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Industry Terms



Wireless Industry Terms

The industry has been inundated with terms, technical jargon and acronyms borrowed from the computer and wireline sectors, such as CLEC, TCP/IP, flash memory and smart card. Other terms are uniquely wireless: FLEX, TETRA, 3G and TDMA.

To help keep up with the changes in the words our industry uses every day, NSIS compiled this Wireless Dictionary. Besides technical and business terms, the glossary also includes some financial and legal usage often used in Wireless Industry.

| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

1.5-way paging: Refers to guaranteed message receipt or advanced messaging, ensuring subscribers receive messages sent when they're out of range, but users cannot send text pages. Two-way paging allows users to send and receive. Coined by SkyTel Communications Inc.

1.7-way paging: A paging service that offers more than guaranteed messaging but not as much as full two-way paging. The subscriber has limited response messaging, such as canned messages, rather than the ability to create responses.

1996 Telecommunications Act: Legislation designed to spur competition among wireless and wireline carriers. Signed into law by President Clinton Feb. 8, 1996.

3G: The next generation of wireless technology beyond personal communications services. The World Administrative Radio Conference assigned 230 megahertz of spectrum at 2 GHz for multimedia 3G networks. These networks must be able to transmit wireless data at 144 kilobits per second at mobile user speeds, 384 kbps at pedestrian user speeds and 2 megabits per second in fixed locations. The International Telecommunication Union seeks to coordinate 3G standards through its International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project. In early July, the ITU received 10 proposals for 3G systems and is currently holding a series of meetings to evaluate the specifications.

5ESS: A registered trademark name for Lucent Technologies Inc.'s electronic switching system.

802.11: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers standard for wireless local area network interoperability.



A/B switch: Allows a user to change their wireless phone from one carrier to another through the keyboard (older phones actually had a physical switch to do the same thing).

A-Band cellular: In the U.S. cellular duopoly, the alternative carrier to the regional Bell operating company's cellular subsidiary.

Abbreviated dialing: A feature on wireless phones where you enter just one or two digits from the keypad and then initiate the call.  The phone searches its speed dial directory and associates the entire number with the two-digit speed dial position you’ve entered.

Access charge: The fixed part of the monthly fee that carriers charge to subscribers.  Sometimes this charge includes a certain amount of minutes of usage.

Access fee: A special fee that local phone companies are allowed to charge customers for the right to connect with the local phone network. Cellular subscribers contribute to access fees and pay a federal 3 percent telephone excise tax.

Activation fee: A charge imposed by carriers for the processing and activation of wireless phone service.

Adaptive array antennas: A type of advanced smart antenna technology that continually monitors a received signal and dynamically adapts signal patterns to optimize wireless system performance. The arrays use signal processing algorithms to adapt to user movement, changes in the radio-frequency environment and multipath and co channel interference.

Adaptive power control: Technique employed by wireless infrastructure systems that lowers the power of a signal in a cell site whenever the site detects that the user’s phone is close to the source of the signal.  This saves power in the phone, too, but the cell site tells the phone to lower its power, thus saving battery life.

Adjacent channel interference: Signal impairment to one frequency due to presence of another signal on a nearby frequency.

Affiliate: Companies that assist larger carriers with building out a nationwide network; the affiliate may use the primary carrier's brand name, network operations, customer service or other facilities.

Agent: A company, retail store or other establishment that has a relationship with one or more carriers that guarantees them a commission, and sometimes a residual payment, for each wireless phone subscriber that they sign up through their facility.  These establishments typically are allowed to display the carrier’s logo, but cannot claim any direct employment or contractual relationship with them.

AIN (advanced intelligent network): Introduced by AT&T Network Systems in 1991. Enables service providers to define, test and introduce new multimedia messaging, PCS and cell routing.

Air interface: The standard operating system of a wireless network; technologies include AMPS, TDMA, CDMA and GSM.

Airtime: Actual time spent using a wireless phone.

