Broadband basics guide

Make sense of the bits and bytes.
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Here are some of the words often used to talk about internet issues:


A low-speed internet connection which requires you to make a phone call to your ISP whenever you wish to connect. This type of connection is often charged by time online rather than by the amount of data transferred. You can’t make phone calls while connected to the internet.


This is a measure of data. Each kilobit equals 1000 bits. One kilobit transferred in a second is written as 1 kbps.


One megabit of data equals 1,000,000 bits and when transferred in a second is written as 1 Mbit/s or Mbps.

Megabyte (MB)

This is another measure of data. A megabyte has 1,048,567 bytes and each byte is made up of eight bits of data.

Gigabyte (GB)

One GB of data equals 1,073,741,824 bytes.


A device that allows you to connect your computer to the internet. Different types of modem are needed for ADSL, cable or wireless connections.


This is a type of plan where data transfer rates are reduced (usually to around dial-up speed) if you use more than your allocation of data in a month. The alternative is a penalty rate per MB, which can be very expensive.

USB (universal serial bus)

This is a connection commonly found on computers.

VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)

This allows you to make phone calls using the internet rather than traditional telephone technology. (See our report All about VOIP for more.)


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