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GNX Glossary: the A-to-Z of Business Connectivity

If you’ve ever confused 5G with 5 GHz, you’ve landed on the right page (and you’re certainly not alone).

That’s why we at GNX have put together this summary of the most common terms, acronyms, and network lingo with to-the-point explanations (sometimes with a bit of humor) to help you navigate the connectivity space like a pro. 


3G: Third Generation mobile data. An early standard for data on mobile (cellphone) networks. At its peak capable of 7MBps speeds. 3G was where mobile data got interesting, and 3G networks are still in use in many countries.

• 4G: Fourth Generation mobile data. The next evolution of 3G, capable of 1GBps speeds under ideal conditions. 4G also added many improvements to the core technology of mobile, upgrading infrastructure to handle far more users per cell and operating at higher frequencies while using less power.

5G: The fifth Generation and current evolution of mobile data. With huge improvements over 4G, it also works smoothly with 4G networks to offer coverage across a range of conditions (known as LTE/5G). 5G also includes exciting new technologies for large-scale applications like smart cities and the Internet of Things. In other words, 5G is awesome (or it will be).

Aggregator (or ISP Aggregator): a connectivity provider who takes the complexity and hassle out of your global connectivity challenges by offering a single contract that integrates the services of many local ISPs. For global ISP aggregation, the best is, of course, GNX.

Bandwidth: a measure of network speed, usually expressed in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits (GBps). Note: If you ever hear anyone using the word “baud” to describe bandwidth, they’ve been in the industry a very long time.

Business internet: products and services that offer high-quality internet connectivity to businesses rather than consumers. Classified differently because businesses usually need service guarantees (such as bandwidth and uptime) that consumers at home are less worried about. Takeaway: if you are a business, no matter the size, we strongly recommend a business-grade solution instead of consumer services. Thank us later.

Business broadband: one of the more confusing terms as it both means copper-based xDSL services, but it’s also used today to describe fiber-based high-speed business connectivity, usually referring to internet access (hence, found sometimes as BIA). What to look out for: SLA guarantees, which are often lower than those of its sibling services, such as DIA

• CDN, or Content Delivery Network: a way for companies with high bandwidth needs (like streaming video) to deliver data reliably in real-time. Datacenters and cloud services around the world “club together” to offer high volume and capacity to designated traffic on the network, often prioritizing one type of data over others.

Copper cage: slang for the old-style telephone network of electrical switches and copper wires strung between telephone exchanges. It’s called a cage because the deep connection between what the network is made of (wires and relays) and what it’s used for (originally voice calls), putting strict limits on what new services or technologies could be used.

Circuit switched: where a network connects nodes with a permanent routing or “circuit” that persists for each session, unlike the anything-goes nature of packet-switched. Common in voice telephony – and was the basis of telephony for many decades – but becoming increasingly obsolete.

Dark Fiber: Not related to the dark side, we promise–although both have no light. Dark Fiber is a private point-to-point technology that establishes a connection between two locations, two data centers, or between these two.

DIA, or Dedicated Internet Access: a high-quality, highly-available internet connection for your company only, with the provider giving guarantees that no other customer will slow down “your” connection. Often part of a worldwide enterprise connectivity solution, connecting a business’ locations with a reliable “data highway” for its private use.

DSL, Digital Subscriber Line: an older form of internet connectivity that boosted the capacity of copper-based telephone networks to useful levels. Later ADSL (Advanced DSL) and VDSL remain in use today, mostly in the consumer space.

• Ethernet: a networking protocol invented by Bob Metcalfe, common in LANs connecting desktop computers and servers in a single building. Today, the technology is also used for WANs, with a special Ethernet socket on a router (marked WAN) connecting to other routers across a widespread enterprise using private connectivity or the internet as underlay.

FTTC, Fiber to the Curb: just what it says on the tin: optic fiber cables that reach the street outside a building but not quite the building itself. Often, this means network speeds slow down at the last part of the data’s journey – the famous “last meter” problem.

FTTH, Fiber to the Home: Fiber optic cabling that goes all the way into a customer’s building, avoiding the copper cage altogether. Increasingly common in new housing developments, and (in parts of the world) responsible for consumer broadband availability being higher than business.

• FTTx, Fiber to X: a collective term that describes a wider range of broadband network architectures using fiber for their last-mile connectivity. It encompasses FTTC, FTTH, FTTB (Fiber to the Building), etc.

Glass in the ground: slang for fiber optic infrastructure, indicating availability of fast internet. “Let’s base our new office in Rio, the neighborhood has lots of glass in the ground.”

• GNX: A global service provider and ISP Aggregator of internet and private connectivity solutions that aims to disrupt the way enterprises navigate global networks by giving businesses back control of their global WAN.

• ISP or Internet Service Provider: In our world, ISPs are the local or regional vendors of connectivity services. They are the people that actually build the IP service on top of the wires that go into your building. And there are lots of them (like 15.000+). Luckily, you can count on GNX to help you find the right one for your specific needs.

• IXP: Internet Connection Point. IXPs are “hubs” on the internet that handle a lot of data throughput, often large data centers or ISPs. If your data crosses national borders, it probably passes through an IXP at some point. IXPs connect the ISPs together.

