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Digital A-Z: A dictionary of broadband, digital TV & phone terms

Need to know more about digital TV, broadband and home phone? Take a look at our digital dictionary! We'll help you learn the difference between your megabits and your fibre optic broadband, so that you can make sure you're getting the right internet, digital TV and home phone service for you.

By on May 09, 2013 at 00:00 AM
Digital A-Z: A dictionary of broadband, digital TV & phone terms


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Stands for Third Generation. This refers to the network on your mobile phone and mobile broadband. 3G provides download speeds of roughly 384Kbps. See kilobytes.


A slightly faster mobile broadband than 3G, also called HSDPA or HSUPA - the latter two are now outdated technology solutions used to deliver portable broadband.


stands for the fourth generation mobile broadband technology. At the moment mobile operators can choose to either base it on WiMAX or LTE (Long Term Evolution).


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Analogue signal

The broadcast signal which delivers just five TV channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) to your set via an aerial.

Aerial upgrade

If your rooftop aerial is particularly old or if you have a set-top aerial, you might need to upgrade your aerial to one that can pick up the digital signal in order to receive digital terrestrial channels. Our install and repair network can help you with this.   

Backbone network

It ties various parts of the network infrastructure together and carries the majority of traffic. It serves as a link between the broadband provider and telephone operator.


Refers to how much data is flowing (i.e. being uploaded and downloaded) on an ISP's network. Also known as traffic.

Basic broadband

The UK Government's established lowest acceptable broadband download speed. It is currently considered to be 2Mbps.


Short distance wireless technology which has been designed to share files via mobile phones. It has since replaced the infrared direct linking option


To use the internet and look at web pages. See also surf


An application which allows you to access the internet and look at web pages. For example: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and many others

Business broadband provider

a company which provides broadband internet to businesses solely. Also may be referred to as a Business ISP

Broadband provider

firm which provides internet services. See also ISP

Cable broadband

While DSL uses telephone lines, this solution supplies broadband via the cable television infrastructure. The biggest cable broadband provider in the UK is Virgin Media

Cable TV

Cable television is just what it says it is - TV pictures and sound sent through underground cables to your home. One of the benefits of cable is that you can run home phone and broadband through it too. Virgin Media is the country's main cable-based digital service provider


A defined data allowance for a set period of time that ISPs apply in order to prevent network congestion due to overuse. An example of a broadband service data cap is 20GB per month.


This stands for Capacity Based Charging. A few DSL Internet Service Providers are paying a charge for the bandwidth their clients are likely to use to the telephone operators. During peak hours the fee is higher.

Common Interface

The Common Interface is an interconnect between a Digital TV or a set-top box, and a separate module. By far the most common module is the CAM (Conditional Access Module) which plugs into your Digital TV or set-top box, and allows you to insert a viewing card to watch certain subscription based TV services, for example Setanta Sports. 


The areas that can receive digital television. Not all the digital services are available everywhere in the UK. Search with Simplifydigital to find out which suppliers you can get at your address. 


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This stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) - the DAB service is radio's equivalent of digital TV. It gives interference-free reception and has room for extra stations as well as all the standard channels. It's available across most of the country. You can receive DAB on personal, portable, tabletop or car radios. Digital radio stations are also received by digital TV set-top boxes and iDTVs (Integrated Digital Television). The digital switchover does not affect radio services.

Dialup connection

This is a type of narrowband. It converts digital signals into analogue, which are then converted by a fixed line broadband provider from a telephone line 

Digital box

This is required for watching digital TV - it sits usually on top of your TV (see set-top box) and unscrambles digital signals before turning them back into sound and pictures.

Digital signal

Television images are sent as compressed data which is then unscrambled by a digital box. The signal is sent by cable, satellite or through the air to your aerial. After switchover you will only be able to receive a digital signal.

Digital switchover

The process of switching over the UK's current analogue television broadcasting system to digital, as well as ensuring that people have adapted or upgraded their televisions and recording equipment to receive digital TV.


