United Fiber Glossary

This article provides a comprehensive list of technical terms and definitions.

Last published at: September 15th, 2023

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This is a auto-generated Article of all your definitions within the glossary.

  • 2.4Ghz

    This is a frequency of radio utilized by Wi-Fi and fixed-wireless. This frequency is usually associated with lower bandwidth capacity (speed) but improved penetration through walls and structures. It is also used by a vast number of devices which can cause interference with each other.

  • 5Ghz

    This is a frequency of radio utilized by Wi-Fi and fixed-wireless. This frequency is usually associated with higher bandwidth capacity (speed or throughput) but degraded performance through walls or structures. It is less congested and best for high-performance or high-interference use cases but with short-range.

  • 6Ghz

    This is a frequency of radio utilized by Wi-Fi and fixed-wireless. This frequency is usually associated with high bandwidth capacity (speed/throughput) but very degraded performance through walls or structures. They have the least coverage but the highest performance.

  • Active ethernet

    Refers to a circuit not utilizing any form of PON technology. They have direct connectivity back to transport equipment. These are typically used for DIA circuits or special use cases.

  • Asymmetrical

    Refers to upload and download bandwidth not matching; in most cases, download being higher than upload. For example, 500 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload.

  • ATA

    An analog telephone adapter is a device that can connect a traditional analog POTS telephone to a VoIP network, specifically to an IP PBX. An MTA is the residential equivalent of an ATA.

  • Bandwidth

    Colloquially called Speed; the maximum amount of data able to be moved over a network in a period of time, typically per second. See Tbps, Gbps, Mbps, bps

  • bps

    Bits per second. Also seen as bit/s, b/s, or bs. If you are measuring a connection in bps, it is a very small amount of data from minor things like network control protocols, smaller files, or basic text transmission. This is not the same as Bps.

  • Broadband

    In the context of internet service: Broadband is another term for high-speed internet access. Specifically defined by FCC (Federal Communication Commission) as a connection with a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

  • Circuit

    A circuit refers to a specific connection or path that flows through a network.

  • CPE

    Customer premises equipment is the network equipment installed at the service address. It can be provided and/or managed by the customer or the service provider. Includes but isn't limited to routers, switches, ONTs, radios, PBXs, phones, etc.

  • Data center

    A data center is a large facility housing computer systems, servers, and telecommunications equipment.

  • Demarcation point

    Referred to as demarc, dmarc, or point of demarcation, this is the physical point where the cabling from the ISP terminates on the outside of a structure, and the on-premises cabling begins. Typically, a NID is utilized as the demarcation point.

  • DHCP

    The dynamic host configuration is a network protocol that serves IP addresses to computers or servers when a person does not manually configure them. DHCP is commonly used for home and office networks so that devices may easily connect to the local network.

  • DIA

    Dedicated internet access or direct internet access refers to a circuit from a service provider that is not shared by any other subscriber or business. It is fully dedicated to a particular subscriber or business for their use only. DIAs are more costly compared to a non-dedicated circuit such as one served by a PON technology.

  • DNS

    Domain name system is essentially the phonebook of the internet. It resolves domain names or FQDNs from a name to an IP address to be routed through a network to the destination. DNS servers are the systems that store and serve the information as requested by a computer.

  • Ethernet

    Refers to the physical connection standards utilized to wire networked equipment together. For example, an ethernet cable is most commonly used to connect your computer to your router or switch.

  • Fiber

    A.K.A optical fiber: a flexible transparent fiber made of glass or plastic. Light is then transmitted through it to pass data.

  • Firewall

    A firewall is a digital barrier that utilizes sets of allow or deny rules to keep specific network data from moving through it. A router that has these security functions is often referred to as a firewall or firewall appliance. These are typically installed between your internal network and the internet to provide additional security. Firewalls are also typically set up on end devices such as computers, servers, or phones to help protect them more directly or as they travel to other networks.

  • fixed-wireless

    A method of connecting two fixed structures wirelessly - typically utilizing radio frequencies - to pass data between the two locations.

