Broadband jargon buster


Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). This is a type of technology that allows you to connect to the internet. It splits your normal home telephone line into two signals, allowing you to use the telephone and browse the internet at the same time.

Broadband fixed wireless access (BFWA). Broadband is available in some areas over wireless networks, often via an aerial fixed to the roof of your house or premises.

Broadband modem. A modem is a device that converts analogue signals into digital signals and vice versa. A broadband modem is capable of higher speeds than modems for standard dial-up connections. Most broadband service providers include a broadband modem in their initial set-up package.

Cable connection. Another way to connect to the internet. This service is offered by companies such as NTL and Telewest, but if you can’t get cable TV in your area, you will not be able to access cable broadband.

Internet service provider (ISP). This is a company that sells access to the internet.

Megabits (Mb). The speed at which internet access is measured. A traditional dial-up connection downloads web pages at a rate of 56 kilobits (56k) a second. There are 1,000k in a megabit (1Mb), so a 2Mb connection is almost 40 times faster than dial-up. There are 1,000Mb in a gigabit.

Migration access code (MAC). An identification number specific to your broadband connection. When you want to switch broadband supplier you need to get this code from your current provider and give it to the new company. In theory, providing the MAC will enable a seamless switch between suppliers. Without the code, your internet connection is likely to shut down until the switch is complete

Micro-filters. Small devices that must be attached to your phone sockets so that the ADSL signal does not interfere with telephone calls.

Satellite connection. This is available throughout the UK but requires a special satellite dish to be installed.

Streaming. Sounds or videos that “stream” to your computer fast enough so that it can be played as soon as you start downloading.

Usage/download caps. Some broadband deals cap the amount of data that you can download. A 1Gb limit would allow you to download about 10,500 pages or about 205 songs, according to, the online comparison service.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Technology that allows broadband users to make telephone calls over the internet.