Data Methodology and Connectivity Glossary of Terms

Table of Contents

The Challenge and Need for Standardized Terminology

What is broadband internet access and how do I get it? This seemingly simple question has become increasingly complex to answer by both administrators and internet service providers (ISPs) alike. Technical experts and policy-makers in Canada and abroad have been grappling to define terminology in the field of connectivity that is clear, technically accurate, and consistently used.

In multi-stakeholder investment environments, particularly those that engage many orders of government and/or create public-private partnerships, there is a demonstrated need for standardized terminology. This ensures that all relevant parties are aware of the terms of engagement prior to the commencement of multi-million dollar projects, particularly due to the fact that cost-sharing arrangements are highly common for connectivity initiatives in Canada.

Let's look at an example. What, exactly, is the definition of broadband internet access?

What is Broadband?

High speed internet transmission. The term is commonly refers to communications lines or services at T1 rates (1.544mbps) and above. Broadband often refers to internet access using cable modems and DSL, both of which are capable of delivering transmission speeds above T1.

Source: Digital Dictionary, 2002

High speed internet access supporting a minimum of 768kbps network bandwidth. Those services of operating at lower speeds between 200-768kbps which were formerly considered broadband are now known to be 'first generation networks'.

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Access to internet service that supports data transmission at a minimum download speed of 1.5mbps to a household.

Source: Industry Canada, Broadband Canada Program

For AANDC's purposes, broadband can be defined as:

A connection providing high speed internet access, that is, a communication service that enables access to the internet data at transmission rates above a specific threshold, which has been defined at speeds of 1.5mbps for our purposes, using all relevant technologies (i.e. xDSL, Cable Modem, Fixed Wireless etc.)

As illustrated by the broadband definition example above, an agreement between organizations on what constitutes the threshold for broadband infrastructure is not clear. With these differences in language, it is difficult for policy-makers and technical specialists alike to extract common meaning from the same terms.

Methodology/ Approach for the Data Mapping Exercise

The Community Infrastructure Branch, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is working closely with other federal, provincial, private sector and First Nations organizations to create a national mapping tool of Aboriginal connectivity in Canada.

The purpose of this exercise is to visually display quantitative information about connectivity in Aboriginal communities across Canada to First Nations stakeholders and the Canadian public at a glance and strive to avoid duplication.

The map will illustrate the current status of Aboriginal connectivity by illustrating the level (if applicable) of connectivity and will provide a snapshot of vital information such as the last mile technology offered in communities and the existing backbone infrastructure in place. This information will be key in terms of identifying communities served, according to the current Industry Canada standard of 1.5Mb/s to the household.

It is intended that the mapping tool will be utilized for potential future investments to underserved communities, and/ or will allow for information sharing with respect to best practices and lessons learned for all relevant stakeholders.

Finally, the data gathered is at the First Nation community level, which is often an aggregation of a number of reserves. Many of these communities are located in remote and isolated areas. The connectivity information gathered captures the connectivity in the most populated area or where public services are available (i.e. School, Health facilities, Post office, Band Office, etc.). It is therefore important not to assume that ALL reserves within a First Nation community have the same connectivity level.


The data used to inform the map was researched, collected and validated by multiple stakeholders (federal departments, provincial ministries, private sector and First Nations organizations) using a jointly developed connectivity category table.

For the purpose of this project, efforts in broadband infrastructure have focused on community based technologies, however, direct to the home equipment such as KU/KA band satellite technologies have been excluded from the analysis.

Questions or anomalies were resolved in data validation working groups, which met routinely throughout the data collection process in each region, and consisted of federal, provincial, private sector and First Nations representatives.

Broadband Capacity Overview

When discussing different technological options, there is more to consider than simply advertised speed. 'Connectivity characteristics' allow both policy-makers and technical experts the ability to qualify the user experience beyond a speed calculation and compare different technologies to one another using characteristics that are actually illustrative of service, capacity, business application compatibility and overall value for infrastructure investment.