  • Fragmentation

    Fragmentation or IP Fragmentation is the process where a packet is broken into smaller pieces. When a packet is too large to fit through a specific portion of the network due to the MTU being too small or mismatched, the packet gets fragmented, passed through, and then reassembled at the destination. Fragmentation is not necessarily an issue but can impact performance and cause certain types of network services not to work properly. In the modern day, fragmentation is best avoided due to security and performance concerns.

  • Frame

    A frame is a container for a single network packet.

  • Gateway

    A gateway is the router on the local network (LAN) that will move data out to external computer networks. If a computer requests information from an external place, it will talk to the gateway of its local network to be routed out to the external location it requested.

  • Gbps

    Gigabits per second. Also seen as Gbit/s, Gb/s, or Gbs. If you are measuring a connection in Gbps it is a large amount of data and won't be seen outside of data-heavy residents, small to medium businesses, or small data centers. This is not the same as GBps.

  • GPON

    Gigabit passive optical network is a PON network capable of delivering symmetrical gigabit bandwidth to each subscriber.

  • Headend

    A center facility where a television system brings together various channels to be sent out to end clients.

  • Internet

    A global system of interconnected computer networks that communicates various information between networks and devices. This includes file sharing, email, digital phones, the world wide web, etc.

  • IP Address

    An internet protocol address is a numeric value given to a device on a computer network that uniquely identifies it so that other devices may communicate with it. This is similar to how a house has a mailing address that is unique to itself. An example of an IP address would be

  • IP Geolocation

    A.K.A Geo-IP location is information about an IP address or range of IP addresses that gives details regarding the geographic location of the IP. Various third-party services serve IP Geolocation information and are not considered to be incredibly accurate. In most cases, IP Geolocation will show the correct state, but it may or may not show the correct town/city. This geographic information is frequently used by various companies for several purposes; this includes helping websites show the closest store to your location or make sure your TV service is providing you the correct local channels.

  • IP PBX

    An internet protocol private branch exchange is similar to a standard PBX but instead utilizes VoIP protocols through a network to perform its functions instead of connecting utilizing traditional POTS lines.

  • IPv4

    Internet protocol version 4 is the most commonly used internet protocol worldwide. Introduced in approximately 1981, it is used to forward packets through a packet-switched network. IPv4 addresses typically look like IPv4 was never designed to sustain the amount of growth in network devices the world has seen so public IPv4 addresses are near exhaustion. IPv6 was designed to replace IPv4 with exponentially more addresses and functionality.

  • IPv6

    Internet protocol version 6 is the most recent version of the Internet protocol. It was introduced in 1998 to alleviate the projected exhaustion of IPv4 addresses and provide additional functionality that IPv4 doesn't have. IPv6 has had slow adoption for various reasons. In 2018, 20 years after the introduction of IPv6, the adoption rate was only about 25% worldwide. The adoption of IPv6 has been growing steadily in recent years due to the exhaustion of available IPv4 public addresses.

  • ISP

    An internet service provider (sometimes shortened to just 'service provider' when already in the context of the internet) is a utility company that provides internet access to a residential or commercial location. ISPs typically offer other services, such as telephony, television, private circuits, etc.

  • Jitter

    Jitter is the variance in the latency of a network connection. A lower jitter means the latency is very consistent. A higher jitter means there is inconsistency with the latency of the connection. Jitter can affect video and audio quality over a digital connection.

  • LAN

    Local area network: a collection of two or more devices connected to communicate within a fixed area such as your home, a building, or an office.

  • Latency

    Latency measures the time it takes for data to be transmitted from the source to the destination. This can also be referred to as the delay or response time of a network. The amount of variance of latency is called jitter.

  • MAC Address

    A media access control address is a unique identifier assigned to a NIC so that network equipment, such as switches and routers, can communicate with a device at a low level so that it may be identified and assigned an IP address.

  • Mbps

    Megabits per second. Also seen as Mbit/s, Mb/s, or Mbs. If you are measuring a connection in Mbps, it is an average amount of data that can be found in homes, small businesses, and even your cell phone. This is not the same as MBps.

  • MDU

    Multi-dwelling unit: a building in which multiple housing units are contained—for example, apartments, duplexes, etc.

  • Media converter

    A media converter is used to convert to a different physical medium. For example, from fiber to copper or the other way around.

