Technology can be confusing 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, and it can’t match the speeds of broadband delivered over fibre optic cables. It is also more prone to interference and therefore less reliable. And the Asymmetric part? That simply means it is faster downloading than uploading, which makes it more suited to domestic use. If you’re planning to upload kitten videos to YouTube, we recommend an ultra-fast broadband package.
This is the volume of information per unit of time that an internet connection can handle. Think of it as a pipe, where the fatter the pipe the greater the volume that can pass through it.
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.
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, or may slow the service down so you can’t use as much. Unlimited data allowances are available, avoiding any difficulties with data or 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 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 on 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’s distribution point to the street cabinets, which then connect to standard phone lines to deliver internet to your home. This may slow the download speed slightly.
‘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.
A gigabyte is a unit used to measure the size of computer files and memory capacity. Technically, 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1,024 megabytes (MB), but for convenience it’s referred to as 1,000 MB.
An ‘internet protocol address’ is a number assigned to your computer or device when it goes online, so the network knows where it’s sending data to. Most IP addresses are “static” which means it will always have the same IP address, for example your home PC or smart device. Mobile devices use “dynamic” IP addresses, since they are by definition mobile. The internet will assign an IP address each time it connects to the internet, which will change each time.
Your ‘internet service provider’ is the company responsible for providing your internet connection.
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.
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 an average download speed of 36 Mbps then it is capable of transferring 36 megabits of data per second.
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 5 MB. 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 or mobile device.
Ofcom is the communications regulator in the UK. It is the government-approved regulatory and competition 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 connection 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.
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 a reasonable performance.
This measures how fast data is transferred from your device to the internet. 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 devices can connect to this if you have the right password. It is extremely important that you have a good password regime for your wifi network, to ensure others don’t connect to your network. If this happens, not only will your data be used up more quickly and your performance degrade, the security of your data and devices will be at risk.