For the purposes of this exercise, the connectivity characteristics examined include: capacity, latency, reliability, relative onetime cost, relative operational cost, last mile technology network and the backhaul infrastructure. Below, the key connectivity characteristics have been defined for a common understanding of the terms as used for the purpose of this project:

  • Capacity: Refers to the realized speed and amount of data traffic that a given technology could allow for uploading and downloading materials, either in an asymmetric or symmetric manner.
  • Latency: Describes the time delay experienced by users in accessing data requested. This issue is primarily experienced in low speed or satellite technologies, although some delay is observable with terrestrial technical solutions such as DSL as well. Latency can be a minor annoyance, or an inhibiting factor, depending on its severity. Some time sensitive business applications simply will not run with the delay that occurs, rendering them inoperable with lower speed technologies.
  • Reliability: Refers to the consistency of service provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to the customer. When service level agreements are drafted, a reliable standard of service is consistently provided to the customer. Service level agreements are not always in place. As such, technologies in the low speed and satellite categories are typically of a low to moderate reliability status.
  • Relative Customer Onetime Cost: Refers to the infrastructure investment cost for the equipment itself, plus installation. A useful metric when conducting a cost/ benefit analysis of various technological options for an infrastructure investment.
  • Relative Customer Operational Cost: Refers to the ongoing monthly maintenance and service fees that accompany an infrastructure investment (i.e. routine maintenance, service personnel, usage fees, billing etc); a useful metric when conducting a cost/benefit analysis of various technological options for an infrastructure investment.
  • Last Mile Network Technology: This refers to the technology that links customers in a community or remote area by distributing a connection from the Point of Presence to the household.
  • Backhaul/ Transport Infrastructure: A high capacity/speed broadband network connection that transports data traffic to and from a community's last mile access networks to an Internet gateway point of presence.

Connectivity Category Table

In order to ensure that data was captured in a meaningful and comparable way, this connectivity category definition table was designed to orient those who were either inputting or validating data with standard speed categories, technology classification and capacity benchmarks so that we would collect uniform information from across the country.

The connectivity category definition table is meant to be used as a planning tool, or a model, for tracking internet access realities in First Nations communities. It is not meant to replace policy discussion surrounding acceptable costs/ affordability/ service standards for Canadian citizens. On the contrary, its very design is meant to have enough flexibility to allow communities to categorize their current service realities in a reflective and accurate manner.

The category table has four main 'speed categories' that are placed against a host of connectivity characteristics. The four categories are: Legacy Low Speed, Consumer- Satellite, Consumer- Terrestrial and Industrial/Institutional Broadband. Each category is compared relative to connectivity characteristics including: capacity, delay (latency), reliability, relative customer onetime cost, relative customer operational cost, last mile technology and backhaul/transport infrastructure. Within each category, a list of associated technologies was mentioned, so that the input provider could immediately associate themselves with the appropriate category accordingly.

Connectivity Characteristic Connectivity Category
Low Speed Consumer Broadband Industrial/
Capable Broadband
Satellite Terrestrial
Capacity Symmetric Asymmetric Asymmetric Symmetric
19.2Kb/s to 56Kb/s 1.0Mb/s ≥ 4Mb/s downstream
128Kb/s ≥ 512Kb/s upstream
 ≥ 1.5Mb/s downstream
≥ 256Kb/s upstream
Typically 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s or higher
Dedicated Shared / best effort Shared / best effort Dedicated / guaranteed
Delay (latency) High High Moderate Low
Reliability Low to moderate without service level agreements Low to moderate without service level agreements Low to moderate without service level agreements High to very high with service level agreements
Onetime Cost
Low Moderate Moderate High to very high
Customer Operational
Low High Moderate (can be high if usage based) High to very high
Last Mile
Dial-up Direct to home or business satellite systems xDSL, cable modem, fixed wireless, HSPA cellular data, T1 Multi-mode or single-mode fibre-optical communications, Ethernet Switching
Copper based cable
Licensed Microwave
Satellite system transponder hubs Copper based cable or licensed microwave used in backhaul/transport path Must be end-to-end fibre

Notes for Connectivity Definition Table

Legacy Low Speed is a service that is becoming obsolete and is experiencing declining usage because it cannot support the most modern applications and user needs.