A-key: A secret number issued to a cellular phone that is used in conjunction with a subscriber's shared secret data information for authentication

Alphanumeric: A display, message or readout that contains both letters and numbers. Synonymous with text paging or messaging.

AMPS (advanced mobile phone service): The analog cellular standard.

AMTA (American Mobile Telecommunications Association): A Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing specialized mobile radio operators.

Analog: The original form of cellular service, launched in October, 1983 in the U.S. (and earlier elsewhere).  This service uses a waveform transmission instead of the zeros and ones that a digital system uses.  It is more prone to interference, static, eavesdropping and cloning than digital systems, but is still deployed in many parts of the world where the advanced technology (and higher cost) of digital systems is not deemed necessary. 

ANSI (American National Standards Institute): A U.S. standards group.

Antenna: A metallic rod that typically extends from a wireless phone or cell site from which the electrical signal that is transmitted emanates from.  Cell sites might have different antennas for transmitting and receiving.  Wireless phones might have either small, fixed antennas (called “stubbies”) or retractable antennas.  Newer phone models have “intennas,” which are antennas that are not visible to the user because they are housed completely inside the phone unit.

APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International): Trade group headquartered in South Daytona, Fla., representing law enforcement, fire, emergency services and other public-safety agency dispatchers and communications employees.

ARIB (Association of Radio Industries and Businesses): The Japanese standards-setting organization.

ARPU (average revenue per unit): One indicator of a wireless business' operating performance. ARPU measures the average monthly revenue generated for each customer unit, such as a cellular phone or pager, that a carrier has in operation. Severely declining ARPU typically is a negative sign that may indicate a carrier is adding too many low-revenue generating customers to its rolls.

ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit): An integrated circuit tailored for a particular piece of electronic equipment. It is intended for sale to only one company and typically developed to meet that company's design objectives for a particular application. Not to be confused with an application specific standard processor, which, like an ASIC, is designed for use in a particular piece of equipment but is intended for sale to multiple companies.

ATM (automatic teller machine):Referring to financial applications using smart cards.

ATM (asynchronous transfer mode): A high-speed, high-bandwidth transmission technology.

Attenuation: A loss of signal strength caused by distance (“free-space loss”) or other physical factors like terrain, buildings and foliage.

Authentication: A fraud prevention technology that takes a number of values--including a 26-character handset identifier or A-Key, not sent over the air--to create a shared secret value used to verify a user's authenticity.

Authentication center: A protected database that stores and processes secret keys required to authenticate wireless telephones

Auto PC: An in-vehicle combination AM/FM radio, Windows CE-based computer, compact disc and CD-ROM player, wireless phone and navigational system. The units are about the size of a typical car stereo.

AVL (automatic vehicle location): Combining a location-sensing device (such as a GPS receiver) with a wireless communications link to provide a home office or dispatcher with the location of a vehicle or mobile asset (such as a trailer or heavy machinery).


B-Band cellular: In the U.S. cellular duopoly, the regional Bell operating company's cellular subsidiary.

Bag phone: An older type of phone, more technically referred to as a transportable, that provides the advantages of an A/C adaptor for unlimited power, an external antenna for better coverage and greater output that creates a stronger signal than a portable phone can offer.

Bandwidth: A relative range of frequencies that can carry a signal without distortion on a transmission medium. Sometimes referred to as a "pipe."

Base station controller: The part of the wireless system’s infrastructure that controls one or multiple cell sites’ radio signals, thus reducing the load on the switch.  It can be viewed as a form of distributed processing.

Base transceiver station:  (BTS): The portion of the wireless system’s infrastructure that is responsible for sending and receiving the actual radio signals over the airwaves.  This device takes radio signals from subscribers’ phones and sends them over leased telephone lines or microwave signals to the switch.

B-CDMA (broadband code division multiple access): A technology developed by InterDigital Communications Corp.

Bent pipe technology: Satellite technology to transmit calls from one point on Earth to a satellite and back down to another point.

Bidding credits: Discount sometimes given to small businesses in FCC spectrum auctions.

Big LEO: Low-earth orbit satellite system that will offer voice and data services; e.g., Iridium, Globalstar.

