Networking Jargon Explained (Part 1)

5/25/2012 5:58:45 PM

We’re going to cut through the complex acronyms and jargon surrounding networks

Networking is one of the industry's worst offenders when it comes to jargon and abbreviations, making it a difficult field to penetrate for the uninitiated. Almost immediately when researching which router to buy, you'll be bombarded with phrases like 'single band' and 'dual band' as well as '802.11A/B/G/N', WPA, WEP, 10/100, gigabit and so on. Fortunately, most of this is pretty easy to understand, and we will try and explain it as succinctly and clearly as possible to aid your understanding and purchasing choices.

Description: Networking Jargon

10/100/1000 Or Gigabit

10/100 and gigabit are all terms that refer to the speed of wired connections. All current routers will support at least 10/100 connections, which allow a wired Ethernet connection running at 10 or 100Mbps. More expensive routers add gigabit, sometimes referred to in the spec as 10/100/1000. It is not uncommon for some routers to cheat a little and claim to be gigabit capable, only to provide just one 1000Mbps connection and three standard 10/100 ones. This allows only one PC to connect at ultra-high speed while limiting PC-to-PC communications to just 100Mbps.


Description: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

'802.11' refers to a set of standards for implementing a wireless local area network. They are created and ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and try to ensure that all compliant devices can interoperate properly. The original 802.11 standard was ratified way back in 1997, but 802.11b was the first standard to gain widespread acceptance. Only the oldest wireless laptops and adapters are limited to 802.11 b, with the vast majority using the newer 802.11g standard. It increases the theoretical maximum speed to 54Mbps and improves range. Our demand for high definition video, smooth streaming of multimedia and online gaming quickly necessitated an even faster format, which was finally approved in October 2009. This format is called 802.11 n and is the most up-to-date wireless format available. It increases the maximum theoretical speed to 300Mbps. If buying a new router today, insist on a model that is 802.11n.


The Bandwidth of a network refers to the data rate supported by a network connection or interface. It is normally measured in Mbps or MB/s. 1MB/S = 8Mbps


A high-speed connection to the internet that works by sending several data channels digitally over a common wire.

CAT5/CAT 6 cable

Description: CAT5 and CAT6

CAT5 and CAT6 are the fifth and sixth generation of twisted pair Ethernet technology. CAT 5 is by far the most common kind of network cable in current use, with CAT 6 being employed for special high bandwidth connections.


The Domain Name System (DNS) translates Internet domain and host names into IP addresses. So, instead of having to type in a string of numbers to load a webpage, you go with a traditional domain name - such as micromart.co.uk - instead.

Dual/Single Band.

Single band routers connect to your wireless equipment using frequencies in the 2.4GHz band, while dual band routers (which are almost always 802.11n class devices) can also operate in the 5GHz band. The 5GHz band is better equipped to handle higher intensity workloads like media streaming and online gaming, but won't be supported by older equipment. 2.4GHz is extremely crowded in densely populated areas (given how much equipment uses that frequency), so if living in a city the difference a dual band router can make is considerable.


Ethernet refers to a physical cabled and 'data link layer' technology for local area networks (LANs).

Fibre Optic

A fibre optic network cable contains strands of glass fibres inside an insulated casing. These cables are designed for long distance and very high bandwidth (gigabit speed) network communications. BT Infinity and Virgin media are the two largest fibre providers delivering speeds of 100Mbps. There are plans afoot to roll out more fibre optic connections across the UK, but the bill to do so runs into the billions.


This stands for 'fibre to the cabinet'. Basically, it's an Internet connection that runs over fibre optic to your local roadside cabinet, then over conventional cable between the cabinet and your property. It's like getting a fast train to the station, then taking a slow car journey the rest of the way.


This one stands for 'Fibre to the house/premises'. As you might have guessed, this time, it's an Internet connection that runs over fibre optic all the way to your property, bypassing conventional copper wires altogether. The fastest type of broadband currently offered in the UK works on a FTTH basis. It's not particularly common right now, sadly, and you do have to pay an inevitable premium to get it.

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