Legacy Low speed is NOT a broadband service and is shaded red to show it is not desirable as a continuing service. 

Consumer Broadband, which is determined by Industry Canada's definition to be at 1.5Mb/s to the household is a service that supports most of the modern applications that an individual would typically expect in general use. Consumer broadband is provided using two types of technologies:

  • Satellite (space based communications) is a mature service technology that has limitations, but may be sustainable in some business cases due to the high cost of other broadband infrastructure types. Satellite - Consumer Broadband is coloured yellow to show it is less desirable than terrestrial. It is important to note that a satellite bandwidth analysis must be undertaken to attest as to whether a satellite served community is actually getting the 1.5Mb/s to the household. Should it be determined that households are below Industry Canada's 1.5Mb/s service standard, investments to bring new technologies to underserviced communities could be explored.
  • Terrestrial (land surface based communications) is a collection of well proven technologies that are widely deployed in urban and many rural areas. Terrestrial - Consumer Broadband is coloured green to show it is the most desirable service. 

Industrial/Institutional Capable Broadband is a service that supports the modern applications that an institution would typically expect to use (please refer to the Connectivity Category table on page 7). These applications require infrastructure with capabilities beyond what an individual would require for personal use. Industrial/Institutional Capable Broadband is colored blue to make it the highest levels of support for present and future service delivery.

Broadband Requirements for Business Applications

The following tables provide an overview of common business applications that are typical of a variety of sectors (health, education and general community services). This overview is meant to highlight typical applications that users require or request and align these applications with the appropriate connectivity category. It should be noted that this exercise is not an 'exact science' and is meant to provide readers with an approximation or for illustrative purposes only.

First Nations Services

Targeted Outcomes Connectivity Category
Consumer Broadband Industrial/ Institutional Capable Broadband
  • Clinical health services- video conference access to clinicians without leaving the community
  • Capacity to build local skills via video conference (real time, interactive classes)
  • Capacity to build local skills via internet access (web-based, self-faced learning)
Yes Yes
  • Water quality- remote monitoring of sites and online certification via video conference
Yes Yes
  • Integrated healthcare information and provincial reporting (large data files, complex data files)
  • Emergency preparedness
Yes Yes
  • Real-time, interactive video conferencing for courses not available locally
  • Development and delivery of culturally relevant materials
  • Web based, self paced learning
Yes Yes
  • Language revitalization- Participation in online language preservation
  • Language revitalization- Access online language libraries
Yes Yes
  • Governance: information management and reporting, educational responsibilities and mandate
  • Resource management: participate in land referral/land use processes (data sharing).
  • Document and manage evidence of traditional land use (treaty process, GIS mapping)

General Telehealth Services

Targeted Outcomes Connectivity Category
Consumer Broadband Industrial/ Institutional Capable Broadband
  • Radiology- XRays, ultrasounds, scans and mammograms taken in a telecentre and observed via videoconference by a clinician who provides real-time diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Ophthalmology- Retinal screening done in a telecentre and observed via videoconference by a clinician who provides real-time diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Cardiology- Heart monitoring and stress tests done in a telecetnre and observed via videoconference by a clinician who provides real-time diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Mental health- Private videoconference consultations with psychiatrists and counselors (no diagnostic tools involved).
  • Dermatology- High resolution images taken in a teleconference and observed via videoconference by a clinician who provides real-time diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Government online/ open data- information sharing and access.
  • Education and awareness- web-based libraries, interactive websites, self-help information

