Our broadband terms glossary is designed to explain terms and phrases regarding broadband services.

Select the term to expand on the explanation:

  1. ADSL (Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line)

    ADSL (Asymmetric digital subscriber line) is a type of internet connection technology that can provide broadband level speeds over standard copper telephone lines. This is made possible by utilising frequencies that are not used by voice telephone calls. A microfilter or splitter is plugged into each phone socket in a property. This microfilter then allows a single telephone connection to be used for both ADSL service and voice calls at the same time.

    The speed of an ADSL internet connection can differ based on line quality, distance from the local exchange and how many other properties are using the same type of connection locally.

    ADSL2+ is a newer standard which increases the maximum download speed from around 8Mbps to 24Mbps depending on factors described above.

  2. Bandwidth

    Bandwidth is the rate at which different types of data can be uploaded and downloaded at the same time. To explain if a single user was using an internet connection to download a file, they would have access to the full bandwidth of their internet connection and get the fastest speed available. If other users then began downloading and uploading files at the same time as the first user, it would affect the overall bandwidth and slow the first user’s download speed. This is because the bandwidth of the internet connection is now being allocated between all of the users. Imagine running a tap upstairs and downstairs in a house at the same time. Until one of the taps is shut off the water flow rate (or bandwidth) is now shared between both users.

  3. Fibre optic or cable broadband

    Fibre optic or cable broadband is a high speed internet connection that transmits information using pulses of light through special fibre optic cabling. Unlike the majority of broadband connections in the UK that use existing telephone lines or mobile networks.

    Fibre broadband does not require a phone line and can achieve far greater speeds than a standard ADSL broadband connection.

    There are different types of fibre broadband connection available including:

    FTTH (fibre to the home) – fibre-optic cables run right to the outside of your property. This is the quickest fibre optic service, but is not widely available.

    FTTB (fibre to the building) – fibre-optic cables run right to the outside of your property. Although if you are in a shared office space or an apartment building, the fibre terminates at the overall building, rather than your individual office.

    FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) – fibre-optic cables run right to the nearest cabinet in the street, which can be up to 300 metres away. This is the most common type of fibre connection.

    FTTN (fibre to the node) – similar to FTTC but the street cabinet can be up to several miles away. The remaining distance to your property being covered by regular copper wiring.

  4. Hotspot

    A hotspot is an area where you can wirelessly connect to the internet using a laptop, mobile phone or similar device. Some modern mobile phones and tablets can be used as hotspots to provide wireless internet access to other devices.

  5. IP address

    An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a number given to a device connecting to a network or the internet for identification purposes.

  6. MAC Code

    MAC code (migration authorisation code) is a unique code provided to customers to enable them to migrate services from broadband / internet service providers (or ISP’s for short.)

    The MAC code is intended to make it simple to change providers. Your existing supplier will provide a MAC code upon request, this code is then given to your new supplier for them to migrate the service across as quickly as possible.

  7. MB, Mb and Mbps (megabytes, megabits and megabits per second)

    Although they have similar spellings megabytes and megabits are two different things.

    MB (large M large B) is short for megabyte, a measurement of file size (e.g. in the form of mp3’s or word documents) stored on a device such as a computer, phone or tablet. To give an example the average mp3 song file is around 2MB to 5MB and a high definition film could be a 1000MB plus. A thousand megabytes is known as a gigabyte. So if you had a gigabyte’s worth of space free on your hard drive you’d be able to store approximately 250MB’s worth of average sized mp3 files onto it.

    Mb (large M small B) is short for megabit, it’s a measurement of data transfer flow rather than file size. To give an analogy, megabytes would represent how much water is stored in a bucket, whereas megabits would represent how fast the water flows in when you’re filling it up.

    This often causes confusion for consumers because it’s often assumed that a download speed of one megabit per second (or 1 Mbps) will allow them to download a one megabyte file in one second. This is not the case. Firstly a ‘bit’ is one-eighth as big as a ‘byte’, so in turn a ‘megabit’ is one-eighth the size of a ‘megabyte’. So to download a one megabyte file in a single second would require a connection speed of 8Mbps or eight megabits per second.

  8. Mobile Broadband

    Mobile broadband is wireless internet access for your laptop, phone or other mobile device. There are two main types available in the UK which is 3G access and 4G access. 4G access is closer to broadband download speeds but network coverage is limited over the UK.

  9. Router

    A router is a piece of equipment that’s able to transfer data between multiple devices on a network (such as PC’s, laptops and phones) along with to and from the internet. Instead of having a single connection from your computer to the internet a router can handle the traffic to and from multiple devices at once.

  10. Static IP address

    A static IP (internet protocol) address is the same as an IP address described above. Although instead of being refreshed each time you connect to the internet it will always remain the same value.

  11. Streaming

    Streaming means watching video or listening to music on the internet in real time, instead of downloading a file to your computer and watching it later.

    If there is a temporary loss of internet connection or an interruption due to congestion, the audio may go silent for a few seconds or the screen may go blank. To minimise this problem from happening, your device may store a temporary buffer of data that has been received. If the connection is not restored fully, the device will continue to play the stream until it reaches the end of the buffered content. Then it may display a message on screen (such as ‘buffering’) or show a loading icon while the streaming data catches up.