21 common broadband terms explained
Caoimhe Bermingham
Staff Writer

In this guide, we’ve outlined 21 common terms that you may stumble upon when researching broadband, phone and TV deals.

This is the fifth guide in our seven-part guide series which aims to help you discover the best broadband, TV and phone plans on the market. This piece focuses on the unfamiliar broadband terms you may encounter along the way.

To help you gain a better understanding of this jargon, we’ve compiled a list of common terms and explained what they mean.

You can find the other guides in this series at the bottom of this piece.

1. Broadband availability checker

When looking for a new broadband package, the options available to you will depend on where you live. 

You can determine which providers offer broadband in your area by putting your address into a broadband availability checker. This will display all the deals on offer in your area from various providers.

Take a look at our own broadband availability checker to find what’s available in your area.

Similarly, coverage maps also allow consumers to check operator coverage and signal levels at various locations nationwide. 

Coverage maps are available to check 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile coverage and broadband too.

2. WiFi vs. broadband

Broadband is a type of internet connection. Your home can have a broadband connection by running a cable from a cabinet on the street into your home. 

On the other hand, WiFi is a wireless connection in your home that distributes the broadband connection to your devices, e.g. laptops, mobile phones, gaming consoles, etc. It connects your devices to the internet through a modem or router. Broadband then sends and receives data from your house to the wider world.

3. Data limits and fair usage policies

Broadband deals are often subject to data limits and fair usage policies. A data limit is the maximum amount of information your broadband supplier will allow you to download from the internet during a set period of time. This is usually a month.

Fair usage policies are in place to ensure users don’t take up too much bandwidth at certain times of the day, which can affect or prevent other users from accessing the internet.

It’s important to note that fair usage policies are often in place for ‘unlimited’ broadband and mobile deals. 

Usually having unlimited broadband means you are not subject to a limit on the amount of data you consume and you can download as many movies, songs, and video games as you like, as well as upload as many files as you want. However, a fair usage policy can reduce your download speed at peak times. 

4. Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of information that an internet connection can handle at any given time. It is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). 

If your household uses several devices and enjoys streaming and gaming services, you should aim to have a fast bandwidth speed so that your shows and games do not buffer. 

5. Bundle deal

​​A broadband bundle deal groups together your broadband with other services, such as your TV and phone. Often it’s more convenient to bundle these services together, as you’re only dealing with one supplier, and it can also work out cheaper. 

When you compare broadband on bonkers.ie, you can choose to filter by broadband-only deals or bundles that include phone and TV, whatever best suits your needs. 

6. Modem vs. router

A modem is a box that connects your home network to a wide area network (WAN) or the internet. 

A router is a box that lets you connect all wired and wireless devices to the internet at once, through your local area network (LAN) or WiFi network. It lets you communicate with each other wirelessly. 

Put simply, a modem is a gateway to your internet connection, while a router is a central hub for your devices. 

They’re different technologies and you need both to connect your devices to the internet.

Oftentimes, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will provide you with a modem box. This box may also contain a router built into it too. 

7. DSL

A Digital Subscriber Line, also known as  DSL, is the generic term for an internet connection that uses copper telephone lines and a modem to transmit data.

In Ireland, DSL is the most widely available internet connection type. In recent years, it’s been surpassed by fibre broadband.  

There are different types of DSL:

  • Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL): This is a broadband technology that allows for fast transfer of data through regular telephone lines. Although the download speed is high for ADSL, the upload speed can be significantly slower.
  • Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL): Unlike ADSL this type of connection provides the same speed for both uploads and downloads.
  • Very high-speed-rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL): VDSL offers higher speed than ADSL connections.

8. Fibre broadband 

Fibre broadband is a type of high-speed broadband connection that uses fibre optic cables to deliver data to your home. It is the most reliable and high-speed way to access an internet connection. 

In comparison, standard broadband is delivered by copper cables and can be quite slow and unreliable. 

National Broadband Ireland is currently rolling out fibre broadband across Ireland to provide a high-speed internet connection to rural Ireland. It is also capable of expanding to meet future internet needs and demands. 

9. Fibre optic cables 

Fibre optic cables are the medium in which fibre broadband i.e. internet connection is delivered to people’s homes. Unlike standard broadband, which is delivered by copper cables, fibre optic cables are made from thin glass fibres that transfer data signals in the form of light. 

10. Mbps - Megabits per second

Mbps stands for megabits per second and is used to measure the speed of broadband i.e. how fast it delivers to your home/business. A megabit represents a million ‘bits’ - which are tiny units of data. 1 Mbps is equal to 1 million bits per second. 

The higher the number of Mbps you have the faster your broadband connectivity should be. For example, your streaming services, downloads and online video games will be faster. 

You can check the speed of your broadband by completing a speed test. 