Blocked calls: An uncompleted call made from a wireless phone.  Calls can be blocked for numerous reasons, but this typically refers to an instance where there are insufficient channels in a cell to handle the load of calls required.  When a call is attempted within that cell and no channels are available, the call is “blocked” and a fast busy signal is heard by the subscriber.

Bluetooth: The code name for a new wireless technology being developed by Ericsson Inc., Intel Corp., Nokia Corp. and Toshiba. The technology enables data connections between electronic devices such as desktop computers, wireless phones, electronic organizers and printers in the 2.4 GHz range. Bluetooth would replace cable or infrared connections for such devices.

Broadband: Using a wide-bandwidth channel for voice, data and/or video services.

Broadband PCS: Synonymous with personal communications services created in the A- through F-Block auctions and used for voice and data.

BTA (basic trading area): Usually composed of several contiguous counties. BTAs are a service area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC. There are 493 BTAs in the United States.

Build-to-suit: The process by which independent firms find and build antenna sites to meet a carrier's specifications.

Bundling: Grouping various telecommunications services--wireline and/or wireless--as a package to increase the appeal to potential customers and reduce advertising, marketing and other expenses associated with delivering multiple services. For example, a bundled package could include long distance, cellular, Internet and paging services.


CAD (computer-aided dispatch): Computer systems to help dispatch personnel and vehicles, commonly used by public-safety agencies.

CALEA (Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act): A 1994 law granting law enforcement agencies the ability to wiretap new digital networks and requiring wireless and wireline carriers to enable eavesdropping equipment use in digital networks.

Call Diversion: The term used for call forwarding on a GSM system.

Call Forwarding: A feature on both wired and wireless phones that sends calls to another number from that which was originally called.  A typical example would be to forward the calls from your office phone to your wireless phone when you are away from your office.

Call Timers: A feature on wireless phones that shows the user how long the current call has progressed, or how many minutes have been used cumulatively since the last time the “Total Call Timer” feature has been reset.

Caller ID: An enhanced feature that displays a caller's phone number on the wireless handset.

Calling party pays: This service bills the originator of a call to a wireless device rather than the receiver and is more common in other countries than in the United States. However, many U.S. carriers are pushing for calling party pays, since it would probably increase minutes of use.

Cap code: A pager's unique electronic identification number on the back of the device

CDMA (code division multiple access): A spread spectrum air interface technology used in some digital cellular, personal communications services and other wireless networks.

cdma2000: A third-generation wireless technology proposal submitted to the International Telecommunication Union, which is based on the IS-95, or cdmaOne, standard.

cdmaOne: The IS-95 CDMA standard developed by Qualcomm Inc.; a word coined by the CDMA Development Group.

CDPD (cellular digital packet data): An enhanced system overlay for transmitting and receiving data over cellular networks.

Cell: A geographic area within a wireless system that is covered by the signal sent and received by the transmitter and receiver equipment located within that area.   Typically referred to as a “cell site,” these are represented by hexagonal shapes by engineers when planning systems.  That shape was originally derived from the honeycomb of bees, within which each single unit is referred to as a cell. 

Cell site: The location where the wireless antenna and network communications equipment is placed.

Cell splitting: The process of creating more coverage and capacity in a geographic area by having more than one cell cover the same area that a single cell originally did.  Each cell then covers a smaller area, with lover power, and thus offers the ability to reuse frequencies more times in a larger geographic coverage area such as a city or MTA.

Cellular: The name given to the original concept of dividing a large geographic area into smaller coverage areas called cells.  Each cell handles calls on different channels and communicates with the central processing unit, called a switch, to facilitate the handing-off of calls from one cell to another as a user moves through the system.  Cellular is currently used in hundreds of countries worldwide and boasts more than 200 million subscribers.

Cellemetry: Brand name for Cellemetry LLC's telemetry service, which uses the cellular network to carry data messaging used for remote services such as utility meter reading, vending machine status and vehicle or trailer tracking.

Channel: Two radio frequencies, one used for sending and the other for receiving. 

