Do you speak broadband?

Do you speak broadband?

By: Shell Energy

01 Oct 2019

Do you know your megabits from your megabytes? Or that fibre isn’t just something you’ll find in your supermarket’s fresh produce aisle? 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.

What is broadband?

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.

What is a Router?

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, subject to the correct password or security details.

What is Line rental?

Still use your home phone? You’ll need to include line rental in your package if you also want to get connected for calls. Depending on the internet service provider you may also need this for your broadband, but it’s 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 - unless your contract includes unlimited downloads and doesn’t have a data limit, like our broadband packages.

What is a Megabit (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.

What is a Megabyte (MB)?

If you prefer to download instead of stream, megabytes will be important to you. Megabytes are the unit of measurement that 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. Make sure you check the limit, so you don’t go over it and rack up additional charges.

What is a Fair 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 this kind of acceptable use policy. By signing up to use their broadband service you agree to use your connection as a normal domestic household would and not do anything illegal online.

What is Fibre optic broadband?

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. Find out more about fibre and fibre optic broadband.

What is Upload speed?

Your upload speed is how fast you can transfer data from your device and will affect how reliable your video calls are, or how long it’ll take you to do things such as post pictures to social media. 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.

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