Finding the best broadband plan: Jargon explained

Understanding speed, data limits and other jargon used by broadband providers will help you find the best broadband plan without too much confusion. Compare Broadband explains the most common terms.

Contract set-up: The fee you have to pay to start a new broadband service. Usually it is paying for connecting your internet to the equipment at a telephone exchange.

Downloads: This is where you take files off of the internet, or do basic internet activities like web searches.

Excess data charges
: These are the fees you’ll pay if you go over your monthly data limit and your speed isn’t shaped. Usually this is only relevant for Mobile Wireless broadband.

GB: Gigabyte. One gigabyte equals 1,000 megabytes. Most broadband plans these days are sold in GB.

: Internet Service Provider. This is the company that provides you with broadband internet access.

: Television that is watched over the internet. Generally speaking there are less commercials, and you can watch the show any time of the day you like. Some IPTV channels are free, whereas others require paid subscriptions.

: Kilobytes per second. The speed your internet enters your house is measured in kbps or Mbps. There are 1,000 kilobits in a Megabit. ADSL is sold by speed, with 256kbps, 512kbps, 1500kbps and 8000kbps being the standard increments. ADSL2+ broadband runs at speeds up to 24,000kbps (24Mbps).

MB: Megabyte. Small increments like megabytes are often used when excess data on Mobile Wireless plans is being calculated. Be careful as only 1GB (1,000MB) of excess data charged at 15-cents per MB will result in $150 being added onto your monthly bill.

Mbps: Megabits per second: Faster plans are usually measured in Mbps - 1.5Mbps, 8Mbps, 20Mbps, 24Mbps, 30Mbps, 50Mbps, or 100Mbps. Cable broadband runs at up to 30Mbps, while new fibre optic connections can reach speeds of up to 100Mbps.

On and Off-peak times
: Some ISPs split their data quotas into time periods. For example, a 100GB plan with 30GB in peak and 70GB in off-peak. Off-peak periods are generally overnight and are used for downloading files or backing up a computer while the user is asleep.

Shaping speed
: If you are not charged for excess usage, when you reach the limit of your data quota your speed will be slowed down. The actual speed you are slowed to is the ‘shaping speed’. Shaping speeds can range from 64kbps (terribly slow), to 4Mbps (still pretty fast).

Static IP address
: If you want to host your own website you’ll need a static IP address, which numerous ISPs offer as part of their service.

Tech support: The professional technicians who can help you if there’s a problem with your broadband connection is tech support. Feel free to give them a call if an issue arises, and if having an on-shore Australian tech support team is important to you, your best bet will be to ask the ISP before signing up to its plan.

Unlimited broadband: Be careful with this term as truly unlimited data means no matter what you do online your speed will not be slowed down, and you will never be charged for excess usage. Previously some plans called ‘unlimited’ slowed down after a specified data quota was reached. Although you still have the internet, it’s not true ‘unlimited’.

Uploads: This is where you put photos or other information onto the internet yourself. Not all ISPs charge for uploads. Check the terms of an ISP’s data quotas before signing up.

Usage quota
: This is how much data you get on your internet plan, so in essence it is how much you can do on the web. Everything you do online uses data.

Web Space
: Some internet providers offer free web space for you to host a web site on. They only give you a certain amount of space to use, which is usually measured in MB.