What is the National Broadband Network? A glossary of NBN terms

Understanding the NBN: An electronic version of an Alcatel-Lucent brochure that explains NBN-related jargon

HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coaxial) Cable

A fixed-line access technology combining fibre running to suburban nodes and then coaxial cable for the final network link between the street and the premises. Originally deployed in Australia to support analogue subscription television services in parts of Sydney and Melbourne in the 1990s.

Broadband services over HFC were introduced in 1996 but bandwidth is limited according to the number of concurrent users. More recently, HFC-based pay TV services have been upgraded for digital transmission, high-definition and even 3D.


The global system of interconnected networks and computers communicating using the Internet Protocol standard and supporting applications such as file transfer, email and World Wide Web browsing.

IP (Internet Protocol)

A set of communications and data routing standards, supporting the interconnection of networks and computers.

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television)

Used to describe different approaches to delivering video content using IP (Internet Protocol) standards. Various approaches include dedicated video-on-demand or broadcast services, web TV, video downloading and streaming video.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

A provider of Internet connections and services. ISPs employ a range of access technologies to enable users to connect to the Internet and often provide access to a range of additional services and applications such as software, data hosting, email and video entertainment.

ISPs may employ a combination of their own and third party infrastructure and broadband access technologies, or simply resell services provided by a wholesale carrier.

Existing ISPs can be expected to become Retail Service Providers (RSPs) in the National Broadband Network environment.

kbit/s (kilobits Per Second), Mbit/s (Megabits Per Second), Gbit/s (Gigabits Per Second) and so on…

Measures of bandwidth – how much data can be transferred over a network. Often used to advertise a broadband service or to demonstrate the superiority of one access technology over another.

Terms describing speed or bandwidth are often used incorrectly. Here is a list of correct (and some incorrect) speed definitions. ‘Correct’ means that it is the form used by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

LAN (Local Area Network) and WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network)

A LAN is a computer network limited to a small area such as an office building, university campus, or residential home. Most mid to large-sized businesses today use LANs, making it easy for employees to access shared applications and share information. Though most LANs are Ethernet-based, Wireless LANs using technologies such as Wi-Fi, have become a popular alternative, including in the home.

LTE (Long-Term Evolution)

LTE is the common emerging standard for mobile wireless telecommunications technology. The current generation of mobile telecommunication networks are collectively known as 3G (third generation). LTE is sometimes referred to as a 4G (fourth generation) technology designed to increase the capacity and speed of mobile telephone networks to transmit data by taking advantage of clever engineering techniques.

The main advantages of LTE, compared to existing mobile wireless technologies, are higher upload and download speeds, support for larger numbers of active mobile devices per antenna site (cell), an improved end-user experience and a simple architecture.

Of course, wireless technologies are limited by the availability of wireless spectrum. The bandwidth available in a cell is highly dependent on a user’s distance from the antenna and the number of active users competing for the same bandwidth, and will typically be at least an order of magnitude less when compared to a fixed network service.


A device that converts computer data into a form suitable for transmission over a telecommunications network, and vice versa.

Modems are designed to support specific access technologies and often provided by an Internet Service Provider as part of their service offering.

Mobile Wireless and Mobile Broadband (such as 3G and LTE)

Mobile wireless networks (sometimes known as 3G networks) are complementary to fixed-line telecommunications networks. Mobile wireless networks now commonly support broadband services, offering mobility and flexibility for users of handheld and laptop devices.

Limitations to mobile broadband include the availability of wireless spectrum and available bandwidth being shared between concurrent users in the same area, resulting in bandwidth typically at least an order of magnitude less when compared to a fixed network service. Physical impediments such as hills and valleys interrupting signals, and the distance of a user from the cell antenna are also constraints.

ONT (Optical Network Terminal)

A device used to connect each premises to an FTTP network, located on either the exterior or interior of the premises. The ONT is the terminating point for the fibre-optic cable and provides a connection point for various in-building services, including Internet, telephone, video, wireless LAN and other emerging services and applications.

Also often referred to as an NTU (Network Termination Unit).

Open Access

Describes an infrastructure operating model where multiple service providers are offered wholesale leased access (use) of the infrastructure and associated services.


The technical language and rule formats used to facilitate communications between computers. The most well-known protocol is Internet Protocol (IP). Within local area networks, a simpler protocol, defined as part of the Ethernet standard, is used.

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