Chapter 7: The section of the federal Bankrutpcy Code governing liquidation of insolvent companies in order to pay their creditors.

Chapter 11: The section of the federal Bankruptcy Code enabling distressed, but not necessarily insolvent, companies to seek protection from creditors while they reorganize their finances. The proceedings are governed by a bankruptcy court judge who must approve any plan of reorganization. Creditors can be represented in the proceedings and present alternative reorganization plans.

Charge back: The funds a carrier will "charge back" to an agent or dealer if a customer discontinues service shortly after buying the product.

Chip set: A combination of two or more integrated circuits on one module.

Churn: A measure of the number of subscribers who leave or switch to another carrier's service.

Citizen Alert Program: Program in which residents of a community patrol streets and school areas with wireless phones and notify police of suspicious or illegal activity.

ClassLink: A program of the CTIA Foundation providing wireless phones to schools for teacher use and student Internet access.

CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier): A new entrant providing local wireline phone service.

Click-box bidding: A method of bidding for FCC spectrum licenses in which the participant does not enter a bid amount but simply clicks on the computer screen to enter an amount shown. The method was first introduced in the auction of upper channel 800 MHz licenses in the fall of 1997.

Clone: A wireless phone programmed with stolen or duplicated electronic serial and mobile identification numbers.

CMRS (commercial mobile radio service): An FCC designation for any carrier or licensee whose wireless network is connected to the public switched telephone network and/or is operated for profit.

Co-branding: The use of two or more different brand names on a single product, such as wireless phones bearing the name and logo of both the manufacturer and wireless carrier.

Collocation: Placement of multiple antennas at a common physical site to reduce environmental impact and real estate costs and speed zoning approvals and net work deployment. Collocation can be affected by competitive and interference factors. Some companies act as brokers, arranging for sites and coordinating several carriers' antennas at a single site.

COLT (cell site on light truck): A mobile site on a vehicle placed at a location to fill in or increase coverage.

Components: Semiconductors and smaller elements used in handsets and infrastructure equipment.

Content services: Paging service, beyond telephone number alerts, that include news and sports headlines, personalized stock quotes, driving directions, restaurant reviews and information contained on Internet sites.

Control channel: A logic channel carrying network information rather than the actual voice or data messages transmitted over the network.

Cost Recovery: Reimbursement to CMRS providers of both recurring and nonrecurring costs associated with any services, operation, administration or maintenance of wireless E911 service. Costs include, but are not limited to, the costs of design, development, upgrades, equipment, software and other expenses associated with the implementation of wireless E911 service.

"Covered" SMR: A subset of specialized mobile radio operators subject to a particular set of regulations. A definition developed in December 1997 during the implementation of E911 regulations encompasses operators whose networks use intelligent switching capabilities and offer seamless hand-off to customers. An earlier, broader definition, still applicable in other contexts, encompasses operators that provided two-way, real-time voice services across geographic license areas in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands.

COW (cell site on wheels): A mobile site placed at a location to fill in or increase coverage.

CPE (consumer premise equipment): Telephones, PBXs and other communications devices located in the home or office.

CPNI (customer proprietary network information): The carrier's data about a specific customer's service and usage. The FCC restricts CPNI use in marketing, banning win-back efforts specifically aimed at high-usage customers who have quit a network.

Cracker: Slang term for someone who breaks an encrypted computer code or circuitry.

Crosstalk: Interference in a wireless communications system that stems from other conversations in nearby cells using the same channel.

CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association): A trade group representing cellular, PCS and enhanced specialized mobile radio carriers.

Customer acquisition cost: The average cost to a carrier of signing up an individual subscriber. Some of the factors included in the cost are handset subsidies, marketing, advertising and promotions.


D-AMPS (digital AMPS): Used by Ericsson Inc. to describe IS-136 time division multiple access technology.

DCS 1800 (digital cellular system): A global system for mobile communications-based PCS network used outside of the U.S.

