NBN terms explained
Technology can be confusing, and NBN is no exception to this rule. Whether you’re looking to compare NBN plans, run an NBN internet speed test or you want to properly weigh up your options against the best NBN alternatives, there’s some confusing terminology to wrap your head around.
To help with this, we’ve created an alphabetical list of the most common consumer-facing NBN terms (and related internet terms) that crop up and offer straightforward explanations so you can understand what they’re all about.
You’ll likely see 2.4GHz on a router or modem-router, and it refers to an older WiFi band that’s slower than 5GHz but farther-reaching.
You’ll likely see 5GHz on a router or modem-router, and it refers to a newer WiFi band that’s faster than 2.4GHz but not as far-reaching.
Bandwidth is the total amount of data that a network is capable of handling, which impacts overall speed. In terms of the NBN, bandwidth refers to the download and upload speed of your NBN plan, relative to what’s offered by your provider. For example, on an NBN Standard plan, you have access to a maximum of 50Mbps download and 20Mbps upload bandwidth.
The internet’s busy period tends to happen nightly between 7.00pm and 11.00pm. This is the time when most people are using the internet, which may lead to slower speeds. When a provider advertises its typical evening download speeds, this is in reference to the download speeds you can expect during this time.
Data caps tend to be more relevant to those on Sky Muster satellite connections to the NBN more so than those on Fixed Wireless or fixed-line NBN. Data caps may be a total monthly allowance or separated into on-peak and off-peak times. Once the data cap is exhausted, speeds are throttled until the end of the billing cycle.
Churn is the term used to describe switching from one provider to another. It may seem complicated, but switching NBN providers is incredibly straightforward.
This phrase is used to describe any device that can connect to the internet, including smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and any other internet-capable gizmo that connects to your router or modem-router via WiFi or Ethernet to get online.
An NBN connection box, which is sometimes also called an NBN Network Termination Device (NTD), is really a fancy name for a modem. This NBN modem is provided by NBN Co.
Copper is used by the hybrid technologies that utilise a mix of fibre and copper to connect homes to the NBN. Copper wiring isn’t as natively fast as fibre and needs yet-to-be-implemented technology upgrades to reach speeds beyond NBN 100.
CVC is short for Connectivity Virtual Circuit. In NBN Terms, CVC refers to the amount of bandwidth a provider pays NBN Co for to divvy up among its customers. If a provider’s CVC is maxed out, which may happen during the internet’s busy period, the internet speed of all customers in that PoI-servicing area will be impacted.
The disconnection date is also called an NBN cut-off date and refers to the date the copper network will be switched off in an area. This date is typically 18 months after an area has been connected to the NBN and is ready for residents to sign up to NBN plans.
Download is the term used for data that comes to your devices from the internet (as opposed to upload where data goes out from your devices). Most online tasks favour download over upload.
Downstream is similar to download but slightly different. Where download speed can change between devices in the home, downstream refers to the data transfer rate between your router or modem-router and your provider.
A dynamic IP address is one that sporadically changes the IP address that’s used to identify your home’s internet connection. The only other way to change your IP address is by using a VPN.
End user is a very dry term for a person connecting to the NBN.
Ethernet is a term that’s more relevant to in-home internet than broader NBN networking, but it refers to a wired network connection between device and router or modem-router. Ethernet tends to offer faster and more reliable speeds than WiFi, and Ethernet cables are available in base 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 1000Mbps speeds.
Fibre is the major part of what makes the NBN so much faster than older copper-based internet connectivity. Fibre-optic cable can reach speeds of up to 10Gbps, which means a full fibre NBN connection is very, very future-proof.
FTTB is short for Fibre-to-the-Basement and it’s a hybrid connection type that uses fibre to the communications room of a building (like an apartment block) that then connects individual premises within that building via the existing copper-based wiring. Homes connected to the NBN with FTTB need a VDSL-compatible modem-router to get online. FTTB homes are currently only capable of connecting to NBN plans up to NBN 100.