A portable small modem that can be connected to a PC, laptop or any compatible gadget. It is a device which gives you access to mobile broadband.

Download limit

The maximum amount of data you can download per month from the internet. This includes songs, films and photos. Even reading emails and simply browsing the web will eat into this limit (but only by a tiny amount). If you or your family do a lot of downloading, then you will need a broadband service with a high download limit, or even unlimited downloads.

Download speed

This is a measurement of how fast data can arrive at your computer from the internet. The higher, the better (but it's usually more expensive). 


This means Digital Terrestrial Television - which is received via a rooftop aerial or set-top aerial. In the UK, this includes the Freeview service (which includes the traditional terrestrial channels - BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five) and for an additional monthly subscription, Top Up TV.


This is a common abbreviation for digital television.


More specifically, it stands for Digital Subscriber Line. This is an old technology which gives you access to the world wide web through your telephone line. Also referred to as fixed line. Types of DSL are as follows: ADSL , ADSL2 , ADSL2+ , SDSL , VDSL , VDSL2 as well as VHDSL.


Electronic letter. Digital letters that are received by the second party as soon as they are sent out by the first. Users can register for email services through websites (webmail) or use programmes such as Outlook.


Stands for Electronic Programme Guide - an on-screen listing of TV channels and programmes. You can use one to go to the programme you want, or to select something to record

Ethernet Cable

This is the cable that connects your computer or laptop to a modem, router or adapter. Using an Ethernet cable to connect to broadband means your connection is wired. See also wireless broadband

Fair usage policy

This is a policy used by some broadband suppliers to restrict the download speed of your connection at certain times of the day. Downloading very large amounts of data (films, for example) can slow down other people's broadband connections in your area. This is because many houses may share the same access point in the local telephone exchange. So in order to keep things fair the broadband supplier may restrict your usage at peak times. 

Fibre optic broadband

This is a technology which delivers superfast internet by sending information as pulses of light through individual optical fibres.

File Sharing

Exchanging files over the internet. This practice has a lot of grey areas and can be considered an "unlawful" activity especially when copyrighted content is shared.


The main UK digital terrestrial television service, transmitted through an aerial. No subscription is required. See also Top Up TV.


Meaning Free-To-Air or in other words a programme or service that you don't need a subscription to get 


Fibre-To-The-Cabinet. This is when fibre optic cables reach only the street cabinets from where copper wires stretch to the premises and connect them to the internet. This is also often called "hybrid fibre" as the speeds are slower than those delivered by "true fibre".


Fibre-to-the-Premises. This means that fibre cables reach the premises (homes or businesses) directly. This technology is also known as "true fibre". FTTP technology can deliver the fastest download speeds in the UK.


Fair Usage Policy - a document/policy ISPs are likely to have on budget packages. It gives information regarding what monthly service allowance suppliers deem as "fair". See also cap.


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Also GB and Gigabyte, refers to a measure of data. A Gibabyte consists of 1000 Megabytes. 1GB could be a size of a movie. If referring to speeds, this changes Gigabit per Second, abbreviated Gbps - for example a fibre connection may give consumers access to superfast download speeds of 1Gbps. See fibre.


A location where a wireless broadband network is installed, i.e. restaurants, coffee shops or train stations.


High Definition Television - a new technology that enables viewers to receive higher definition television pictures. HDTV has four times as many pixels (dots on the screen) as standard TV broadcasts, meaning a clearer picture and stunning detail on large-screen TVs. 


Also known as High-Speed Packet Access - a mixture of HSDPA and HSUPA, the technology aims to provide quicker speeds especially when upstreaming. See also 3.5G.


Stands for HyperText Markup Language. The "language" that web designers use to create websites and the way they look.


Integrated Digital Television - a TV with a built-in digital receiver which lets you receive Freeview channels through your aerial with no need for an additional digital box. It can refer to either a conventional cathode ray TV or one of the new flat panel TVs. 


