Making sense of broadband jargon

Making sense of broadband jargon

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

You don’t need a degree in computing to make sense of the internet, but it helps.

The complex nature of digital processing and web connectivity has created an industry awash with acronyms, abbreviations and technical terminology – all baffling to the newcomer.

If your eyes glaze over at the mention of cables and sockets, the world of HTTP and HTML might as well be a foreign language.

Fortunately, broadband jargon is rarely as complex as it first appears.

Below, we’ve listed common examples of broadband jargon, alongside straightforward explanations of what they mean.

A little industry knowledge could simplify the process of switching to a new broadband provider, or help you to resolve an issue with your existing supplier…

A beginner’s guide to broadband jargon-busting

  1. Bandwidth

    The speed of data transfer over the internet, often quoted by broadband companies to demonstrate how fast their connections are.

  2. Bits

    The smallest unit of data. Bits provide an indication of data transfer volumes, in units of a thousand, million or billion (kilobit, megabit and gigabit).

  3. Bytes

    There are eight bits in each byte of data. While bits record connection speeds, bytes typically represent file sizes. A JPG photo file might be around five megabytes.

  4. Cloud

    When information is hosted or stored online, rather than being retained on an individual device’s internal storage. Dropbox and Netflix are cloud-hosted applications.

  5. Download speed

    Measured in megabits or gigabits per second (Mbps and Gbps), this is the rate at which digital data can reach your devices along an internet connection.

  6. Exchange

    The local telephone exchange is where the world’s fibre optic cable network switches to a line into your home or office, often along inefficient copper cables.

  7. FTTC

    Those cables slow internet bandwidth to a fraction of its previous speed. As a result, these slower connections are identified with the term Fibre to the Cabinet.

  8. FTTP

    The gold standard of internet connectivity involves fibre cables extending right into your premises – hence Fibre to the Premises. FTTP will eventually replace FTTC.

  9. Firewall

    This can be either hardware or software, but in either guise, a firewall exists to provide a barrier against unwholesome online material like malware and viruses.

  10. HTML

    The fifth generation of HyperText Markup Language is a flexible yet simple English-based programming language, used for coding website content.

  11. HTTP

    The HyperText Transfer Protocol distributes information across the internet. HTTP is the method most commonly used to deliver HTML data to your screen.

  12. IP address

    Presented in numerical form, an Internet Protocol address defines a particular online location such as a server or router – both defined below.

  13. ISP

    Internet Service Providers undertake to deliver broadband into your home or office at the best speed they can manage, often alongside other services like TV and phones.

  14. Mobile broadband

    An alternative to cable or phone-line broadband, mobile data services are received wirelessly by pocket-sized 4G dongles across mobile phone networks.

  15. Network

    A network simply involves a number of computers linked together, often as part of a Local Area Network (LAN). We explain the concept of VPNs below.

  16. Peer-to-peer

    A method of data transfer between two or more users, favoured for privacy and anonymity. P2P file sharing networks like Napster flourished in the Noughties.

  17. Router

    An under-appreciated gadget serving as the interface between an internet connection and available bandwidth, generally provided free by your chosen ISP.

  18. Server

    Internet data is usually hosted on large, dedicated hard disc drives known as servers. These are charged with distributing content to user devices anywhere, anytime.

  19. SSL

    Fans of 24 will know a Secure Socket Layer creates a dedicated link between two devices, ensuring sensitive information can’t be viewed or intercepted by third parties.

  20. Upload speed

    How quickly information is distributed from your device or computer to another machine. It’s usually around five to ten per cent of download speeds.

  21. URL

    Every webpage has a unique identifier, and this Uniform Resource Locator provides a standardised way for web browsers to identify correct online locations.

  22. VPN

    Rather like SSL, a Virtual Private Network establishes a direct and secure connection between two computers. Our sister site has more on this.

  23. WiFi

    Wireless Fidelity is a method of distributing wireless broadband across a local area to wireless devices, using the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is an expert tech writer. He's written hundreds of guides on all things broadband!

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