  • MTA

    A multimedia terminal adapter is similar to an ATA but used to deliver phone service and data services. These are typically utilized in residential households or small businesses that don't have an IP PBX or traditional PBX.

  • MTU

    A maximum transmission unit is the size of the largest PDU that can be communicated in a single transaction. It relates to but is not the same as the maximum frame size. MTUs that are not configured correctly can cause degraded performance or loss of service. It can also cause packet fragmentation.

  • NAT

    Network address translation is a method of redirecting a specified IP address to another IP address as network traffic passes through a router or firewall appliance.

  • NIC

    A.K.A network card, network interface, network interface card, LAN adapter, ethernet port, etc. A network interface controller (NIC) is the physical controller and port of a device that a physical cable would connect to so that it may be plugged into a switch or router for network access.

  • NID

    Network interface devices are used as a point to connect a service provider's physical cable to the cabling that goes into the building or home. This is typically a small grey box on the outside wall of a structure. This can be referred to as a demarcation point.

  • Node

    A network node can refer to several different things. In computer networks, a node can be a switch, hub, bridge, modem, computer, printer, digital phone, etc. In a telecommunications network, a node is typically a network distribution point to serve the end subscriber.

  • NTP

    Network time protocol is a network protocol that assists devices in synchronization of time.

  • OLT

    An optical line terminal refers to the network equipment that connects high throughput transport equipment to the end subscriber utilizing various technologies, including GPON, XGS-PON, GFAST, etc.

  • ONT

    Optical Network Terminal: This is the interface device that converts the fiber network into a usable signal/interface for a home or business to connect to. This term is from the standard body ITU-T. An ONU is essentially the same as an ONT.

  • ONU

    An optical network unit is functionally the same as an ONT. ONU is the IEEE standard name.

  • Outside plant

    Refers to the physical cabling running and infrastructure connecting the demarcation points of structures, for example, between an internet service provider's facility and your home or business.

  • Oversubscription

    By utilizing various technologies such as PON, GPON, XGS-PON, etc., a network can be oversubscribed. This is where subscribers share network bandwidth in a controlled manner. This is generally a good thing when done correctly, as it keeps costs low while maintaining performance. If dedicated bandwidth is needed, then a DIA is required.

  • Packet

    A packet is a formatted unit of data held inside a frame. A packet contains destination and source information and the user data being transmitted.

  • Packet loss

    Packet loss occurs when a packet fails to reach its destination. Several things can cause packet loss, but commonly, they are caused by network congestion, network misconfiguration, or errors in data transmission.

  • PAT

    Port address translation. See port forwarding.

  • PBX

    A private branch exchange (PBX) is a phone system that connects multiple phones for internal communication and to a PSTN using POTS lines for external communications.

  • PDU

    In networking, this refers to the protocol data unit. A protocol data unit is one portion of a network packet. In data centers, a PDU may refer to a power distribution unit which is a specific type of giant power strip designed to distribute power to servers or network equipment.

  • Ping

    A ping is a network test that can be performed to show reachability to another system. 'Pinging' something is a fantastic first step in troubleshooting connectivity. Unsuccessful pings or pings that are only occasionally successful can indicate an issue but do not always. Many systems do not prioritize pings (ICMP echo requests) so if they get too busy, they will drop them, or do not respond to pings at all.

  • PoE

    Power over ethernet refers to several standards for delivering power over an ethernet cable to a device. This allows one cable to provide the function of delivering power and data to a device. PoE (802.3af), PoE+ (802.3at), and PoE++ (802.3bt type 3 and type 4) are the three primary auto-sensing standards. PoE can be delivered either by a PoE-capable switch or a PoE injector that goes between a device and the switch it connects to.

  • PON

    A passive optical network is a fiber optic network that delivers network access to subscribers using passive splitting technology. Typically, a small set number of subscribers share a single fiber that is passively split. Network protocols allow for proper data transmission.

  • Port forwarding

    Port forwarding, port mapping, or port address translation (PAT) refers to redirecting network communication requests from a specified port and address. It is an application of network address translation (NAT). This is typically used for advanced video game optimizations, network camera access, IP PBXs, or access to a personal media server.

  • Porting

    Porting transfers a telephone or fax number from one service provider to another. For example, if you want to move your cell phone from AT&T to Verizon and keep your existing phone number, you will have your number ported to Verizon.

