Header Image

Jargon Buster

Types of broadband 

A handy guide to the types of broadband available


The four is simply the generational number for mobile phones. The first mobile networks were 1G (voice only), then 2G (voice and text), then 3G (voice text and internet), then 4G (voice, text and fast internet). So 4G simply means fourth generation mobile network


Stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. This is standard broadband delivered over a copper telephone line. Download speeds tend to be faster the closer you live to your local telephone exchange, but average out at about 10 or 11Mbps


Still over copper lines, but capable of delivering up to 24Mbps. Not fibre, but the fastest form of ADSL


A high-speed internet connection, which can be delivered in a number of ways but is distinct from the old dial-up or ‘narrowband’ connections

Cable broadband

Broadband delivered in the UK via an upgraded network of coaxial cables previously used to deliver cable TV. Virgin Media is the only provider to offer this sort of broadband

Dial-up or narrowband

Hardly, if ever, used in the UK anymore but it’s how we got online in the 1990s. It’s internet access via a modem that literally dials up the provider over a phone line, so you can’t use the internet and the phone at the same time

Fibre optic broadband

Broadband delivered over cables that are, at least for part of the network, fibre optic in nature. Fibre optic cables transmit signals as light through glass, which is capable of far faster rates of data transfer than traditional ADSL connection where the cables are made of copper

Fixed line

Any broadband delivered using a physical cable, such as fibre or ADSL. The alternative would be mobile or satellite broadband, both of which transmit data wirelessly

Full Fibre

The term used by Openreach and BT for the latest fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband services. It's a naming convention that's beginning to be used more widely in the industry and by some other providers. Some alternative names you may also see used are 'Future Fibre', 'Fibre Max' and possibly 'Ultrafast' – they often mean the same thing

Gigabit broadband

A broadband connection which delivers up to or around 1,000Mbps. 1,000 megabits equals one gigabit, hence gigabit broadband. It is also commonly referred to as ultrafast broadband

Leased line

A dedicated connection typically between a business premises and the local exchange. Leased lines offer a symmetrical connection and aren’t subject to contention as they aren’t shared with other users


Stands for Long Term Evolution. It's not a new term you need to learn since it means exactly the same thing as 4G

Mobile broadband

High-speed internet access delivered via a mobile network, as opposed to a fixed line

Satellite broadband

Is broadband delivered by satellite dish. Traditionally, the only households making use of satellite broadband are those few properties dotted about the country where literally no other option is possible. Satellite broadband has some major drawbacks: it's expensive, limited, and suffers from latency that makes online gaming impossible


Stands for Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line. Achieves equal upload and download speeds, unlike an ADSL connection, but is still delivered over copper telephone wires

Superfast broadband

Broadband that exceeds 24Mbps, but is slower than 300Mbps. If it's less than 24Mbps, it's just 'broadband' and if it's faster than 300Mbps, it's 'ultrafast broadband'

Symmetrical and asymmetrical broadband

Most broadband services offer significantly higher download speeds than upload speeds – these are asymmetrical connections. Symmetrical broadband provides the same speed for uploads and downloads

Unlimited broadband

Any broadband connection where there is no limit on the amount of data you can download and/or upload on a monthly basis. All broadband packages except satellite or 4G/5G broadband packages in the UK are now unlimited

Ultrafast broadband

Typically refers to broadband services offering speeds of at least 100Mbps. This is the definition used by the UK Government, the EU and Openreach, although Ofcom defines ultrafast broadband as offering speeds of 300Mbps or more

Wireless broadband

Pretty much any broadband deal, since they all come with a wireless router. Wireless broadband is also commonly called wifi

Common Broadband Terms

A list of terms associated with Broadband technology