FTTC is short for Fibre-to-the-Curb and it’s a hybrid connection types that uses fibre to the telecommunications pit on the street outside a home and then connects the premises by existing copper-based wiring. Homes connected to the NBN with FTTC need a router plugged in to the NBN NTD (modem) to get online. FTTC homes are currently only capable of connecting to NBN plans up to NBN 100.
FTTN is short for Fibre-to-the-Node and it’s a hybrid connection type that uses fibre to an NBN node that then connects an individual home via existing copper-based wiring. The length of the copper may be several hundred metres, which can lead to slower speeds and other connection issues (NBN Co is currently upgrading a lot of FTTN homes). Homes connected to the NBN with FTTN need a VDSL-compatible modem-router to get online. FTTN homes are currently only capable of connecting to NBN plans up to NBN 100 (and some providers only offer up to NBN 50 to FTTN homes).
FTTP (also sometimes called Fibre-to-the-Home, FTTH) is short for Fibre-to-the-Premises and it’s a full fibre connection from home to the NBN. This means FTTP homes can connect to beyond-NBN 100 plans, NBN 250 and NBN 1000, and are future-proofed for multigigabit plans (if and when they come). Homes connected to the NBN with FTTP need a router plugged in to the NBN NTD (modem) to get online.
Fixed Wireless NBN
Fixed Wireless NBN is one of two wireless technologies that are used to connect homes to the NBN (the other being Sky Muster satellite). Fixed Wireless is used for rural and regional homes that connect to the NBN via roof antenna, which connects to an NBN transmission tower that’s linked to the NBN via fibre-optic cable.
Fixed-line NBN is one of the categories that comprise the NBN alongside Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster satellite. Fixed-line NBN is a blanket term that encompasses metro-based NBN connection technologies, including FTTP, HFC, FTTC, FTTB and FTTN.
A gigabit is a unit of measurement for data and equates to 1,000 megabits. Gigabit tends to be represented as part of ‘Gbps’, which is short for gigabits per second. The only current NBN plans that deal in Gbps are based on the NBN 1000 speed tier.
Unlike gigabit (which is used to measure data speeds), gigabyte refers to either stored data on a device or a data cap enforced by certain providers. One gigabyte is the equivalent of 1,000 megabytes.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
HFC is short for Hybrid Fibre Coaxial and, as the name suggests, it’s a hybrid mix of fibre and coaxial cabling (from the existing coaxial network) that’s used to connect homes to the NBN. Homes connected to the NBN with HFC need a router plugged in to the NBN connection box to get online.
A kilobit is a unit of measurement for data and equates to 1,000 bits. In NBN terms, you may see kilobit as part of ‘Kbps’, which is short for kilobits per second, and is likely linked to the throttled provider speeds once a download cap has been exceeded.
ISP is short for Internet Service Provider. We prefer to call them ‘providers’ for short.
IP address is short for Internet Protocol address which, like a home address, is a numerical identifier for devices. In NBN terms, an IP address is either dynamic or static and your provider uses it to identify your home connection.
Unlike kilobit (which relates to data speeds), kilobyte refers to stored data. Even with a data cap, downloaded or uploaded files that are measured in kilobytes aren’t likely to have a massive impact.
Local Area Network (LAN)
LAN is short for Local Area Network and, in terms of the NBN, refers to the network configuration of your home. Your router or modem-router connects to a WAN to get online, and that internet connection is shared locally via LAN.
Line speed is the overall speed measured by your provider in terms of your NBN connection. You’ll usually only hear this term when signing up to particular providers or when troubleshooting NBN connection issues.
Mbps is short for megabits per second and is used in reference to the speed of your NBN connection. You may also see it as part of a provider’s self-reported typical evening download speeds for fixed-line NBN connections.
MDU is short for multi-dwelling unit, which is a fancy way of writing ‘apartment block’.
A megabit is a unit of measurement for data that equates to 1,000 kilobits. Megabit tends to be represented as part of ‘Mbps’, which is short for megabits per second. NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50, NBN 100 and NBN 250 are all measured in Mbps.