LAN, or Local Area Network: The one most people have in their office, usually connecting laptops and desktops within a single building using Ethernet walljacks and WiFi access. Also known as the type of network GNX doesn’t do!

• Last-Mile: Often referred to as the final leg of the telecommunications network delivering connectivity services to the customer site. It is plugging your site into the larger backbone of the network. Last-mile refers to the cabling from your location to the first node, POP or backbone device of the ISP.

Leased line: any connection that gives a guaranteed capacity and/or volume to a customer, usually offered by an ISP or telco. Spans a number of technologies, from new Wavelength approaches to older MPLS.

LTE, Long Term Evolution: a “roadmap” for the future development of mobile data networks created by the industry body IEEE. Having such a plan is useful for technology vendors, who can innovate with new products while maintaining standards for compatibility with older equipment.

MPLS, or Multiprotocol Label Switching: a networking technology that routes traffic using the shortest path based on “labels,” rather than network addresses, to handle forwarding over private wide area networks. In principle, it’s a bit like an old-style voice telephony “circuit”, creating a permanent and persistent pathway between two network addresses the same way landline wires connect two phones. Very reliable and with guaranteed capacity, but expensive, less flexible than modern Internet, and seen as a legacy solution by many customers. It’s often used to connect LANs into a WAN.

OSI (Open Systems Interconnect) model: a way of thinking about networking technology that divides a network into seven “layers”.

    • L1.- At the bottom is the physical layer (the actual copper or fiber optic cable).

    • L2.- Then comes the “data layer”, which defines the basic size and shape of data (such as frames in Frame Relay).

    • L3.- On top of that is the Network layer, which defines the form data travels in (such as packets).

    • L4.- Fourth is Transport, or how connections are set up between source and destination (called TCP and UDP on the internet).

    • L5.- Fifth is the Session layer, where data interacts with endpoints like APIs and ports.

    • L6.- Layer 6 is for Presentation, which “translates” data formats (like JPEG) into useful objects (like images).

    • L7.- And right at the top is the Application layer, the part you interact with (http and so on.)

And that’s more than you (probably) ever wanted to know about the OSI 7-layer model.

Packet switched: the way the internet and internet-style networks handle data. Data is chopped into bite-size pieces called “packets”, labels are applied, and the packets are sent out to find their way to their destination, re-assembling when they get there. Because a packet often has a choice of routes, packet-switched networks are tolerant of faults like slow conditions.

Peering: the gruesomely complex collection of agreements between telcos, ISPs, and infrastructure providers that govern how data passes across different connection points and territories. Traditionally, ISPs would carry each other’s traffic on a basis of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, but as the internet has grown, this has become much more formal. And some territories, particularly China and the Middle East, have different practices, meaning it’s vital to understand peering as you build out your global connectivity. Of course, you could always ask GNX instead.

PtP, P2P, or Point-to-Point: a “fat pipe” (high-capacity connection) between two sites, usually two buildings. It’s a way for a data-intensive business to share large volumes of information between its offices reliably and with excellent security.

SASE, Secured Access Service Edge: SASE comes to secure networks while simplifying network architecture. Cloud-based and supported in SD-WAN technologies, SASE delivers security controls directly to the source of connection, rather than a data center.

Satellite: connectivity through spaced-based equipment. Satellite connectivity comes in two flavors, LEO and GEO – LEOs orbit at a few thousand kilometers up, GEOs much further out (35,786km) in a fixed position relative to the Earth. Each has its advantages. A few GEO satellites can cover most of the Earth’s surface, but bandwidth can be limited, latency is high, and there are critical points of failure. LEOs need many satellites to provide global coverage, but this creates plenty of redundancy. Satellite internet is increasingly an option for businesses, especially in remote areas or for maritime networks, and GNX knows all about it.

SD-WAN, Software Defined Wide Area Network: A Wide Area Network connected over internet infrastructure, such as ISP connections or mobile networks, offering enterprises an easier and more flexible way of managing their connectivity. By encrypting your business data to shield it from prying eyes, an SD-WAN is perfectly secure for most business purposes even though your data is traveling on the public internet.

SLA, Service Level Agreement: Also known as, “what your home ISP doesn’t offer!” It’s a guarantee of how much bandwidth and uptime a customer will enjoy, usually with compensation available if those guarantees aren’t met. GNX, of course, provides rock-solid SLAs in 195+ countries.

WAN: Wide Area Network, the type most enterprise-scale organizations use. There are many ways to build them, but most connect local LANs and cloud services together in a way that’s easy for people to use. Typically a Layer-3 service routing IP across a public backbone, using MPLS or internet/IP.

Wavelength: while it describes fundamental physics, the word has an additional usage in networking. It’s a method of providing guaranteed bandwidth over a fiber-optic connection, even if it’s crowded with other customers’ data, by reserving a section of the electromagnetic spectrum on that cable just for you. (However many customers are on that cable, none can use “your” wavelengths.) Since many wavelengths can travel down fiber-optic cabling at the same time without slowing down (they’re photons, after all – the fastest things we know of), your capacity is assured by the laws of physics.

ZTNA or Zero-Trust Network Access: A technology solution that provides secure remote access to an organization’s applications, data, and services based on strict security policies under a zero-trust model.