If you’ve ever been confused by the multiplying internet technologies and the jargon used to market them, you’re not alone. The internet, phone, and TV space is cluttered with acronyms and technical language. There are basic terms that everyone should be familiar with but here are some internet terms that could use some explaining:
Gigabyte/gigabit (known as gigs)
A gigabyte is a unit of data storage capacity that is roughly equivalent to one billion bytes. Internet plans are marketed with speeds in gigabits per second (Gbps) or megabits per second (Mbps). The gigabytes indicate the amount of stored data (i.e. music, games, photos, emails) or the overall capacity of a storage device. Bits and bytes refer to standard units of digital data transmitted over network connections. Computers use bits to represent information in digital form, whereas bytes are simply a fixed-length sequence of bits. There are 8 bits for every 1 byte.
Broadband is a term to describe a high-capacity network connection being transmitted using a wide range of frequencies. It commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always accessible and faster than traditional dial-up access. The most common types of broadband connections are DSL, Fiber, Coax (cable), Wireless (4G/5G/Fixed/CBRS/etc.), and Satellite.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of information your internet connection can transfer over a given period. A high bandwidth generally means faster internet, whereas a low bandwidth means slow speeds. The bandwidth available to your device also depends on how many devices are using that connection at the same time – so depending on how many people are streaming at once, you may only be accessing part of it. Think of it like a highway; the more lanes (bandwidth), the more cars (data) can travel without congestion.
If your computer is connected to a network via a cable, it’s likely using an Ethernet cable. Ethernet is the standard wired network technology that connects computers, printers, servers, etc. in a local area network (LAN). It offers faster, more reliable, and more secure connections but requires you to run cables between devices and connected devices must have Ethernet ports.
Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)
Customer Premise Equipment simply refers to any equipment such as network termination equipment, modems, set top boxes, etc. kept at the customer’s physical location rather than on service provider’s premises. It’s also a term associated with commercial customers who need equipment for their business phones.
Fiber to the Home (FTTH)
Though it may be implied in the name, it’s important to understand that Fiber to the Home is internet access provided to your home through fiber optic cables. FTTH systems can deliver a multitude of digital information – such as telephone, data, video – more efficiently than traditional copper coaxial cable, and depend on both active and passive optical networks to function.
Over the Top (OTT)
Over The Top is a term used to describe a service model in which communication takes place over the public internet on a best-effort basis, with no guaranteed service quality levels. The service provider delivers one or more services across an IP network versus other linear TV providers who deliver on-demand and live content over a managed network.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network is a technology commonly used by businesses to protect company data by adding security and privacy to the connection and exchange of information, rather than using a less secure network like the public internet. These private networks can only be accessed with approval or a passcode but can be connected from anywhere. When connecting to the internet remotely, employees then connect to VPNs which provides essentially the same security as if they were in the office.
Software as a Service (Saas)
Software as a Service is a model where users can access business software over the internet rather than buying licenses and installing software on specific devices. The software is hosted and maintained by third-party providers in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee. Like renting a physical space, third-party providers act as landlords who provide access to their software in exchange for a fee.
Written by Celia Reid, TDS Communications Intern