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Broadband jargon buster


Technology isn’t simple at the best of times and having to navigate through a complex maze of specific terminology can make the process of finding an internet package unbearable.

See below for a quick guide explaining all that industry jargon, to help you know your megabytes from your megabits.



‘Asymmetric digital subscriber line’ is the standard form of broadband. It’s delivered through copper phone lines, which means it can’t match the speeds of fibre optic broadband delivered down fibre optic cables. It is also more prone to interference and is thus less reliable.



This is the volume of information per unit of time that an internet connection can handle.



This is essentially a home internet system that you never have to switch off. It replaced the old dial-up internet and offers much faster speeds. Broadband is the standard form of internet connection, although your choice of providers and speeds depends on where you live.


Download limit

This is a monthly allowance that limits your broadband usage. Everything you do online uses data and eats away at your allowance. If you exceed your monthly allowance then your provider will charge you extra for any further that you use. Unlimited data allowances are available.


Download speed

This refers to how fast your internet connection is. Fast download speeds mean you can download files quicker, stream videos without annoying buffering, and web pages should load smoothly.


Fibre optic

Fibre-optic broadband is a high-speed internet connection. It takes it names from the fibre-optic cables which transmit data. These are made from either glass or plastic, which enable signals to travel much faster than traditional copper cables. Despite the quicker speeds, fibre-optic cables offer a more reliable service, as they are less prone to interference.



‘Fibre to the cabinet’ means there are fibre optic cables from the internet provider distribution point to the street cabinets, which then connect to standard phone lines to deliver internet to your home.



‘Fibre to the property’ means the line is fibre all the way from the exchange to your home. This is a pure fibre connection that can deliver faster speeds than FTTC, as there is no copper connection at all.


Gigabyte (GB)

A gigabyte is a unit used to measure the size of computer files and memory capacity. 1 gigabyte (GB) contains megabytes (MB).


IP address

An ‘internet protocol address’ is a number assigned to your computer or device when it goes online, so the network knows where its sending data to.



Your ‘internet service provider’ is the company responsible for providing your internet connection.


Line rental

To get a home phone connection you need to pay for line rental. Many internet providers will also require line rental to set up your broadband package – so line rental is often included in your broadband package.


Megabit (Mb)

A ‘megabit’ (not to be confused with megabyte!) is a unit of measurement for the transfer of digital information, and is used to denote broadband speeds. So, for example, if your broadband package has speeds of up to 52 Mb then (theoretically) it is capable of transferring 52 megabits of data per second.


Megabyte (MB)

A ‘megabyte’ (not to be confused with a megabit!) is a unit of measurement for digital data that generally refers to the amount of data a file requires. For instance, downloading a song will take up around 5MB. If you have a download limit on your broadband package then this will count towards that, as well as taking up space on your computer hard drive.



This is the government-approved regulatory and completion authority for telecoms, broadband, television and phones in the UK. It has a statutory duty to represent the interests of citizens and consumers.



This is the all-important box that gets you connected to the internet. It comes with most UK broadband packages and is hooked up to the broadband co nnection so it can emit a Wi-Fi signal for your devices to connect to. The router is significant when it comes to internet connection as the most powerful ones will provide a more reliable and stronger signal across a wider area.



This term covers watching TV, movies and video clips, and listening to music over the internet. Streaming means you view the media without saving the files to your computer.


Traffic management

During peak internet usage hours, the broadband network can get very congested and speeds can drop. To combat this many providers use traffic management. This means that essentially the provider is slowing the service of certain users at peak times to ensure everyone can get online.


Upload speed

This measures how fast data is transferred from your device. This affects how long it takes to upload pictures to social media, send emails, or have clear skype calls. Not to be confused with download speed, which measures how fast data is transferred to your device.



How you connect your devices wirelessly to a router. The router sends out a signal, and your gadgets can connect to this if you have the right password. The lifeblood of modern western civilisation!