Department for Culture Media and Sport

glossary of terms

Listed below are terms common to the broadband industry and their definitions.

4G – Fourth Generation of mobile services, which use a new standard called LTE – Long Term Evolution. The standards are engineered to reflect the growing reliance on the need for carrying large volumes of data.

Access network – part of the last mile or (first mile) communications network which connects subscribers to their first point of handover.

Backhaul service – a backhaul service carries traffic from a handover point (e.g. a suitable telephone exchange) to an Internet Service Provider point of presence.

Broadband – a term used to by retail internet service providers to describe their high-speed, always-on, access to the Internet. The term broadband originally refers to the range of high frequency signals used to carry the data being transmitted. Broadband is most often delivered via a connection through a telephone line or cable service, but can also be delivered using wireless and satellite connections. A potential access speed of less than 512 Kbps is deemed not to be broadband.

Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) – The BSG is the UK government's leading advisory group on broadband made up of broadcasters, content producers and rights holders, investors, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), telecoms operators, manufacturers, new media companies, mobile operators, OFCOM, devolved administrations and Government.

Bytes and bits – a measure if digital information storage as a sequence of bits; usually eight bits equals one byte. 

Communication room – a room dedicated to house communications equipment. The floor of the room is normally raised to allow for cabling runs,  while the room is also especially cooled.

Ethernet port – typically a socket to attach a cable to, to support transporting data (bits) using the Ethernet suite of frame based signaling and wiring standards.

ERDFEuropean Regional Development Fund

Femtocells – a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in a home or small business which connects to the service provider’s network via broadband. Typically used to improve mobile phone service signals within a building.

Fibre based solutions – see FTTC, FTTH and FTTB.

Fibre optic cable – flexible, transparent fibre made of very pure glass which permits transmission of high data rates over longer distances with less loss than metal cables.

Framework Agreement – a pre-qualified list of private sector suppliers setting out a reference delivery solution and pricing. Framework Suppliers are also bound by a common set of contractual terms and conditions.

FTTC (Fibre-to-the-cabinet) – an access network consisting of optical fibre extending from the optical distribution point at a  handover point (telephone exchange) to the street cabinet, a radial distance of typically 25Km. The street cabinet is usually located only a few hundred metres from subscriber premises. The remaining segment of the access network from the cabinet to the customer is usually a copper pair but could use another technology, such as wireless.

FTTP (Fibre-to-the-premise) – a form of fibre optic communication delivered in which the optical signal reaches the end user#s living or office space. Typically it uses the same optical distribution frame as FTTC and uses the same duct access as FTTC, however rather using the existing copper, it takes fibre all the way to the customers premises.

PtP (Point to Point fibre) FTTP  – where individual fibres are taking from the point of handover to an individual premise.

GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) FTTP –  a point to multi-point architecture, with a tree and branch infrastructure.

FTTB (Fibre-to-the-building) – a form of fibre-optic communications delivery in which an optical fibre is run into the basement of a building and another cable type is used through the building (common in high rise living accommodation in South Korea).

GHz (GigaHertz) – a measurement of frequency in radio spectrum.

Gb (Gigagbit) – a measure if digital information storage, 1000,000,000 bits (see bytes and bits).

GB  (Gigabyte) – a measure if digital information storage, 1000,000,000 bytes (see bytes and bits).

Interfaces – a generic term describing in technical terms how two bits of equipment connect to one another and allow data to flow.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) – a company that offers retail access packages to the internet. They combine the basic connectivity and services like email, voip, a home hub and internet security,

Line Card – a modular electronic circuit on a printed circuit board that interface the telecommunication lines coming from subscribers to the rest of the telecommunications access network.

LTE (Long Term Evolution) – part of the development of 4G mobile systems that started with 2G and 3G networks.

Mbps (Megabits per second) – a measurement of data throughput rate. 1 Mbps = 1,000,000 bits (see bytes and bits). Access speed or throughput is measured in Megabits. Access speed relates to a possible throughput, like the aperature of a pipe. The speed is constant.

MBps (Megabytes per second) – a measurement of the volume of data transferred. 1 MBps = 1,000,000 bytes (see bytes and bits).

MHz (MegaHertz) – a measurement in millions of frequency in electromagnetic spectrum.

Mobile broadband – various types of wireless high-speed internet access through a portable modem, telephone or other device,  covering the current 3G services and the forthcoming 4G services.

Mobile not-spot – areas where there is no mobile coverage as reported in the Ofcom Infrastructure Report (2.6Mb), October 2011

Not-spot – a geographic postcode area where customers do not have access to fixed line or wireless broadband.

OfcomThe Office for Communications

PSN (Public Sector Network) – it is best to differentiate a public enterprise network and a public sector network which complies with specific Cabinet office guidelines on traffic separation. Public sector enterprise networks like any other private carrying voice and data traffic between public sector offices and provides access to and from other networks. This may include access to the PSTN and the public internet. A Public Sector Network compliant with Cabinet Office guidelines is configured with the appropriate equipment to allow traffic to be treated very securely at a variety of security levels.

RDPERural Development Programme for England

Slow spot – a geographic postcode area where customers have access to fixed line or wireless broadband at access speeds below 2Mbps.

SME – Small and Medium Enterprise

Standard Broadband – BDUK has defined standard broadband as an internet access service which uses equipment supporting first generation ADSL equipment and cable broadband equipment. ADSL services have reduced throughput the further you are from the exchange. The further you are from the exchange the fewer Broadband signals are available to carry data.

Sub-loop unbundling – the process by which a sub-section or part of the local loop in the access network is unbundled, typically close to a cabinet and allows other operators to interconnect with the local access network at a point between an incumbent’s exchange and the end user.

Superfast Broadband – BDUK has defined Superfast Broadband as having a potential headline access speed of greater than 24Mbps, with no upper limit. Typically, at a wholesale level, the underlying capability can be measured in gigabits. The retail market then takes this capability and delivers affordable propositions.

Take-up – the acceptance of broadband services by an end user where offered.

Technology neutral – in the context of Broadband it means all but carrying mediums can be used to create the best possible wholesale broadband service.

VDSL – very high bitrate subscriber line, which provides faster data transmission over a single flat untwisted or twisted pair of copper wires that can support high bandwidth applications such as High Definition TV. In order to increase data thoughput (access speed), improved DSL equipment is placed in the street in a cabinet. This is connected to a point of handover using fibre. VDSL is a major element of a Fibre to the Cabinet solution.

Wireless networks – any type of computer network that is not connected by cables of any kind.

White area – a location that is eligible for public subsidy under EU state aid guidelines.

Wimax – A wireless data transfer technology which can be used to replace fixed line broadband services. The technical working for Wimax are described in IEEE 802.16 standard as ratified by the Wimax forum. 


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