Broadband Jargon Buster

Do you speak broadband? Do you know your megabits from your megabytes? Or that fibre isn’t something you’ll find in your local supermarket? If not, you may want to brush up on your broadband jargon before you decide to switch your internet service provider. Knowing a few basic terms may help you make the best decision when choosing your next broadband plan.


Broadband describes an always on home internet service. It is the standard form of internet connection and coverage is good enough that you can get it anywhere in the UK. However, your choice of provider and speed varies depending on where you live.


A router comes with most broadband packages and connects your devices to the internet. It is hooked up to the broadband and delivers the Wi-Fi signal that provides a connection to any device in range with the correct credentials.

Line rental

Still use your home phone? You’ll need to subscribe to line rental if you want to get connected for calls. Depending on the internet service provider you may also need this for your broadband, but it is usually included as part of the package.


From that must-see show on Netflix to your favourite podcast, streaming is enjoyed by the majority of broadband users. Unlike downloading, streaming means that the files aren’t stored on your device and you won’t have to wait patiently before you can play it. Be careful if you like to watch things in high definition (HD), as the improved quality will take chunks out of your data allowance.

Megabits (Mb)

Megabits is the measure of your broadband speed. So if your plan states that you can reach speeds of up to 17Mb, you should in theory be able to transfer 17 megabits of data per second. This can vary due to a number of factors, such as your proximity to the router, the local exchange or the wiring of your home.

Megabytes (MB)

If you prefer to download instead of stream, megabytes will be important you. Megabytes are the unit of measurement the shows you how much data a file takes up on your device. For example: your favourite song might take up around 5MB, whereas a typical hour long TV show might be closer to 250MB. If you have a broadband package that has a download limit, it is usually measured in gigabytes and 1000 MB equals 1 gigabyte. So make sure you check the limit, so you don’t go over it and rack up additional charges.

Fair use policy/Acceptable use policy

Some providers have a ‘fair usage’ policy that states how much data you can download before they penalise you, even if the package is unlimited. This could come in the form of an extra fee or slower speeds. It is worth looking at this policy if you think you might be downloading a lot on a regular basis.

Most providers will have an acceptable use policy. By signing up to use their broadband service you agree to use your connection as a normal domestic household would and won’t do anything illegal online.

Fibre optic

Fibre optic broadband is delivered through fibre optic cables and allows data to be transferred at a much faster rate than traditional copper cables. The connection offers speeds of up to 76MB, enough for high usage households to stream and download smoothly.

Upload speed

Your upload speed is how fast you can transfer data from your device and will affect how long it’ll take you to do things such as post pictures to social media or how reliable your Skype calls are. This will usually be a lot slower than your download speed.

Now you are well versed in the basic terminology of broadband, you can make an informed decision about switching provider or just understand your current package more.

First Utility broadband

Thinking of switching your broadband supplier, but not sure what speed you need? Take a look at our in-depth guide for more information on fibre broadband and advice on what plan would be the best for your household. If you already know what you need, head to our website and pick a broadband plan.

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