DCMA (dynamic channel multicarrier architecture): A technology developed by ComSpace Corp. used for specialized mobile radio networks that can configure the number and bandwidth of voice and data channels based on a carrier's requirements.

De minimus: Having such minimal impact as to not influence the matter at hand. Costs of providing a service, for instance, may be so low that the party requesting the service sees them as de minimus and an invalid reason for not offering a service.

Dead spot: An area within a wireless communications system where there is no coverage.  This can occur because an cell site cannot be located close enough to the area without coverage, or because two signals on the same channel interfere with each other, causing them to “phase out” the other signal.

DECT (digital European cordless telephone): Used as a cordless phone and wireless office phone system in Europe.

DEMS (digital electronic message service): The FCC wants to relocate this service from 18 GHz to 24 GHz.

Digital: The newest form of wireless communications that takes all voice transmissions and converts them to computer language (zeros and ones, or “binary” language) and then reconstructs them into the original voice format at the other end.  More secure than its original sibling, analog, and also relatively impervious to static or fading signals. 

Disaggregation: The splitting of a spectrum license into two or more licenses of fewer frequencies.

DISCO II: FCC proceeding on domestic-international satellite service consolidation.

Downlink: The portion of a telecommunications path from a satellite to the ground. Also referred to as the reverse link.

Drive test: A method of taking signal strength measurements in a cellular coverage area.

Driver distraction: A key concern of transportation and law enforcement agencies, wireless carriers and other entities, driver distraction is a diversion of attention caused by many factors. Factors can include changing a compact disc or cassette tape, tuning a broadcast radio dial, eating or drinking or talking on cellular phones. The wireless industry has launched a consumer education campaign to emphasize safe cellular use while driving.

Dropped Call: A wireless call that is unintentionally disconnected due to a system problem, lack of channel availability or dead spot in coverage.

DSP (digital signal processor): A specialized microprocessor that performs mathematical operations on a data stream in real time to produce a second (modified) data stream.

DTV (digital television): The next generation of video and audio technology for TV broadcasters. Often synonymous with high-definition television or HDTV. According to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, broadcasters can offer "ancillary and supplementary services" such as paging and data in addition to video programming.

Dual band: Describes a handset that works on 800 MHz cellular and 1900 MHz PCS frequencies.

Dual mode: Describes a handset that works on both analog and digital networks.

Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF): The sounds made by a phone’s keypad when a button is pressed.  Each button emits a sound that is actually the combination of two specific sounds in order to minimize the possibility of an incorrect signal being received by the equipment listening to the press of the buttons.


E911 (enhanced 911): 911 service becomes E911 when automatic number identification and automatic location information is provided to the 911 operator.

EA license (economic area license): Geographically defined licenses based on 176 "economic areas" delineated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce. EAs can be grouped into 52 larger "major economic areas" or 12 "regional economic area groupings."

ECO test (effective competitive opportunities test): Developed to determine whether U.S. carriers enjoy effective competition in a foreign carrier's market before granting U.S. market access to that foreign carrier. Following the Basic Telecom Agreement signed by World Trade Organization members in February, 1997, the FCC decided not to apply the ECO test to WTO members.

EDACS (enhanced digital access communications system): A private radio or specialized mobile radio network designed by Ericsson Inc.

EDGE (enhanced data rates for global (or GSM) evolution), an advanced technology for GSM and TDMA networks that may offer wireless data access speeds of up to 384 kilobits per second in end-user devices.

Eighth floor: The eighth floor of the FCC headquarters at 1919 M St., Washington, D.C., where the commissioners' offices are located. Commonly used to refer collectively to the commissioners. May become obsolete when the commission relocates to The Portals.

Electronic assistant: Generic term for telecommunications access systems based on voice-activation or voice-response technology, enabling the user to dial phone numbers or send and receive information such as voice messages or other content. Systems may be network based, such as Wildfire Communications Inc.'s Wildfire, or offered via a service bureau, such as General Magic Inc.'s Portico or Motorola Inc.'s planned Myosphere.

Encryption: The process of "scrambling" a message such as a digital phone signal to prevent it from being read by unauthorized parties.

