A glossary of broadband terms

3G is a common name widely used in the telecommunications industry for a service that allows mobile access to the internet. It allows you to browse through internet pages, as well as download content such as videos and music without being restricted to a fixed line broadband connection or a Wi-Fi hotspot.

4G wireless is the term used to describe the fourth-generation of wireless service. 4G is a step up from 3G, which is currently the most widespread, high-speed wireless service. 4G is only available in limited areas. While all 4G service is called “4G,” the underlying technology is not the same. Some providers uses WiMax technology for its 4G network, while others uses a technology called Long Term Evolution, or LTE.No matter what technology is behind it, 4G wireless is designed to deliver speed. On average, 4G wireless is supposed to be anywhere from four to ten times faster than today’s 3G networks.

802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Technical specifications for wireless computing. These are industry wide standards for transferring data around a computer network via the use of radio waves. 802.11b has a maximum speed of 11MB/s, 802.11g has a maximum speed of 54MB/s and 802.11n has a maximum speed of 130MB/s.

802.11 The IEEE standard for wireless connectivity at1 Mbps and 2 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band.

802.11a The IEEE standard for wireless connectivity in the range of 54 Mbps in the 5.0 GHz band.

802.11b The IEEE standard for wireless connectivity at data rates up to 11 Mbps in the2.4 GHz band.

802.11g The IEEE standard for wireless local area networks (WLANs) that offers transmission over relatively short distances at up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps). Networks employing 802.11g operate at radio frequencies between 2.400 GHz and 2.4835 GHz, the same band as 802.11b. But the 802.11g specification employs orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), the modulation scheme used in 802.11a, to obtain higher data speed. Computers or terminals set up for 802.11g can fall back to speeds of 11 Mbps. This feature makes 802.11b and 802.11g devices compatible within a single network.

Ad hoc network A wireless network composed only of stations and no access point. Also referred to as an Independent Basic Service Set Network (IBSS Network).

This is an abbreviation of Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line and the term is used interchangeably with “broadband”.  ADSL is a data communications technology that allows for the faster transfer of data across standard copper telephone lines than a conventional dial up modem can manage. ADSL provides a high speed, always on connection that can carry both data and voice.  The term “asymmetric” is used because the data being carried along the line moves faster one way than the other. In other words, downloading is faster the uploading.

The capacity of your Internet connection for transmitting or receiving data. Measured in Kilobits per second (Kbps) or Megabits per second (Mbps).

Contention Ratio
This describes the maximum number of users sharing the bandwidth on the broadband connection between your local exchange and your broadband provider.  Standard contention ratios are 50:1 and 20:1. If you had a 50:1 connection ratio it would mean that at any one time you would never be sharing your bandwidth with more than 49 other users. Therefore, the lower the contention rate the better.

An acronym for Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer. This is a function that aggregates broadband connections into one main link on the Internet backbone.

Dynamic Line Management (or DLM) is a collective term for the systems used by BT to stabilise an IPStream Max/Max Premium services. It automatically logs information on a line’s performance and takes steps to stabilise the line. It can do this by applying Interleaving, and/or reducing the maximum speed a line can connect at. DLM should result in a stable service being established over the first three days after receiving your broadband service. During this training period disconnections may be experienced when changes in line speeds occur.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Issues IP addresses automatically within a specified range to devices such as PCs when they are first powered on. The device retains the use of the IP address for a specific license period that the system administrator can define. DHCP is available as part of many operating systems, including Microsoft Windows NT Server and UNIX.

EDGE (also known as Enhanced GPRS or EGPRS) is a data system used on top of GSM networks. It provides nearly three times faster speeds than the outdated GPRS system. The theoretical maximum speed is 473 kbps for 8 timeslots but it is typically limited to 135 kbps in order to conserve spectrum resources. Both phone and network must support EDGE, otherwise the phone will revert automatically to GPRS.It meets the requirements for a 3G network but is usually classified as 2.75G.

Fibre Optic Broadband: This is a broadband internet connection using fibre optic cables to transfer data. It is typically faster than data transferred via a telephone modem or dialup connection.

Gb (or gigabit): Gb is short for gigabit, which is a unit used to describe the speed at which data travels across an internet connection (also sometimes seem written as Gbps, or gigabits per second). Current broadband connections are measured in Mb (megabits per second) – there are 1024Mb in 1Gb.

GB (or Gbps, or gigabyte): GB is short for gigabyte, which is often used to describe the size of computer files and memory storage capacity. There are 1024 bytes in a kilobyte (KB), 1024 kilobytes in a megabyte (MB), and 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte. To give a better idea of usage, a small Notepad file could be measured in bytes, a basic Word document in kilobytes, a music file in megabytes and a DVD quality film in gigabytes.

General Packet Radio Service is a packet-switching technology that enables data transfers through cellular networks. It is used for mobile internet, MMS and other data communications. In theory the speed limit of GPRS is 115 kbps, but in most networks it is around 35 kbps. Informally, GPRS is also called 2.5G.