Unlike megabit (which relates to data speeds), megabyte refers to stored data on a device. One megabyte is the equivalent of 1,000 kilobytes. Note that in abbreviations, megabyte uses a capitalised ‘M’ whereas megabit uses a lower case ‘m’.
In NBN terms, a modem can be many things depending on who you’re talking to. Strictly speaking, a modem is the device that’s used to connect your home to the internet. In NBN terms, it may also be called an NBN connection box or an NBN NTD. Modems tend to also be confused with routers and modem-routers.
A modem-router is a single device that does the job of a modem and a router. This means a modem-router can connect to the internet and connect the devices in your home to the internet (via the NBN). FTTB and FTTN connections to the NBN use modem-routers to get online.
NBN is short for National Broadband Network and tends to refer to the network that connects the vast majority of Australian homes Australia to the internet.
NBN Co is short for National Broadband Network Company. This is the company that’s building and upgrading the NBN.
MTM is short for Multi Technology Mix, which is an NBN Co term for the different technology types that are used to connect Australia to the NBN. These technologies include fixed-line NBN (FTTP, FTTC, FTTN, FTTB, HFC), Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster satellite.
NBN 12 (NBN Basic I)
NBN 12 is also called NBN Basic I and is the slowest NBN speed available to homes. NBN Basic I has download speeds of up to 12Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1Mbps.
NBN 25 (NBN Basic II)
NBN 25 is also called NBN Basic II (it used to be called NBN Standard) and is the second slowest NBN speed available to homes. NBN Basic II has download speeds of up to 25Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5Mbps.
NBN 50 (NBN Standard)
NBN 50 is also called NBN Standard and is the most popular NBN speed tier available to homes. NBN Standard has download speeds of up to 50Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.
NBN 100 (NBN Fast)
NBN 100 is also called NBN Fast and is the fastest speed tier available to most homes. NBN Fast has download speeds of up to 100Mbps and upload speeds of up to either 20Mbps or 40Mbps. Only a few providers still offer NBN Fast plans with 40Mbps upload.
NBN 250 (NBN Superfast)
NBN 250 is also called NBN Superfast and is only available to most HFC homes and all FTTP homes. NBN Superfast has download speeds of up to 250Mbps and upload speeds of up to 25Mbps.
NBN 1000 (NBN Ultrafast)
NBN 1000 is also called NBN Ultrafast and is only available to FTTP homes and select HFC homes. NBN Ultrafast has download speeds of up to 1000Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps.
NTD is short for Network Termination Device, which is a fancy name for NBN connection box. It’s simpler to think of an NBN NTD or NBN connection box as an NBN modem.
An outage is the term used for when an internet connection is down. The outage may be an NBN outage, a provider network outage, or it may be something on your property or inside your home causing the internet outage. The NBN has a dedicated network outages page, and certain providers have a similar way to check the status of their network.
PoI is short for Point of Interconnect. In NBN terms, this is the physical place where the NBN meets provider networks. There are 121 NBN PoIs around Australia.
A provider is the company that you pay for your internet connection to the NBN. These may also be called ISPs or RSPs.
The NBN rollout refers to the progress of connecting Australia to the NBN, which was declared complete in late 2020.
Not to be confused with a modem or a modem-router, a router is a networking device that’s used to connect your home to the internet. In NBN terms, a router connects to either an NBN modem (also called an NBN connection box or NBN NTD) to get your home online.
RSP is short for Retail Service Provider, which is an elongated way of saying ISP or provider: the companies that you sign up with to access internet via the NBN.
SDU is short for Single Dwelling Unit, which is a fancy way of saying house.
Shape, shaped, or shaping is a term used to describe when the maximum download and upload speeds are slowed. This term tends to be used in relation to Sky Muster satellite plans.
Sky Muster Plus
Sky Muster Plus is an upgrade to regular Sky Muster plans, which offer unmetered services, faster shaped speeds if you go over the cap, as well as faster download (25Mbps and beyond) and upload (5Mbps) speeds.
Sky Muster satellite
Sky Muster satellite is used to connect remote and offshore homes to the NBN network. A satellite dish is used to connect homes via one of two Sky Muster satellites which, in turn, connects to an NBN gateway that’s linked to the NBN.