Instant Messaging. This is software/application that allows users to send messages to each other in real time. For example Skype, MSN Messenger or Facebook Chat.


This covers off all ways of interacting with a TV broadcast to get more information - a bit like an extension of the traditional Teletext service. For instance, you can select and watch a particular tennis match from a multi-screen selection, find out more information about a TV programme, cast a vote, or take part in a quiz. Accessing interactive services is usually done via the red button on your remote control. 


This is an abbreviation of Internet Protocol Television. Using your broadband connection to watch television, an example of IPTV is BT Vision.


(plural - ISPs) Short for Internet Service Provider. It's a company which provides broadband, for example BT, Virgin Media or TalkTalk, among others.  


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This is a very small measure of speed and data. The most popular abbreviation when referring to data size is KB, and speed-wise Kbps (Kilobits per second). 1 Megabyte equals to 1000 Kilobytes. If internet access speed is measured in Kbps, it usually means that it is very slow. See also Meg or Gig.


Local Area Network. This refers to the number of computers which are connected to the same Wi-Fi or via Ethernet cables to the same network. Users connected by LAN can easily access and share documents and files. You can find LAN in offices or at home.


Stands for Local Call Rate. The amount consumers have to pay to call within the same area (i.e. from Birmingham to Birmingham).


The term is used to describe how long it takes for data to go from one PC to the other.


Local Loop Unbundling. Various ISPs, which base their services on DSL, install their own kit instead of using BT's in the local telephone exchange. They provide "unbundled" packages which are often cheaper as the company's don't pay BT for equipment use.


Is an abbreviation for Long Term Evolution. This technology is the main rival to WiMax in the mobile broadband sphere. In theory, this option can deliver download speeds of roughly 327Mbps and uploads of 86Mbps. It is still being developed and can potentially be improved to supply speeds of up to 1Gbps


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MAC code

Migration Authorisation Code. It is a 17 to 19-character unique code (i.e. BBIP12345678/AB01C) which serves as a key to switching broadband providers in the UK.


MAL is short for malicious. This programme has been written to damage computers, spy on a user's internet activity or carry out a similar malicious task.


Also Megabyte or MB. This is a measure of speeds and data. Megabits per second Mbps - is a measure of broadband speeds, whereas MB simply shows how big a file is. A short high quality video clip might be 50MB.

Mobile broadband

The term used to describe portable broadband which can be delivered via a dongle or mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet computers.


Small plastic device which separates landline from broadband signals so that the services would run smoothly alongside one another without interfering.


A device which allows your internet-enabled laptop or desktop computer to connect to the World Wide Web.


Refers to the now old dialup connection over copper wire. It provides speeds of 128Kbps, which is considered below today's basic broadband of 2Mbps.


Short for National Call Rate. It is the price consumers are likely to be charged when calling numbers which are outside of the local area. See LCR.


being connected or getting disconnected from the internet.


process of being connected to a network/having access the Internet.


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Stands for peer-to-peer. Software which allows users to share files directly between each other, i.e. BitTorrent. See File Sharing


A combination of letters and numbers that users need to type in to access email or a protected area of a website or application.


Stands for Pay as You Go. Often refers to mobile broadband or wireless broadband services where you pay for a fixed amount of minutes/data.

Pay-per-view (PPV)

This is an additional one-off payment for a particular film or sporting event on satellite or cable/internet TV. 


This is merely a way of delivering or receiving digital TV. Typical platforms are terrestrial, cable, satellite and the internet. 


Using imagery and copy to trick users into thinking that a website/email is legitimate with a malicious purpose of gathering personal data.


Stands for Personal Video Recorder. This is a device that records programmes to a hard drive (like a computer does) instead of to a video tape or disc. Programmes you want to record can be selected directly from the on-screen EPG. Many suppliers such as Sky and Virgin Media have PVR functionality integrated into their set-top boxes. 


