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Know your internet options: jargon explained

There is much competition when it comes to the internet service provider (ISP) industry, which can make it an extremely tiring process to find the right provider for your business. Research is the only way to make the right choice when it comes to finding the right internet options for what you need. There are hundreds of ISPs in South Africa alone – all competing against each other with their own range of packages for you to choose from.

ISPs will often help customers find the package that best suits their needs, in terms of budget, internet speed, purpose and number of connections needed. These businesses utilize various technologies to deliver different types of internet options to their customers, but this often results in confusing terms and unexplained jargon.

Here is a quick breakdown of some of the abbreviations and words you’ll come across in your search for home or office internet:

Unifi 9 port switch on rack shelf

Different types of internet connections

Here is list of the most common types of internet options:

  1. WiFi (Wireless hotspots) – The majority of modern smartwatches, laptops, cameras, smartphones and tablets are wireless-enabled devices. Wireless hotspots can be set up in nearly any location. A WiFi router transmits a wireless signal to which a digital device can connect. The router is connected directly to an internet connection – usually a fibre optic cable or landline. A WiFi hotspot can be accessed with a password. Public areas, such as malls and restaurants, often have WiFi hotspots and some are free to use, while others require a small fee to connect.
  1. Satellite – Satellite internet works as follows; a signal is sent from a ground station to a satellite in orbit. The satellite sends the signal back to a receiver on the ground in a different location. The connection can often be slightly delayed, as the signal needs to travel such great distances through space. You can expect connection speeds from 512Kbps up to 2Mbps.
  1. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) – DSL uses two separate phone lines so that you can be connected to the internet while using your telephone. The data is transmitted via a router. Most people will have heard about asymmetric DSL (ADSL) – this is a different type of DSL that enables a faster transfer of data through telephone lines. You can expect connection speeds with DSL lines from 128Kbps up to 8Mbps.
  1. Cellular – This connection is wireless and is accessed through cell phone networks. It is often referred to as High Speed Packet Networks (HSPA), 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G; where ‘G’ stands for ‘generation’.With each generation of cellular connectivity, the connection speeds increase significantly. 4G internet can reach speeds of up to 100Mbps.
  1. Fibre Optic – Optical fibres (tiny strands of glass bound together) transmit signals of light between a receiver and a station. The light is then converted into data and electrical signals. Fibre is fast because the data can travel at 70% of the speed of light. You can reach speeds of up to 1Gbps with fibre internet.
  1. Cable – Cable internet is not used in Africa. A modem and television cable lines are used to transfer the data. You can expect speeds from 512Kbs up to 50Mbps.
Fibre optic cabes emitting light

Other acronyms that you will encounter

The following acronyms are often used when talking to your chosen ISP about internet connectivity.

  1. FIA – This means fibre internet access.
  2. SLA – Service level agreement is a commitment between the customer and the ISP. This is defined by availability, quality and responsibility of both ISP and the customer when entering a contract.
  3. Ethernet – This is a network of computers that are wired together through a certain connection. Ethernet can be set up in one room, throughout an entire building or over a cloud-based network. Ethernet is often used by corporate companies and offices to connect their computers via a Wide Area Network (WAN) for remote access or through a Local Area Network (LAN) within the same building.
  4. IPv4 – Internet Protocol (IP) version 4 is the fourth generation of internet addresses. IPv4 enables people to connect their devices to the internet through a unique IP address.
  5. IPv6 – This is the sixth generation of internet addresses which is designed to replace IPv4, which is running out of address codes. IPv6 uses a 128-bit IP system which has a number of significant benefits, such as increased routing efficiency, built-in authentication, auto-configuration, flexible options, no IP collisions and better security.
  6. SD-WAN – Software-Defined Wide Area Network makes the management and operation of a WAN more simple. The software controls the traffic and connectivity between cloud-based servers, data centres and remote devices. It can split traffic within the WAN for optimal speed and provide secure access to applications and programmes.
  7. EoMPLS – Ethernet over Multiprotocol Label Switching is a response to the rapid speed at which internet technology is growing. MPLS connects computers to each other, separate from the internet, through a private network. EoMPLS means that an existing MPLS network is used to create an ethernet connection.

The internet options and acronyms listed above should be able to help create a better understanding for you when it comes to the world of connectivity. You should research your options when choosing the right ISP and make sure that you opt for the right package for your needs.

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Written by Dylan Eloff

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