General e-Education Services

Targeted Outcomes Connectivity Category
Consumer Broadband Industrial/ Institutional Capable Broadband
e-Education Services K-12
  • Remote teaching, real-time, interactive video conferencing (e.g. no physics teacher in region, student takes course online from another school).
  • Educator collaborator- web based curriculum and course development and delivery.
  • Virtual fieldtrips
Yes Yes
  • Educator collaborator- web based discussion groups only.
Yes Yes
  • Web based text books.
Yes Yes
  • Web based, self directed, learning modules.
Yes Yes
e-Education Services Post Secondary
  • Web based classroom- real time, interactive video conference
  • Web based labs- real time, interactive video conference
  • Community practicums- real time, interactive video conference
  • Research- data intensive, maps or charts.
  • Web based student services
Yes Yes
  • Student research (text based, non data intensive)
Yes Yes
  • Web based lectures (non-interactive)
Yes Yes
  • Web based library resources (online books, taped lectures etc.)
Yes Yes
e-Government Requirements
  • Web based testing
Yes Yes

Glossary of Technical Terms

Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line is a transport protocol commonly deployed over copper twisted pair wires. It has distance (4-5km) and speed limitations. It is mature technology with several enhanced versions (ADSL2+, SDSL, xDSL, etc.) in service.
An asymmetric network connection has one speed inbound and a different speed outbound.
Backhaul/Transport Infrastructure
Backhaul or Transport Infrastructure is a network connection that transports data traffic to and from last mile aggregation to a Point-of-Presence.
Backhaul/Transport Path
This term describes the physical path that the Backhaul or Transport infrastructure takes.
A connection providing high speed internet access, that is, a communication service that enables access to the internet data at transmission rates above a specific threshold, which has been defined at speeds of 1.5mbps/household for our purposes, using all relevant technologies (i.e. xDSL, Cable Modem, Fixed Wireless etc.)
C Band Satellite System
A C Band Satellite System is a standard industry term for satellite systems that use the 3.5GHz and the 5.925GHz frequencies. C Band systems usually require a 3.5 meter diameter dish and other significant infrastructure. Also see Ka Band or Ku Band satellite.
Cable (Co-Axial)
Is a cable with a single metal core wire surrounded by an insulator and shielded jacket. This construction permits the transport of high frequency signals moderately long distances with high reliability. Mostly known for use in the home television consumer and consumer Internet cable business.
Cable Modem
A Cable Modem is a small device that allows the connection of a PC to a local cable TV line.
Capacity Dedicated
While network Capacity may be dedicated, it is not considered "guaranteed" unless there is an existing service level agreement specifying it.
Capacity Dedicated Guaranteed
Is a connection with an explicit service level agreement.
Capacity Shared / Best Effort
Many types of network systems have dynamic sharing between customers. Those types of systems do their best to permit fair use of the Shared Capacity.
Cellular Services
Cellular services typically support predominately mobile devices. While there are still some older systems in service that only support voice, today most will support voice and data transport. The newest cellular installations advertise high data transport speeds. Cellular services often are more expensive (per bit) to the user than other non-mobile data services.
The ability to access infrastructure required to receive telecommunications services. Often used to mean the availability of services.
Consumer Broadband
A service that supports most of the modern applications that an individual would typically expect in general use. See 'satellite' or 'terrestrial' for explanations of the two main technologies used to deliver consumer broadband.
Refers to connecting a device to a network via a modem and a public telephone network. Dial-up access is really just like a phone connection, except that the parties at the two ends are computer devices rather than people. Because dial-up access uses normal telephone lines, the quality of the connection is not always good and data rates are limited.
Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications. DOCSIS is a digital standards based signalling technology used for communications by most cable TV/data providers over their coaxial cable infrastructure. The latest version is called DOCSIS 3 and it supports a maximum data rate of 172Mb/s. The DOCSIS digital signal is usually subdivided into smaller bandwidth "channels" to provide a variety of service package speeds to customers. In each of the customer locations, a small "cable modem" converts the DOCSIS digital data stream into standard Ethernet format for connection to computers or wireless routers.
