Broadband and internet jargon and terminology

With so much jargon, acronyms and terminology associated with broadband and internet technology, we decided to create this jargon buster & FAQs to explain them in plain English.

Hopefully, this A – Z guide will help you determine whether you’re “phishing” “upstream” or “downstream” or whether you’re after a “byte” or just need a few “bits”.








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What is ADSL Broadband?

ADSL ‘asymmetric digital subscriber line’ is a type of internet connection that is delivered through your telephone line.

This is the most popular type of internet connection and is ‘asymmetric’ which means that the download speed will be quicker than the upload speed.

You will have a ‘splitter adapter’ inside your home that splits the incoming copper phone line into two.  Your home telephone plugs into one of the splitter ports and your broadband router plugs into the other port.

This allows you to use your home phone and browse the internet at the same time.

Symmetric broadband (same download and upload speed) are available from broadband providers such as Hyperoptic broadband.

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What is a Bit

Bit is short for Binary Digit. A bit is the smallest unit of data in computing and digital communications.

In simple and relevant terms, computers (and other digital devices) communicate in binary which is a sequence of 0(zeros) and 1 (One).  A single zero or one is known as one bit.

All digital documents, sounds, videos, images or other digital information is stored and transmitted as Zeroes and Ones.

Broadband speed is measured in how many thousands or millions of bits can be sent (upload) or received (download) per second.

We convert bits to kilobits (Kb) to Megabits (Mb) to Gigabits (Gb) and to Terabits (Tb) to make it easier to refer to the numbers.

If we didn’t, broadband speed would be advertised in numbers such as 67,108,864 bits per second (which is only 8Mbps). This is pretty much the same as we do for measurements e.g. millimetres to centimetres to meters etc.

  • A kilobit (kb) is 1,024 bits
  • A megabit (Mb) is 1,024 kilobits
  • A gigabit (Gb) is 1,024 megabits
  • A terabit (Tb) is 1,024 gigabits.

The more bits that can be sent per second, the faster the performance of your internet connection. Simples.

Bits are not to be confused with Bytes. Read on to see the difference.

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What’s the difference between a bit and a Byte?

Bytes are a larger measurement than bits. 1 byte = 8 bits. There are eight bits in one Byte.

On the same token:

  • there are 8 Megabits in one MegaByte
  • there are 8 Gigabits in one GigaByte

Bytes are written in uppercase ‘B’ and bits are lowercase ‘b’. The best way to remember is that a capital B is bigger than a lowercase b – eight times bigger.

  • File sizes are measured in ‘Bytes’ – e.g MegaBytes (MB) , GigaBytes (GB)
  • Broadband speed (data transfer rates) are measured and advertised in ‘bits’ – e.g Megabits per second (Mbps)

Unfortunately, people sometimes refer to megabits and megabytes as just “megs”! Now you know that if they’re talking about a file size then they referring to MegaBytes (MB) and if it is about the speed they’re referring to Megabits (Mb)

Question: If you have a broadband speed of 8Mbps (Megabits per second) how long will it take to download a file that is 8MB (MegaBytes)?

Answer: It would take 8 seconds. Remember 8Mbits = 1 MByte.

Seconds and total data downloaded:
1st sec @ 8Mbits per second = 1Mbyte overall
2nd sec another 8Mbits  = 2Mbytes overall
3rd sec another 8Mbits  = 3Mbytes overall
4th sec another 8Mbits  = 4Mbytes overall
5th secs another 8Mbits = 5Mbytes overall
6th secs another 8Mbits = 6Mbytes overall
7th secs another 8Mbits = 7Mbytes overall
8th secs another 8Mbits = 8Mbytes overall

Done. 8MB file downloaded in 8 Seconds on an 8Mbits per second (Mbps) download speed.

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What is Broadband?

The term ‘broadband’ refers to a fast permanent internet connection.

An internet connection that is always on and unlike the old-fashioned dial-up internet where you established a connection (dialled up) as and when you need to access the internet.

The most common form of broadband is ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) which uses a phone line and remains always connected. Other types of broadband include cable, fibre, radio and satellite.

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What is a Telephone Exchange?

A telephone exchange is an intersection where all the broadband and phone connections meet and then connect to their respective provider’s networks.

The distance from your property to the nearest exchange can have an impact on your broadband speed.

This is because ADSL Broadband (broadband that is delivered via your telephone line) is hugely affected by interference or noise on this line. The longer the distance the line has to travel, the more noise it will experience.


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What is a Kilobit

A kilobit (kb) is 1,024 bits

Kilobits (Kb) are smaller than kiloBytes (KB).

Kilobits (Kb) are used when referring to data transfer rates (i.e Kilobits per second – Kbps).

KiloBytes (KB) are used when referring to file sizes.

Internet connection speeds were slow before the new age of broadband internet replaced dial-up internet.  Back then internet standard modem speeds were able to transfer data at 28.8 kilobits per second (Kbps).

The second generation of speed was 56 Kbps. Wow – how were we able to manage?

Most Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the day and age offer speeds starting at 8Mbps minimum.

When you download a file from a location that has a slow connection rate under 1Mbps you will see the speed displayed in Kilobits.

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