeds than upload speeds. SDSL is commonly used by businesses that require high-speed and reliable internet connectivity for activities such as video conferencing, cloud computing, and online backups. While SDSL is less common in residential settings, it may be beneficial for users who frequently upload large files or engage in online activities that require fast upload speeds.
SoGEA stands for Single Order Generic Ethernet Access. It's a new type of broadband connection that allows you to connect to the internet using a single phone line, without needing to have a traditional phone service.
In the past, in order to get broadband, you would typically need to have an active phone line, which could be costly if you didn't use it for making calls. With SoGEA, you can get broadband over your phone line without having to pay for a phone service.
SoGEA works by using a special type of technology called Ethernet over Fibre to the Cabinet (EoFTTC), which allows you to get faster broadband speeds over your existing phone line. It's ideal for people who only need an internet connection and don't want to pay for a phone service they won't use.
Find a SoGEA broadband provider in your area.
'Superfast' broadband is a type of internet connection that provides faster speeds than traditional ADSL broadband but slower speeds than 'Ultrafast' broadband. It typically uses a combination of fibre-optic and copper cables to transmit data, allowing for faster connection. Superfast broadband can offer speeds of between 24Mbps and 300Mbps, which is several times faster than standard ADSL broadband. Superfast broadband is widely available across the UK and is a popular choice for home and business users who need faster internet speeds than traditional broadband can offer but don't require the extreme speeds provided by ultrafast broadband.
Compare superfast broadband deals in your area.
Tethering is a way to share an internet connection from one device to another. It allows a device with an internet connection, such as a smartphone, to act as a mobile hotspot and provide internet access to other devices, such as a laptop or tablet. Tethering can be done using a physical cable or wirelessly via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Tethering is useful when you need to connect to the internet but do not have access to a Wi-Fi network or a wired connection, such as when travelling or in a location with limited connectivity options.
Throttling and traffic shaping are techniques internet service providers (ISPs) use to manage network traffic and ensure that all users have a consistent and reliable experience. Throttling involves intentionally slowing down or "throttling" certain types of internet traffic, such as peer-to-peer file sharing or video streaming, to reduce congestion on the network. Traffic shaping involves prioritising certain types of traffic over others, such as giving priority to VoIP calls or online gaming traffic over file downloads or web browsing. While these techniques can effectively manage network traffic, they can also be controversial, as they can be seen as a form of discrimination or a violation of net neutrality principles.
'Ultrafast' broadband refers to an internet connection that provides significantly faster speeds than a traditional ADSL or 'Superfast' broadband. Ultrafast broadband uses fibre-optic cables, which are capable of carrying more information than traditional copper cables. It can deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), which allows for faster downloads and uploads, smoother video streaming and better online gaming experiences. Ultrafast broadband is becoming increasingly popular as it provides a superior internet experience for users who require high-speed and reliable connectivity for work or leisure.
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Unlimited broadband refers to an internet service plan that offers unlimited usage without any data caps or usage limits. This means that users can use the internet as much as they want without additional charges or slowdowns, regardless of the amount of data they consume. Unlimited broadband is becoming increasingly popular as more people rely on the internet for streaming videos, downloading large files and other data-intensive activities. It allows users to fully utilise their internet connection without worrying about exceeding data limits or incurring extra charges. However, some unlimited broadband plans may have a 'fair usage' policy that limits the maximum speed or data usage for users who consume excessive amounts of data or misuse the service.
Broadband upload speed refers to the speed at which data, e.g. an email, can be transmitted from your device to the internet. Broadband upload speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
A higher upload speed means that you can send data faster, which can be important for tasks such as video conferencing, online gaming and uploading large files like videos or photos to the internet.
Measure the speed of your broadband with our easy-to-use broadband speed tester
VDSL stands for (Very High Bit Rate Digital Subscriber Line) and is a method used for delivering broadband via copper phone lines. A standard VDSL broadband connection can achieve a maximum download speed of 55Mbps, double that of its predecessor (ADSL), which has a maximum download speed of 24Mbps.
Wireless broadband, also known as Wi-Fi or wireless internet, refers to a type of broadband internet connection that uses radio waves to transmit data between devices and the internet. This type of connection allows users to connect to the internet without the need for physical cables. Wireless broadband typically relies on a wireless router or access point that receives signals from the internet and broadcasts them to wireless devices within its range. Users can connect to the wireless network using a Wi-Fi-enabled device, such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Wireless broadband is convenient, flexible and widely available.