What Is Internet Uplink?

By Gina Poirier

One correct use of the term "uplink" refers to satellite transmissions.
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People use the term "uplink" in three different ways in in the context of Internet transmissions. Sometimes they also use it incorrectly, confusing it with a similar networking term. Understanding all of the possible correct and incorrect uses of the phrase "Internet uplink" should help you determine what it means in any context.

Satellite Uplink

People commonly use the term "uplink" in satellite communications. An uplink is the radio wave transmission travelling from transmitter on the ground to a satellite. It is contrasted with a "downlink," which is the connection from a satellite towards one or more ground receivers. Some people subscribe to satellite Internet services, particularly if they are in an area that does not have access to DSL or cable modem Internet. In this context, an Internet uplink would refer to the connection from a computer or server to a satellite.

Mobile Device Uplink

Some wireless Internet service providers refer to the term "uplink" as specific connection in wireless networking. If you're using a smartphone, laptop or tablet and subscribe to one of these services, your device connects to the Internet through towers that send and receive radio signals. When your mobile device sends, or uploads, data to a server through one of these towers, this is the Internet uplink part of the networking process. Conversely, the downlink is the connection from the Internet server back to your device.

Uplink Ports

An uplink port is a hardware component on a computer networking device such as a hub, router or switch. In computer networking you sometimes need specific cables called crossover cables to connect two similar devices, such as two computers or two switches; otherwise they can't communicate with each other. An uplink port eliminates the need for crossover cables by making the necessary networking direction switch internal. This allows people to connect two similar devices without the clutter of extra cables.

Uplink Vs. Upstream

Sometimes the terms "uplink" and "upstream" are confused in Internet transmissions. An upstream transmission is communication that a computer or other type of Internet user sends to a server. While the two terms describe similar concepts, upstream is a broader adjective that describes the directional flow of any type of transmission, while uplink is a noun that specifically refers to wireless transmission directed towards either a satellite or a tower.