Networking Technology 101: A Glossary of Terms

We know that networking acronyms and industry terms can be a headache, so has put together this networking technology glossary to help you work your way around them.


We have included the guide’s highlights below and you can download the full version here:

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3G, short form of third generation, is the third generation of UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications technology). Also known as HSPA or HSPA+, it delivers connectivity speeds and bandwidth suitable for powering a wide range of applications.



4G is the fourth generation of mobile technology and brings increased speed and bandwidth to mobile networks. Also known as “LTE” (Long Term Evolution), 4G is unlocking the true potential of cellular networking and enabling new applications not previously available on 3G.



5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology, not yet available but undergoing development and testing today. 5G will offer greater capacity, be faster, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than any earlier network in order to meet the expanding network demands of technologies such as the Internet of Things.



Authentication, authorisation, and accounting (AAA) is a framework for intelligently controlling access to computer resources, auditing usage, enforcing policies, and providing the required information for billing services.



An access point, or AP, is a station which transmits and receives data in a wireless local area network, connecting the users within the network and also serving as the point of connection between the wireless and wired network.


Application Solution

In the context of connectivity, application solution refers to what a device is being used to provide, also known as a “use case”. For example, a 4G router could be used to create a WiFi hotspot, therefore it is providing a WiFi application.


Bluetooth Low Energy

Also known as BLE and Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Low Energy is a wireless network technology designed for specific applications in industries such as healthcare, beacons, and security, as well as consumer industries such as fitness and home entertainment. It differs from Bluetooth as it consumes considerably less power and is less expensive, while still maintaining a similar connection range.


Business Continuity

Business continuity describes the activities undertaken by an organisation to ensure that any functions that are critical to the continued running of the business are able to continue in the event of a serious incident or disaster. This is normally done by assessing the risk to the business of a range of scenarios, and putting in place plans and systems to mitigate or negate the risk. In terms of connectivity, we call this “failover”; making sure that a business has back-up connectivity if their primary connectivity fails.


Data Packets

In order to transfer data over a network it must be broken down into manageable “chunks”, before being reassembled at the receiving end of the communication to deliver the data in its original form. Data packets are what we call these chunks.


Distributed Enterprise

A distributed enterprise is an organisation which has a dispersed network of branch locations, as well as a central head office location which typically manages centralised processes across different functions. For example retail and restaurant chains or banks. When we talk about the distributed enterprise in networking specifically, we are referring to geographically-dispersed branches which are all connected to centralised, back-office systems hosted at a head office location or Network Operations Centre, which deliver their in-branch applications and services via this connection. This connection could be fixed line, satellite or cellular.



Digital Subscriber Line is a family of technologies that is used to provide internet access by transmitting digital data over telephone lines.


EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution)

EDGE (also known as Enhanced GPRS or EGPRS) is a data system used on top of GSM networks.



Ethernet is the most common type of connection used for a local area network where data is transferred via cable connections.


Failover Connectivity

Failover connectivity is a back-up solution that businesses use to provide communications access in the event of a disaster which results in their primary connectivity being knocked out. Normally 3G or 4G mobile networks are the preferred choice for failover connectivity, although secondary wired lines or satellite are also an option. Read more: “What Is: Failover Connectivity” blog post.



A firewall is a network security system which controls incoming and outgoing traffic. Controlled by a rule set, a firewall establishes a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and another network, e.g. the Internet, which isn’t “known” and therefore not trusted and secure.


Fog Computing

Fog computing, or “fogging”, is a distributed infrastructure in which certain application processes or services are managed at the edge of the network by a smart device, but others are still managed in the cloud. It is, essentially, a middle layer between the cloud and the hardware to enable more efficient data processing, analysis and storage, which is achieved by reducing the amount of data which needs to be transported to the cloud.



A gateway is the point at which two different networks meet.



Geofencing allows users to set geographically based rules which can be used to perform actions or alerts on a device automatically if it is moved outside a dedicated area.



The Gateway GPRS Support Node (GGSN) is a main component of the GPRS network. The GGSN is responsible for the interworking between the GPRS network and external packet switched networks, like the Internet and X.25 networks.



General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a packet-switching technology that enables data transfers through cellular networks. It is used for mobile internet, MMS and other data communications.



HSPA stands for “High Speed Packet Access” and refers to mobile technology that sits between the 3G and 4G evolution. It offers increased bandwidth over 3G service, but less so than 4G. HSPA+ is also commonly used; this is essentially the same as HSPA but faster again.


Hybrid Networking

Hybrid networking refers to the combination of two or more communications standards that work together to form one network design. For example, the combination of wireless networking with wired networking which together deliver a single overall solution. It may also refer to a network design that combines two or more types of basic physical topologies.


Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects including machines, people and animals are connected via a network. Data can be passed between the objects, each of which is uniquely identifiable. A real-world example could be a patient wearing a monitor that transmits health data for doctors to remotely view on their tablet or PC, rather than having to be at the bedside.


IP address

An IP address is a numerical label assigned to each and every device participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. It is responsible for identifying the device and its location, and showing traffic how to reach it.



IPv4 stands for “Internet Protocol version 4” and is used to route, or direct, traffic over the Internet. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address, meaning that there is a limited number of addresses available for devices. This led to the creation of IPv6.



IPv6 stands for “Internet Protocol version 6” and is an updated version of IPv4 using longer 64-bit IP addresses. IPv6 is critical to the success of the Internet of Things as it delivers the volume of IP addresses required which IPv4 cannot provide.