Using your mobile phone abroad (i.e. outside your local network) to place calls or browse the web.

Rooftop aerial

A television aerial on the roof of your house


A device which gives users the opportunity to connect several handsets or computers to the Internet simultaneously. Also known as wireless router. 


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A satellite, as you're probably aware, is a space-enabled craft, the function of which is to bounce signals of all kinds around the globe, since the signal can't pass through it. Satellite TV is sent from the source to your dish this way.

Satellite dish

The dish on the side of people's houses that picks up programmes that have been transmitted and bounced off a satellite.

Satellite TV

Programmes received by the dish on the side of your house.

Satellite broadband

An alternative way to connect to the internet using satellite dishes. It does not require a phone line. Often considered the best solution of getting broadband in rural and isolated areas.

Set-top aerial

An aerial on top of your TV.

Set-top box

A kind of digital box that sits on top of your TV set, unscrambling the digital signal. 

Silver Surfer

A marketing term for internet users who are 50 years of age or more.


These are unsolicited and unwanted emails sent in bulk often carrying malicious attachments such as Viruses. SPAM can also appear in social media, instant messaging and comment sections of websites carrying links with possibly system damaging URLS or advertising.


A programme that installs itself without consent/notifying the user with the intention of gathering personal data, monitoring web activity, collecting passwords. It often generally slows down the machine, be it a desktop computer or laptop.


Stands for Set-Top Box. See also digital box. 


To use the Internet to browse through online content, use email and web-based applications.

Telephone Exchange

This is a location where an area's telephone and broadband network equipment is stored. The exchange makes sure data traffic and telephony services are delivered to and from the local premises (houses and businesses).

Terrestrial TV

TV transmissions - analogue or digital - that are broadcast over the air directly to your TV aerial. 


This means that you pay a single set price for the service (i.e. broadband) your provider supplies and will not be charged extra for excessive use or discounted for not using enough.

Unlimited Usage

This is what marketing departments call "a big amount" - usually when users cross the limit, the provider starts applying a FUP (fair usage policy), restricting speeds or charging for over-use. See also cap.


Stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is somewhat synonymous with the word link, is a URL of our website and clicking on the link mentioned will take you to our home page.


A small portable gadget which allows you to back up your files or go online i.e. dongle, can be easily connected to PCs.


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Video cassette recorder - the machine on which you have probably been recording and playing tapes for years. It can be used to record analogue or digital TV but records in fairly low analogue quality.


Software which was written with the intention to cause damage to computers and its memory. It is spread by sending SPAM email with attached viruses masqueraded as legitimate files. This false pretence pushes the user to open the malicious script that will consequently damage the system; some of it might be irreversible. See also malware.


Virtual Internet Service Provider. A firm that provides services under its own name but uses another company's network infrastructure thus has little control over prices and products.


Video On Demand. It gives users the ability to watch TV programmes/shows after its original air date. Websites such as BBC iPlayer provides VoD services. See also IPTV.


Voice Over IP, it allows consumers to use the Internet to call people. Some VoIP software such as Skype allows you to place calls for free from your computer.


The ratio of the width to the height of the TV picture is 16 to 9 - often called 16:9 format. Nearly all major TV channels now make and broadcast their programmes in this widescreen format. Older programmes were in the narrower 4:3 format. If set up correctly, your TV and set-top box should display the picture on your screen in 16:9 or 4:3, as appropriate for the programme.


It is the main competitor to LTE in the fight for 4G dominance. Mobile WiMAX is capable of delivering high speed mobile broadband over a wide radius (i.e. 30 miles). It is theoretically capable of delivering download speeds of more 100Mbps.


A broadband connection which requires no wiring as it sends out signals that allow devices to connect to the internet. These waves can be sent from a router, hub or hotspot all of which provide a wireless connection. Also referred to as Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity).


Stands for World Wide Web. It is the most popular reference to access webpages, i.e.

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