In NBN terms, speed refers to download and upload speed, though download speed is talked about more commonly than upload. Your overall NBN speed is determined by several factors, including your NBN plan and provider, the technology used to connect your home, in-home networking equipment and considerations, and the device you’re using.
An NBN speed tier is what determines your overall download and upload speed. The most common NBN speed tiers are NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50, NBN 100, NBN 250 and NBN 100. NBN 12 can reach max speeds of 12Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. NBN 25 can reach max speeds of 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. NBN 50 can reach max speeds of 50Mbps download and 20Mbps upload. NBN 100 can reach max speeds of 100Mbps download and either 20Mbps or 40Mbps upload (depending on the provider and NBN plan).
Static IP is a term used in regard to a fixed IP address. This means the IP address that’s used to identify your home’s NBN connection doesn’t change. Providers tend to offer dynamic IP addresses as part of their plans, and a static IP address tends to cost extra (for the providers that offer one).
Technology Choice Program
Technology Choice Program is an NBN Co term for the quoting and application tool that’s used to evaluate and upgrade homes from one type of NBN technology to FTTP. It’s free to get a quote from the Technology Choice Program, but upgrade costs tend to be thousands of dollars. If you’re not on FTTP, there’s a chance your home may be upgraded to FTTP by the end of 2023.
In online terms, throttle refers to when an internet connection is slowed down. The Australian Government requested streaming companies to throttle their services during COVID-19 lockdown, for instance. In NBN terms, throttling is a term used in relation to a provider slowing the overall speed of a capped on-peak/off-peak plan that’s exceeded one or both quotas.
Typical evening download speeds
Typical evening download speeds are the download speeds you can expect to receive during the internet’s busy period (typically between 7.00pm and 11.00pm every night). Providers that offer fixed-line NBN plans are required to self-report typical evening download speeds on their websites.
Now that the NBN rollout is complete, the next phase is on upgrading the network. Those not connected to the NBN via FTTP can potentially request an upgrade via the Technology Choice Program. Alternatively, the current upgrade plan is focused on FTTN and FTTC users.
Upload is the term used for data that goes out to the internet from your devices (as opposed to download where data comes to your devices). While most online tasks favour download speed, upload speed is important when it comes to video conferencing, sharing larger files and streaming content to (not from) the internet.
Upstream is similar to upload but slightly different. Upload speeds can change between devices, but upstream refers to the data transfer rate between your router or modem-router and your provider.
VDSL is short for Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line, which isn’t a particularly self-explanatory term. In NBN terms, it refers primarily to FTTB and FTTN connections, which use DSL technologies to transmit high-speed broadband.
VoIP is short for Voice over Internet Protocol. In NBN terms, this may refer to a replacement landline telephone that uses VoIP technology to make calls. VoIP may also refer to software like Skype and Discord that are used to make voice calls over the internet.
WAN is short for Wide Area Network and, in NBN terms, refers to the internet. Your home network is called a LAN, which then connects to a WAN – potentially via a WAN port on a router that connects to your modem – to get you online.
WiFi actually doesn’t stand for anything, despite claims it’s short for wireless fidelity. WiFi is a wireless way to connect to a router or modem-router in the home that lets you use the internet. WiFi tends to not be as fast or as reliable as using a wired Ethernet connection.
WiFi 6 is the latest WiFi standard, which is capable of incredibly fast speeds, low latency and can handle more devices connected to a compatible router or modem-router. To experience the perks of WiFi 6, you need a compatible device and router or modem-router.
- Busy period
- Connected device
- Connection box
- Disconnection date
- Dynamic IP
- End user
- Fixed Wireless NBN
- Fixed-line NBN
- Hybrid Fibre Coaxial
- IP address
- Local Area Network
- Line speed
- NBN Co
- NBN 12
- NBN 25
- NBN 50
- NBN 100
- NBN 250
- NBN 1000
- NBN NTD
- NBN plans
- Sky Muster Plus
- Sky Muster satellite
- Speed tier
- Static IP
- Technology Choice Program
- Typical evening download speeds
- WiFi 6