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Glossary of Broadband Terminology

Fifth-generation of mobile technology. These technologies provide faster broadband speeds and greater data capacity because it uses high-frequency millimetre (mm) waves. 5G will provide significant bandwidth improvements over the current 4G, which is also known as long-term-evolution (LTE) technology. This technology allows for connectivity with multiple devices and drives automation and artificial intelligence in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.

700 MHz spectrum:
With respect to telecommunications, it is a frequency range allocated to mobile use. The majority of it has been allocated to commercial carriers, but a specific section known as Band 14 has been allocated to the Public Safety Broadband Network in both Canada and the U.S.

Active Ethernet:
Type of access service that provides fibre to the home through dedicated fibre between the home and the central office.

Analog or Analog Signal:
A signal where the information is transmitted in a continuous wave form, as opposed to digital signal where the information is sampled.

Are small cells and other infrastructure used to deliver LTE, 4G or 5G networks. It is an exterior-transmitting device – or group of devices – used to receive and/or to transmit radio-frequency (RF) signals, microwave signals, or other federally-licenced communications energy transmitted from, or to be received by, other antennas. The system includes the antenna and an equipment shelter. The placement of transmission antennas is subject to the approval of ISED Canada and the approval process is set out in the Antenna Siting Procedure.

Areas of Need:
Refers to communities that are unserved or underserved (do not meet the CRTC’s basic service objective of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload).

Backbone Infrastructure:
Refers to infrastructure built to connect to technologies. Also known as major data routes that connects a telecommunications service provider’s infrastructure using a point of presence as an access point. It is often fibre optic based but it can be comprised of a range of technologies including microwave and satellite service.

Backhaul Infrastructure:
Portion of the network between the backbone and the access edge. In the mobile context it refers to the network between the tower and the backbone and may be either wireless or fibre.

Band 14:
The 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum allocated to public safety.

Maximum rate of data transfer across a given path. Bandwidth may be characterized as network, data or digital bandwidth and is expressed in bits per second. Example: 50Mbps/10Mbps and 25Mbps/5Mbps.

Basic unit of digital information used in communication.

Refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. It is the ability to transmit information over a wide (broad) range of a larger variety of frequencies (band). It is made available through the use of several high-speed transmission technologies (e.g. Digital Subscriber Line, cable, fixed and mobile wireless, satellite, and fibre). It is a technique that enables many messages to be communicated simultaneously.

Unit of digital information or data consisting of eight bits.

Insulated wire, sets of wires, or fibre optic strands, used to carry telecommunications signals. Provides an internet connection through a cable modem and uses the same cables that transit cable TV services (e.g. coaxial cables). It may refer to a type of access technology protocol to access telecommunication provider services.

Cable-Based Carriers (type of ISP):
Former cable companaies that also provide telecommunications services (e.g. wireline voice, internet, data and private line, and wireless service).

Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA):
A non-profit organization responsible for administering the country code top-level domain (ccTLD). Any internet domain with an “.ca” is operated either by CIRA or one of their certified registrant partners. The role of CIRA is also to support small projects through grants, secure Domain Name System services and in partnership with private-sector cybersecurity services.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC):
Federal agency that reports to the Minister of Canadian Heritage with a mandate to regulate and supervise broadcasting and telecommunication services to the best interest of Canadians. CRTC ensures that all policies objective established in the Broadcasting and Telecommunication Acts are achieved. The CRTC coordinates public hearings to understand market changes and reacts accordingly. Also, it sets the baseline of speed, wholesale price and decision concerning all telecommunications players.

Ability of the network to provide a specific level of data service or a defined number of users.

Cellular Network:
Used interchangeably with mobile to refer to a communication network where the last link to the user is wireless, and the user’s receiver or handset may be portable.

Central Office:
Location where historically the telephone switching equipment or exchange was located. It is now often the site of point-of-presence and fibre connections.

Cloud and Cloud-Based Services:
Applications, services and other resources provided over the internet using equipment and software maintained offsite by third parties.

Coaxial cable, a type of insulated cable.

It refers to the location of a service provider’s radios and equipment on another provider’s tower.

The geographic area where a wireless tower can provide service, or the area serviced by a wireline service.

Coverage gap:
The geographic area where users are unable to access the internet due to limited infrastructure (synonymous with areas of need).

Dark Fibre:
Unused fibre-optic cable. For example, this happens when companies install more cable than necessary to allow for growth.

Data Cap:
Used to describe the practice by service providers of limiting the amount of data that a subscriber can transmit or receive on a monthly basis.

Dial-Up Internet:
It cannot support broadband, because the signal is sent over a landline serviced by a public telephone network. A computer or other device shares the line as the telephone, so they cannot be active at the same time. The average download speed is 0.056 Mbps.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL):
Wireline transmission technology that transmits data faster over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. Unlike dial-up, DSL is always “on” because it uses two lines. That means the phone is not tied up when the computer is connected. The download speed averages 1.5 Mbps – 15 Mbps.

Direct-to-Home (DTH):
Refers to satellite service providers.

