Internet speed glossary: terms you should know

Internet speeds glossary: terms you should know

When understanding internet speeds and how they work, it’s helpful to arm yourself with some handy definitions:

  • Bandwidth – Bandwidth measures the total number of frequencies, or capacity, a network connection can handle at any given moment. With more bandwidth, more data can be transferred through a specific network at a time. This is significant for determining how many devices can connect to the network at a time. 

  • Broadband – Broadband tells you how quickly data can be transferred, which is your overall measurement for the speed of your internet connection. This is significant for determining the speed at which your internet can perform certain tasks, such as streaming a movie.

  • Bit – Internet speed is measured in bits per second (bps). This is the smallest unit of computer information, so you’ll often see internet speeds referred to as megabits per second (Mbps).

  • Byte – 1 byte is equal to 8 bits. We use bytes to refer to how much memory is available or being transferred.

  • Download – This tells you how quickly information from external sources is received by your router.

  • Latency – Latency measures the delay in data transfer, telling you how fast data gets from a source to its destination. Internet connection types vary considerably when it comes to latency. For instance, 100 Mbps with a fiber optic connection will have far fewer delays for tasks, such as Zoom meetings, than 100 Mbps with a satellite connection. 

  • Mbps – “Megabits per second” is how we gauge internet speeds. This number represents the bandwidth of an internet connection, which is how much data can be transferred each second.

  • MBps – “Megabytes per second” measures the file size when talking about how much data can be transferred each second. You might also see this figure represented as MB.
  • Modem – The modem is what connects the devices on your private network to external global networks.

  • Ping – A ping is a test which determines if a server is reachable. The test sends a data packet to the server to see if the data comes back.

  • Ping time – Measured in milliseconds, ping time tells you how fast a data packet travels to the server and back. If your connection doesn’t register the data request for a couple of seconds, you may see a lag in your connection.

  • Router – This piece of hardware is at the centre of private internet networks. It facilitates all of the connections between devices and your network.

  • Upload – This tells you how quickly information from your network is sent to external networks.

  • Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi offers a wireless internet connection, negating the need for devices to connect via hardware, such as an ethernet cable.

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