IP Ratings

An IP rating classifies the degrees of protection provided against the intrusion of solid objects and water in electrical enclosures. The first digit refers to solids, the second to liquids. The most common in cellular router and gateway products is IP64, which means it is dust tight and protected against splashing water. You can see a full list of ratings here:



Local Area Network (LAN) refers to a computer network that spans a relatively small area such as a home or business premise.



LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution” and is another term used to describe 4G mobile technology. “4G” was originally used to follow on from 3G, but the industry later felt that it didn’t appropriately convey the progress of the technology, so they created “LTE” which has since become a more recognised term.



LTE-A and LTE-Advanced, also known as 4G+ / 4.5G, is a newer and faster version of LTE/4G cellular connectivity. Utilising carrier aggregation, it allows LTE-Advanced enabled devices to receive data from multiple bands in the LTE spectrum, which provides a theoretical speed of 300 Mbps compared to the 100 Mbps theoretical speed you get on a standard LTE network.



Machine to Machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same type.



Multiple In Multiple Out, or MIMO, refers to the use of multiple antennas at the transmitter and receiver in order to improve communication performance.



A Mobile Network Operator, or MNO, is a provider of wireless communications services and is also known as a wireless carrier, cellular company or mobile network carrier. An MNO owns or controls all elements necessary to sell and deliver services to an end user, such as radio spectrum allocation and wireless network infrastructure. An example would be Vodafone.



Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a mechanism in high performance telecommunications networks that directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, avoiding complex lookups in a routing table. The term is commonly used to describe fixed lines to and from corporate networks or data centres, and is typically used in instances where connectivity is considered critical to business operations.



A Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO, is a company which provides wireless communication services but doesn’t itself own or control the necessary network elements, for example it may not have its own licensed spectrum allocation. It instead resells services from an MNO, although typically still has its own business infrastructure such as billing capabilities. An example would be Tesco Mobile who resell O2 services.



Packet Data Protocol, or PDP, is a network protocol used by packet switching external networks to communicate with GPRS networks.



PoE stands for “Power over Ethernet” and refers to the use of Ethernet cabling to deliver electricity to devices. Within an Ethernet cable there are spare wires not used for computing purposes, which can therefore be repurposed to deliver electricity to devices which have this functionality enabled. Standards include 802.3af, 802.3at and 802.3bt.


Primary Connectivity

Primary connectivity normally refers to the first choice of connectivity a business uses to provide communication access. In most cases this is the wired public telephone network, although with connection speeds and reliability improving some businesses are switching to mobile networks. Read more: “What Is: Primary Connectivity” blog post.



The Public Switched Telephone Network.


Radio Spectrum

Radio spectrum is made up of radio waves from a very low frequency up to very high frequencies, and is divided into bands which are reserved for single use or a range of compatible uses of data transmission. As there are so many competing uses for wireless communication, and frequency bands are limited, strict rules are in place and governments oversee spectrum licensing to ensure services do not interfere with each other and to facilitate use in all bands. Allocations are agreed internationally.



A Radio Access Network (RAN) refers to cellular networks, for example with GSM and UMTS systems.



A router is normally a hardware device (although sometimes it can just be software) that is responsible for forwarding pieces of information both within and between networks. You’ll normally find a router at the gateway between two different networks. When Westbase refers to routers, we are referring to hardware devices only.



A Subscriber Identity or Identification Module (SIM) is an integrated circuit that securely stores the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) and the related key used to identify and authenticate subscribers on mobile devices.
There are 3 main derivatives of SIM cards for use in M2M and IoT applications: (1) standard plastic SIM, the same as you would use in a mobile phone, (2) ruggedised plastic SIM, supports high temperatures and the pin plating is thicker to prevent corrosion, and (3) M2M SIM, an 8-pin chip that can be soldered on to a printed circuit board (PCB) for more reliability in terms of shock, corrosion, etc. and supports a wider temperature range as well (also called QFN-8).



Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems. It uses standardised communications protocols to allow fixed line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages.


SMS Support

SMS support refers to the ability to tell a connected device something over SMS, and vice versa, and is used as a convenient M2M management and monitoring communication.


Software Defined Networking (SDN)

Software defined networking, also referred to as SDN, is an approach to networking that enables administrators to manage networking services through higher-level, or “overlay”, functionality. It is designed to make the network as agile and flexible as possible, while still retaining control.



Similar to a router, a switch has the ability to forward information within a network but cannot forward information between networks.


Temporary Connectivity

Temporary connectivity refers to a temporary communications system set up for short term needs, for example at events or construction sites. Normally 3G or 4G mobile networks are the preferred choice for temporary connectivity as they can be set up instantly and at a much reduced cost compared to fixed or satellite connectivity.



Unified Threat Management, or UTM, is a networking industry solution which evolves the traditional firewall into an all-inclusive security product able to perform multiple security operations within one single system; such as network intrusion prevention, gateway antivirus, VPN, data leak prevention and so on.



VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network” and is used to extend a private network across a public network, most commonly the Internet. It is used to give remote access to an organisation’s network, for example for employees working from home who need to access information stored on company servers.



A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a computer network that spans a broad area such as a town or county. It normally consists of two or more local area networks.



WiFi allows devices within a designated area to connect to the Internet wirelessly. There are different types of WiFi, each of which offers different speeds and range. 802.11ac is currently the best WiFi available and offers incredible speeds and range. As a rough guide: “B” = old and therefore poor / “G” = good / “N” = very good / “AC” = excellent.

2.4G WiFi

The most common and longest standing WiFi frequency range.

5G WiFi

A newer WiFi range which features a higher throughput.


If we don’t cover something you want to know here, or in our full cellular technology glossary download, then please feel free to contact us to ask.



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