Download Speed/Throughput:
Measure of the capacity of the user’s broadband connection. Higher speeds are more desirable, as it allows the user to retrieve data more quickly.

Technology protocol commonly used to allow computers and devices to talk to each other on networks.

It is the fastest type of broadband technology that exists today, at download speeds of between 1,000 and 10,000 Mbps. It converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass called fibre-optic cables. The technology enables 5G connection speeds and can simultaneously deliver voice and video services.

Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH):
Refers to fibre optic communication delivery system where fibre extends from a concentrator, remote or central office to a residence.

Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP):
Installation of optical fibre direct to individual buildings (e.g. single-family units, multi-unit residential, and businesses) to provide high-speed broadband access. FTTP dramatically increases connection speeds and reliability for broadband networks compared to legacy copper infrastructure.

Fixed Broadband:
Home or business internet connections using technology where the consumer is located a fixed location. The receiving device is fixed in place. Technology includes fibre, DSL, fixed wireless and satellite.

Fixed Wireless:
Uses point-to-point connection; typically used by one party. Any entity that provides its services over a wireless network (radio) that uses either licensed (owned by the major carriers) or unlicensed (shared) spectrum to provide communications services, where the service is intended to be used in a fixed location (e.g. modem).

Refers to the particular wave band at which a system broadcasts.

Refers to the orbit of a satellite that is positioned and remains over a specific area of the Earth.

Gigabit (GB):
Currently the fastest upload and download speeds available, and is a measure of data size equal to a billion bytes or 1,000 megabytes. The speeds will make the Internet of Things possible, and allow for multiple internet users and simultaneously connected devices in a household.

High-Speed Transmission Technologies:
Inclusive of DSL, cable, satellite (which are all legacy infrastructure), wireless, and fibre-optics.

Hybrid Fibre Coaxial:
Refers to the cabling infrastructure used by cable companies to provide internet service.

Incumbent Telecommunications Service Provider (type of ISP):
A company that provides local telecommunications services on a monopoly basis prior to the introduction of competition.

Independent Internet Service Provider:
ISPs that are not cable-based carriers or incumbent TSPs.

Internet Service Providers (IPSs):
Those that enable you to connect computers, tablets and other devices to the web. Many ISPs offer in-home equipment that allow you to access the internet. They also offer Wi-Fi equipment so you can connect to the Internet wirelessly on mobile devices such as smartphones and laptop computers anywhere in your home.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED):
Federal government department with a broad portfolio and mandate of promoting and fostering knowledge-based innovation of the Canadian economy. The Connecting Canada Branch is responsible for managing public broadband.

Internet of Things:
The network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity to enable them to collect and exchange data.

Internet Protocol (IP):
A set of rules governing the format of data sent over the internet or other networks.

The variation in time between packets arriving at their destination, caused by network congestion, timing drift, or route changes.

Large incumbent TSPs:
As defined by the CRTC, they serve relatively large geographical areas, including both rural and urban populations, and provide wireline voice, internet, data and private line, wireless, and other services.

Last-Mile Infrastructure:
Is the final leg of a telecommunications network that delivers internet access from the backbone to retail end users (customers), through familiar wired or wireless technologies, such as cable, DSL, fixed wireless or satellite. Without adequate last-mile infrastructure, end users are not able to take advantage of the backbone infrastructure that may already exist in a community.

Is the measure of the time of delay that occurs between when a digital file or signal is sent and when it is received at its destination. A low latency is required for high-quality real-time applications.

Lit Fibre:
Fibre-optic cable that has been installed and activated.

Long-Term Evolution (LTE):
Is a standard for wireless broadband communication for mobile devices and data terminals. It increases the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.

Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite:
An orbit that is relatively close to Earth’s surface (e.g. between 500km and 2,000kms). The trip around the Earth is shorter because their orbit is closer, so the latency is lower than LEO satellites than for those further out. They have the potential to rival or possibly exceed the fastest ground-based networks (fibre). They also travel faster, completing a full circuit of the planet in 90 to 120 minutes. That means each individual satellite is only in direct contact with a ground transmitter for a brief period. That is why LEO projects involve so many satellites and require so many in operation to ensure connection does not drop (e.g. redundancy).

Middle Mile:
Segment of a telecommunications network linking a network operator’s core network to the point of presence.

May refer to portable internet-capable devices, or to access to the internet via smartphones or other portable devices.

Mobile Broadband:
Term used to describe the delivery of internet services from an antenna usually on a tower to a mobile location (e.g. mobile handset), where the service will continue to function uninterrupted as the user moves location.

Mobile/Cellular Network:
Refers to a communication network where the last link to the user is wireless, and the user’s receiver or handset may be portable.

Mobile Wireless:
Uses cell towers; will be available to everyone in the vicinity of a tower. This leads to less bandwidth and higher (worse) latency. It was made for small bursts of internet usages (compared to fixed wireless). This device can transition to any part of the network. Examples include cellphones, table and mobile USB sticks.

A device that connects a personal or home network to the service provider’s infrastructure.