  • POTS

    Sometimes called plain old telephone service or plain ordinary telephone service, POTS refers to old-school analog telephone service delivered over copper loops. This was the gold standard in communications from 1876 to the late 19th century. POTS lines are still found occasionally in older infrastructure and rural areas where more modern technologies have not been built out.

  • Prosumer

    An amateur or average consumer who purchases equipment with quality or features closely resembling professional-grade use.

  • PSTN

    The public switched telephone network is the combined services of telephone operators' networks across the globe. Traditionally this network was entirely analog, but in recent years the core is almost entirely digital, utilizing computer networking technology.

  • Router

    A router is a network device moving data between two separate networks. Think of this like a mail carrier that has hubs to move mail between different geographic areas. Colloquially this can refer to a router, switch, wireless access point combo device.

  • Server

    A server is a specialized computer that serves specific information, applications, or services to client computers in the network.

  • Smarthub

    Smarthub is one of United's backend systems that serves various functions including the billing portal, service area availability tools, and subscriber management.

  • SP

    A service provider is a generalized term for an ISP.

  • Speed

    Often used as slang for bandwidth or throughput.

  • SSID

    A Service Set Identifier (SSID) is the name associated with a WLAN or Wi-Fi connection.

  • Static IP

    A static IP address is an address manually assigned to a subscriber. Typically addresses are handed out automatically using a DHCP server. You would get a static IP address if you didn't want your public IP address to change. The reasons for this could include port forwarding, VPNs, internally hosted servers, IP PBX phone systems, etc.

  • Subnet

    A subnet represents a specific range of IP addresses. A subnet mask is a numerical value you use to determine the range. For example, the IP address of with a subnet mask of tells us the subnet belongs to is from up to

  • Switch

    A network switch is a device that interconnects devices on a computer network. These devices allow you to expand the number of ports available on your network. Some switches also have routing functionality, typically for business/enterprise use.

  • Symmetrical

    Refers to a matching upload and download bandwidth. For example, 500 Mbps download and 500 Mbps upload.

  • Tbps

    Terabits per second. Also seen as Tbit/s, Tb/s, or Tbs. If you are measuring a connection in Tbps it is a significant amount of data and won't be seen outside of large enterprises, data centers, or service providers. This is not the same as TBps.

  • Throughput

    Throughput refers to how much data is actually transferred over a network in a given period time. Typically measured in Tbps, Gbps, Mbps, or bps.

  • URL

    Uniform resource locators: A.K.A. web addresses are a string of characters that are utilized to reference a specific location in a network, on the internet, or a server. Examples include www.example.com

  • VoIP

    Voice over internet protocol, sometimes called voice over IP, is various protocols and technologies that allow you to deliver phone calls to a digital phone without using traditional POTS lines.

  • WAN

    Wide area network: refers to networking devices together over a vast geographic area. The internet can be considered a large public WAN. Many WANs are privately owned to connect businesses to each other or themselves over long distances.

  • WAP

    A wireless access point is a standalone device with radios that broadcasts Wi-Fi SSIDs for connecting devices. This functionality performs the job of being a wireless switch. Typically, standalone wireless access points are used in a business or enterprise situation but are also commonly used in prosumer households that require better performance or large households that require better coverage that a single wireless point can't service.

  • Wi-Fi

    A set of standards, protocols, and radios to connect devices wirelessly to form a network between each other. A.K.A wifi, wireless, and wireless LAN.

  • WLAN

    Wireless LAN; see Wi-Fi for definition.

  • WNIC

    Wireless network interface controller; A wireless version of a NIC. Also referred to as a wireless card or wireless adapter. It contains a radio that would connect to the SSID of a Wi-Fi network.

  • World Wide Web

    A.K.A WWW; The world wide web is a web server network that delivers content via websites. These are typically accessed using an internet browser such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, etc.

  • WPS

    Wi-Fi-protected setup is a wireless security standard on many residential wireless routers. It allows for the fast setup of wireless network devices. WPS push button is the recommended method to utilize WPS. WPS PIN has a major security flaw and should never be used.


    XGS-PON is a PON network capable of symmetrical 10-gigabit bandwidth to the end subscriber.