Describes a flow of data from the Internet to an end user  customer.
Ethernet (10, 100, 1000Mb/s)
Telecommunications protocol introduced by Xerox Corp. in 1976. It was developed for sending information quickly between office machines/computers connected together in a single room or building. The original data rate of 10 Mbps has been increased to 100 Mbps for a new standard known as fast Ethernet. The original specification required coaxial cable but costs have been reduced through the use of simple paired copper wires. There are many variants of Ethernet in common use. Ethernet implementations operate over almost all physical infrastructures currently in use.
Ethernet Switching
Is a method of connecting multiple computers within one Local Area Network (LAN).
Describes a single strand of optical glass within a cable comprised of multiple strands of optical glass that are bundled together to carry broadband data.
Fibre Optic Cabling (single-mode)
Began commercial deployment in the mid 1980s and now has become the preferred delivery infrastructure used by industry. Its long service life, resiliency, and almost limitless transport capacity has led to it being referred to as "future proof".
First Nation Community
The longitude/ latitude location chosen as the area of selection for tracking First Nation connectivity metrics for the purposes of this study. While in most cases, this location is on a reserve, in some instances, it is the area where there is the most number of First Nations aggregated within a particular community, irrespective of land registration status. The priority for this data collection exercise is to ensure that largest populated area is connected, and that every community has at least one access point.
Fixed Radio
Often referred to simply as wireless or Wi-Fi, this transport uses radio signals of a wide variety of types and capacities from one fixed point to another and is typically terminated at a consumer dwelling for the provision of consumer broadband Internet service. While it often uses license exempt radio spectrum, some systems do use licensed radio spectrum.
Fixed Wireless
A system that uses wireless or radio signals to transport data from a fixed location such as a house or office.
Fibre Optic cabling to the Node. Used to describe where a fibre optic cable is taken to a central point in a neighbourhood and from that point the digital traffic is divided and taken to the individual residences.
Fibre to the Premise. There are several methods of taking fibre optic cabling to the home, building, or premise. FTTP captures them all. Not all the various methods have experienced adoption and deployment due to varying economic costs. One that has been deployed due to economic feasibility is GPON.
Gigabit-enabled Passive Optical Network is a system based on fibre optic cabling to the residence that relies on many passive components to achieve a superior price point or cost of deployment, while capitalizing on the benefits of fibre optics. The use of passive components limits the ongoing maintenance cost of this infrastructure. (FTTP)
HSPA Cellular Data
High Speed Packet Access is a packet based telecom protocol used to increase data transmission capacity and speed. Not all cellular networks are HSPA enabled.
Industrial/Institutional Capable Broadband
Is a service that supports most of the modern applications that an institution would typically expect to use such as real-time video conferencing used in telehealth, processing real-time transactions, sharing and collaboration on large files i.e., GIS and high volumes of new data.
Internet Service Provider
An organization that offers its customers access to the Internet.
Last Mile Network Technology
This is a technology used to link customers in a community or smaller area.
Legacy Low Speed
This is a term used to describe dial-up services and other slow (non-broadband) technologies that no longer are sufficient for most modern applications in general use.
Microwave Radio
While is similar in characteristic with Fixed Radio, Microwave Radio is typically used as a commercial "trunking" or back-haul technology. It often is designed for very high capacity and is generally more expensive to implement than Fixed Radio, due to the commercial design of the equipment deployed. Microwave Radio almost exclusively uses licensed radio spectrum.
Mobile Cellular Data Radio
Mobile Cellular Data Radio is a general term used to describe the transport of network data over the mobile cellular infrastructure.
Multimode Fibre
Optical fibre used for telecommunication data transmission over short distances, such as within a building, campus or patch cord between two switching equipment. Multimode fibre typically has data transmission rates of up to 10Gbps for distances up to 500 meters.
Singlemode Fibre
Optical fibre used for telecommunication data transmission over long distances, such as from one switching centre to another switching centre, some distance away. Singlemode fibre typically has data transmission rates of up to 10Tbps for distances up to 50km.