Municipal Access Agreement (MAA):
Reflects the terms under which a municipality gives consent to the individual carriers to access their right-of-way.

Other Facilities-Based Carriers (type of ISP):
Refers to providers of telecommunications services that are not incumbent providers, but which own and operate telecommunications networks.

A sequence of bits arranged in a specific format, containing control data and possibly user data, that is transmitted and switched as a whole. Packets are separated and then regathered together to move information faster.

Packet Loss:
The failure of a packet to travel through the network to its destination. Internet traffic is carried as Internet Protocol packets. Due to network congestion or impairments, some packets do not reach their destination intact. These are considered to be lost packets.

Point-of-Presence (POP):
Refers to an access point to the core or backbone network.

Point-to-Point (P2P):
Refers to a broadcast from one place or point to another single point (different from point-to-multipoint, P2MP, PTMP, PMP).

Public Safety Network:
Telecommunications mobile network used by public safety workers such as police, fire, paramedics and public works.

Any transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature by means of electromagnetic waves of frequencies lower than 3,000 GHz propagated in spaces without artificial guide (i.e. physical things, such as wires or cables). It refers to the means of transmission as opposed to the content or nature of the transmission (e.g. broadcasting or telecommunications), which is why it is treated quite differently than the Broadcasting Act or Telecommunications Act.

Companies that provide services using the network infrastructure of telecommunications common carriers. Resellers obtain access to such network infrastructure on a wholesale basis and use it, often combined with other services and facilities, to provide retail service to the public.

The legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another.

Rural Communities:
Defined by the CRTC as areas with a population of less than 1,000 or density of 400 or fewer people per square kilometre. The Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity uses a different definition – any territory lying outside population centres. By that measure, an estimated 10.4% of Ontario’s residents live in rural areas.

Satellites are stationed far from Earth (e.g. 36,000 kms), and travel in so-called geostationary orbits, moving at the speed of Earth’s rotation and appear to float motionless above a fixed point. The signal travels from Earth, providing a delayed connection compared to cable and DSL. The speed depends on a customer’s line of sight to the orbiting satellite and the weather. Contrast that with LEOs who are not impacted by weather as much.

Service Providers:
There are many different types of service providers for communications. They include: i) Incumbent TSPs, ii) Cable-based Carriers; iii) Television and Radio; iv) Other facilities-based service providers; and v) Wholesale-based and Non-facilities-based TSPs.

The radio frequencies used to transmit wireless signals. Also known as the airwaves along which wireless signals travel. More use of spectrum leads to increased congestion. As a result, the Minister of ISED is responsible for spectrum planning, the allocation of spectrum to specific uses or services, and the assignments of spectrum to specific users.

Refers to a telecommunications signal that is transmitted in equal speeds in both the download and upload direction.

Any emission, transmission, or reception of intelligence by any wire, cable, radio, optical, or other electromagnetic systems. Some examples include landline, internet communications, fibre optics, cables, etc. Basic telecommunications services are: i) fixed and mobile wireless broadband internet access services, and ii) fixed and mobile wireless voice services.

Telecommunications service provider (TSP):
Refers to any entity providing telecommunications services, such as telephone service, internet and mobile service, usually through their own infrastructure.

Terrestrial Service:
Used to describe internet service that is provided through ground-based infrastructure, as opposed to satellite.

Universal Service Objective:
Defined in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2016-496, it is defined as the availability of a fixed broadband internet access service with at least 50 Mbps download, at least 10 Mbps, as well as the option for unlimited data allowance (i.e. 50/10/Unlimited).

Unserved/Underserved Communities:
Refers to communities that do not have service that meets the CRTC’s basic service objective of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds. They are also referred to as areas of need.

Upload Speed/Throughput:
Measure of how fast data can be transmitted from the residence or subscriber to the internet. Higher speeds allow for more pictures, music and documents to be uploaded and shared faster. Fast upload speeds are critical for video conference, cloud storage, and other popular productivity applications used by Canadians working and learning from home.

Urban Centres:
The CRTC defines as small (1,000-29,999 population); medium (30,000-99,999); and large population centres (100,000+).

Wholesale-based service providers or non-facilities-based service carriers (type of ISPs):
Refer to companies that generally acquire telecommunications services from other providers and either resell those services or create their own network from which to provide services to their customers. A company that owns a small number of facilities but has vast majority of its operations on leased facilities may also be classified as non-facilities-based.

Refers to a facility that allows computers, smartphones, or other devices to connect to the internet or communicate with one another wirelessly (without wires) within a particular area. Hotspots are provided by telecommunication service providers (TSPs) to differentiate their services from each other and extend their brands. An unlicensed short-range method of connecting devices to a network wirelessly using radio links.

Technology providing broadband service through a radio link to premise.

Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP):
Any entity providing fixed wireless services. The infrastructure used is a network that was invested in and built as their own last mile, not reselling someone else’s network. There are over 250 WISPs in Canada, and one-third are in Ontario. They often have between 200 and 20,000 subscribers.

Technology providing broadband service through a fibre or cable direct to a premise.