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NBN terms explained
Your one-stop shop for straightforward explanations for not-so-straightforward NBN terms.
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.
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.
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.
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 PN.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.