11. Gbps - Gigabits per second

Gbps stands for gigabit per second and it is used to measure the speed of broadband, similar to Mbps. However, Gbps is a bigger unit of measurement compared to Mbps. 

For example, 1000 Mbps equals 1 Gbps. 1 Gbps is 1 billion bits per second, meaning data is transferring at a rate of 1 billion bits per second. 

12. MB - Megabyte 

MB is also known as Megabyte. It is used to describe the size of computer files and storage capacity. For instance, there are 1000 megabytes in 1GB. 

For example, a normal webpage is typically is less than 3 MB. However streaming videos and audio will require more megabytes. For instance, a low-quality video which is between 240-320 pixels, will require 300 megabytes per hour (or 0.3GB). While a 4K Ultra HD video will require 7,200 MB per hour (or 7.2GB).

13. GB - Gigabyte

A gigabyte (GB) is a unit of measurement that is equal to 1 billion bytes of data. Gigabytes measure the size of a file or the amount of digital storage space your computer or laptop has i.e. a desktop has 16GB of Ram. 

It is a bigger unit of measurement than MB, as 1000 megabytes is equal to 1 GB. 

It is used to describe the storage capacity of mobile phones, the higher the number of GBs means the more storage space you have ( and usually the more expensive they are too). 

GB is also used for mobile phone tariffs to indicate the monthly data volume included in a mobile phone contract. 

14. Speed test

A broadband speed test is performed to give you a live reading of your current download speed. It measures the internet speed at which data travels between your device and the test server.

It’s helpful to run a broadband speed test to help determine whether you’re getting the download speeds advertised by your provider. In reality, download speeds actually achieved are often a fraction of what’s advertised.

With our Broadband Speed Test, you can find out what broadband speed you’re getting in real-time.

15. National Broadband Plan

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to bring high-quality, pure fibre broadband to approximately 540,000 homes and businesses in Ireland. The plan focuses on providing rural areas in Ireland with better broadband options.

The plan is being rolled out by National Broadband Ireland (NBI).

You can learn all about what’s happening with the National Broadband Plan in this article.

16. Hotspot

A hotspot is a public place where people can connect their phones or laptops to a wireless internet connection. 

Oftentimes, people have personal hotspots on their mobiles meaning they can connect to the internet where there isn’t free WiFi.

17. Dongle

A dongle is a small WiFi stick that can be plugged into a USB port on a computer or laptop. This modem allows you to access 3G, 4G or 5G data depending on the dongle plan you have. 

Dongles are portable and allow you to access the internet in areas WiFi can’t reach, or where there is no internet connection. 

A dongle may also be referred to as a WiFi dongle, WiFi stick, internet stick or USB network adaptor. 

18. Mobile data

Mobile data allows you to connect to the Internet without being on WiFi and it is provided by your mobile network operator. Your data consumption is based on how you use your phone. 

Mobile phone usage is measured in minutes, however, mobile phone data is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). 

19. Mobile roaming

If you rely on your mobile phone while travelling abroad, you’ll likely be using mobile data. You’ll automatically move to another local network to send and receive data, but you’ll still be billed by your normal provider.

When using data abroad, the amount you’ll pay will depend on:

  • Where you’re travelling to
  • Your phone plan
  • The amount of data you use, calls you make, and texts you send 

If you don’t need to use data while abroad, we’d recommend turning roaming off in your settings to save money on your phone bills. 

20. 5G 

5G is the fastest and most modern mobile technology on the market. Its implementation hopes to support the growing demands of the Internet of Things (IoT) and support the development of smart cities. 

5G can provide speeds that are over 10 times faster than its predecessor 4G. It is currently being rolled out across Ireland. 

21. MVNO

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is an operator that does not have its own wireless network. These operators lease the signal, coverage, and network from major carriers. 

In Ireland, there are three main network operators - Three, Eir and Vodafone. All other mobile operators are MVNOs and run services using one of the three main networks. 

Coverage from MVNOs should be the same as the network they operate off. If looking for a new mobile plan, keep MVNOs in mind as they may work out as better value.

Compare broadband deals on bonkers.ie

Now that you’ve wrapped your head around the most common broadband terms, why not try to find a better broadband deal on bonkers.ie?

With our easy-to-use broadband comparison, you can review the best broadband deals available in your area. Simply enter your address or Eircode and we will show you the best options for you!

You’ll be happy to hear that our comparison service also incorporates the latest rollouts made under the National Broadband Plan.

Did you know that you can also compare prices and deals for energy, insurance and banking products on bonkers.ie? Take control of your bills and see how much you could save today!

Discover more about broadband

If you found this guide helpful, make sure you take a look at the other articles in our series. 

Don’t forget to check out our full range of broadband blogs and guides.

Here to help

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d be happy to help you navigate the broadband world. 

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