Network Service Provider
A network service provider (NSP) is a company that provides backbone services to an Internet service provider (ISP), the company that most Web users use for access to the Internet.
A facility where Internet service providers house servers, routers, switches and other communications equipment. A PoP is where an Internet service providers' last mile infrastructure connects to an Internet gateway.
Radio Spectrum
Radio Spectrum is a term used to describe a collection of radio frequencies. Most frequencies require a licence from Industry Canada, although there are a limited number of "licence free" frequencies that are sometimes utilized by service providers.
Relative Customer Onetime Cost
Capital installation costs (which are usually a one-time expense). This term is used to generalize the "Relationship" between various kinds of infrastructure to indicate which are more expensive than others generally.
Relative Customer Operational Cost
Operational costs (which usually recur on a monthly basis). This term is used to generalize the "Relationship" between various kinds of infrastructure to indicate which are more expensive than others generally.
Satellite Broadband
Satellite services are mature offerings that use an orbiting transponder located in a geostationary orbit approximately 22,300 miles (37,000km) in an area near the equator. Due to the large signal transit delays (referred to as high latency), users often confuse the apparent slow response of applications due to the latency, with the condition of insufficient bandwidth. This confusion is often compounded by the fact that some systems often do have limited bandwidth and a large pool of customers sharing the limited bandwidth that is available (large fan-out). Some digital applications do not work well with high latency. While satellite prices have dropped considerably in the last few years, priced by the bit, they are still somewhat expensive. Current commercial systems use one of 3 frequency bands (C Band, Ka Band, Ku Band). Ka and Ku Band systems use very small dish shaped antennas suitable for mounting on the sides of a house easily. C Band systems typically use a single receiving dish that is greater than 2.3 meters in diameter which require an extensive concrete base. Signals from the C band equipment are then transported by other means (such as Fixed Wireless) to the individual residences or business locations. The larger size of the C Band dish raises the cost of the installation considerably.
Satellite System Transponder Hubs
Each satellite system has a central point operated by the provider where it gathers up the signals sent from various remote sites so that they may hand that traffic to the Internet or other central networking location. The equipment used by these satellite service providers are called Transponder Hubs.
Service Level Agreements
Service Level Agreements are contracts that outline the network providers responsibility with regards to network service features or support response times.
A symmetric network connection has the same speed inbound and outbound. See asymmetric in contrast.
T1 - T3
Are designators for a signalling scheme devised by Bell Labs (Bellcore standard GR-139-CORE). A T1 has a signalling rate of 1.544Mb/s and is a full duplex transport and a T3 respectively transports 44.736Mb/s.This is a very mature technology, but is considered legacy and is slowly being phased out in many areas. "T" technology pricing is "regulated" by the CRTC in some Canadian market areas.
Underserved Household
A household that does not get Industry Canada's standard of 1.5Mb/s to their house.
Unserved Household
A household that is not connected.
Describes a flow of data from an end point customer headed to the Internet or other network centric point.
A term used to describe technology that uses radio frequencies rather than wires to transport service. See 'Fixed Radio'.
Is a telecom protocol that provides fixed and mobile Internet access/last mile.
Wireless Broadband
Used interchangeably to indicate Cellular services, Fixed services, and Microwave Radio depending on the context. Fixed Wireless typically provides the most economical digital internet service in remote geographically rugged locations that have low population densities and little existing communications infrastructure. Cellular services typically support mobile services and are more expensive (per bit) to the user and require a certain density of users in a geographical area to be profitable for the operator.
Use to describe technology and service that transport signals wirelessly via radio frequencies.


This document was developed with the assistance and technical expertise of several Provincial Ministries, Federal Departments as well as First Nation Organizations. Thank you to all individuals who have contributed toward this content.