HSPA, HSDPA, HSUPA: HSPA stands for ‘high speed packet access’ (the others are high speed ‘download’ and ‘upload’ packet access, describing the same technology either sending or receiving data). It is the latest advancement in quality for mobile broadband usage, working on the nation’s various 3G and 4G (see above) mobile phone networks to improve the speed of data transfer whilst you’re online. For this reason it is also sometimes known as 3.5G.

HSPA Evolved, HSPA+: The next generation of HSPA, Evolved HSPA (or HSPA+) promises mobile broadband speeds of up to 42Mb.

LTE: LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, one of the next generation of mobile broadband technologies (alongside WiMAX). It is said to be capable of data transfer rates 15 to 100 times faster than current 3G mobile networks, which could see it seriously competing with fixed-line broadband in the not too distant future.

Line rate, or synchronisation(sync) speed is the speed at which your broadband router or modem communicates with the BT Exchange. This is always higher than the speed data will actually be downloaded or uploaded when you use the connection.

Mb (or Mbps, or megabit): Mb is an abbreviation of Megabit. You may also see written as Mbps, which stands for megabits per second, as Mb is currently the term most often linked with the measurement of internet speeds. A Mb is 1024Kb, while there are 1024Mb in a Gb.

Mb/Megabyte: A megabyte is a unit for measuring the amount of storage space digital information will take up. It is the equivalent of one million bytes and roughly equates to the same amount of information held in a medium-sized novel.

Mb/s/Mbps: This is a different unit of storage to megabytes, and instead means the number of megabits transferred per second and relates to the speed of your internet connection.

Mi-Fi (or MiFi): This is a little gadget that, like a dongle, receives a mobile broadband signal. However, unlike a dongle (which plugs directly into your laptop or other internet enabled device), the Mi-Fi device stands alone and distributes the signal wirelessly via Wi-Fi  to several different machines. It is basically a wireless router for mobile broadband.

A micro filter acts as a splitter and plugs into your telephone socket. This reduces interference on fax or telephone calls when a broadband connection is present by splitting the normal line frequencies into one band for telephone use and another for broadband use.

MSR.The maximum stable rate (or MSR) is a line rate threshold established by BT over the first 10 days of service on your broadband service. It is used to determine when a drop in line rate would be considered a fault. Once an MSR is established BT will accept a fault report if the line rate drops by 20% or more. e.g. if the MSR established is 8192kbps a fault can be reported when the line rate drops to 5734Kbps or less.

Rate Adaptive Digital Subscriber Line
This is an improved broadband technology, which extends the reach of the current copper wire telephone system from 3.5 km to 5.5km from a DSL exchange. This means that more users can benefit from ADSL as the reach is extended.

Rate Adaptive IPStream Max/Max Premium are referred to as a ‘Rate Adaptive’ services – this means the service will change the line rate based upon line conditions, which can vary over time. Due to fluctuations in line quality a line could Rate Adapt from a higher speed during the day to a lower speed at night.

SSID service set identifier (SSID): Also referred to as ESSID, network name, service area, and other names, this term identifies a specific wireless LAN. To connect to a network, a device must “know” the SSID of the network.

This is an acronym for Wired Equivalent Privacy. This is the form of encryption used for wireless networks to prevent unauthorised users entering the wireless network.

This stands for Wireless Fidelity and means the connection of two network devices wirelessly. The most common connections are via 802.11.b, which can cope with 11Mb per second and 802.11.g, which can cope with up to 54Mb per second. Actual speed will depend on distance between devices and the nature of any obstacles in the path such as walls and ceilings, which will reduce signal intensity.

Wireless access point
A wireless access point is an intermediary device that exchanges information between various configured wireless devices.

Stands for Wireless Local Area Network.  This describes a local network that works exclusively without wires.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): An improvement to WEP, WPA adds — among other changes — a key (TKIP, or Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) that changes dynamically over time, which eliminates the greatest shortcoming of WEP. WPA is the minimum level of security you should choose, if at all possible. WPA-Enterprise adds 802.1x authentication to make the network even more secure.

Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2): WPA2 adds even further enhancements to WPA, including AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), which makes the encryption key almost impervious to current cracker attacks.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): The encryption system used by wireless LANs to provide security on the network. WEP uses an encryption key (which can be 40 or 104 bits long — these keys are often referred to as 64- and 128-bit keys because of some extra bits used in the WEP system) to encrypt data flowing across the network. Without the WEP encryption key, unauthorized users see only garbled data and cannot read what is being sent across the network.

WiMAX : a wireless industry coalition whose members organized to advance IEEE 802.16 standards for broadband wireless access (BWA) networks. WiMAX 802.16 technology is expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connection and, with a range of up to 30 miles, enable networks to have a wireless last mile solution. According to the WiMAX forum, the group’s aim is to promote and certify compatibility and interoperability of devices based on the 802.16 specification, and to develop such devices for the marketplace.

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