Equal Access: Allows long-distance carriers the opportunity to bid for access to local carrier's customer's LD subscription.

ERMES (European radio messaging system): A paging system used in Europe and other parts of the world.

ESMR (enhanced specialized mobile radio): Digital SMR networks, usually referring to Nextel Communications Inc., which provide dispatch, voice, messaging and data services.

ESN (electronic serial number): The unique identification number embedded in a wireless phone by the manufacturer. Each time a call is placed, the ESN is automatically transmitted to the base station so the wireless carrier's mobile switching office can check the call's validity. The ESN cannot be altered in the field. The ESN differs from the mobile identification number, which is the wireless carrier's identifier for a phone in the network. MINs and ESNs can be electronically checked to help prevent fraud.

ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute): A standards-setting body in Europe.

Ex parte: Statements, meetings or filings that are made outside of an official comment-and-replay period. They must be reported and a summary of them made available in the public record.


FAC: Certified frequency advisory committee, also known as a frequency coordinator.

Fault-tolerant: A method of making a network system or a computer resistant to software errors, hardware problems or power failures.

FCC (Federal Communications Commission): The federal agency responsible for commercial and private spectrum management.

Feature Group D: Local exchange carrier network service that, among other things, lets public-safety dispatch offices receive a 10-digit data stream, including the full call-back number, alongside wireless 911 calls. Offered as a way by which wireless carriers can meet FCC enhanced 911 rules and dispatch offices can overcome their current bandwidth limits.

FHMA (frequency hopping multiple access): A digital technology used in Geotek Communications Inc.'s specialized mobile radio network.

FLEX: A Motorola Inc.-licensed protocol that gives carriers more capacity on their networks and faster transmission times. Also refers to the FLEX family of protocols: FLEX, InFLEXion and ReFLEX.

Flash memory: A component used for memory that can retain information without power.

Flash ROM: A class of Electrically Alterable Programmable Read Only Memory (EAPROM), the contents of which can be altered in the field, normally without disassembly of the product containing the memory. Maintains data in absence of power.

FNPRM (further notice of proposed rulemaking): A document issued by the FCC to spur additional comment on a future commission action.

Foliage attenuation: Reductions in signal strength or quality due to signal absorption by trees or foliage obstructions in the signal's line-of-sight path. For example, 800 MHz systems are seldom deployed in forested areas. Pine needles-nearly the same length as 800 MHz antennas-can negatively affect signal reception in that band.

Forward looking: An action that ignores the past, particularly previous investment. Often used regarding FCC efforts to set interconnection terms; its forward-looking price-setting method ignored phone companies' historic network costs and was struck down by a federal appeals court.

Frame Relay: Wideband, packet-based interface used to transmit bursts of data over a wide-area network. Seldom used for voice.

Frequency reuse: The ability of specific channels assigned to a single cell to be used again in another cell, when there is enough distance between the two cells to prevent co-channel interference from affecting service quality. The technique enables a cellular system to increase capacity with a limited number of channels.

FRS (Family Radio Service): A very low power, short range two-way radio service in the 460 MHz band.

Full-Duplex: The radio term applied to transmissions such as telephone calls that allow talking and listening at the same time by using two frequencies to create one channel.  Each frequency is used solely for either transmitting or receiving.

FWA (fixed wireless access): Also known as wireless local loop.


Gateway: Ground-based link to a mobile satellite service network.

Geosynchronous: Maintaining a fixed orbit, about 24,000 miles above the Earth.

Geostationary orbit satellite system: A communications system with satellites in geosynchronous orbits 22,300 miles above the Earth. These satellites appear stationary because they move at the same rate as the Earth's rotation.

Gigahertz (GHz): One billion radio waves, or cycles, per second.  Equal to one thousand Megahertz.

GLONASS (global navigation system): A Russian satellite location technology similar to global positioning system.

GMPCS (global mobile personal communications services): A term that refers to future mobile satellite systems that will provide wireless phone service anywhere in the world.

GPRS (general packet radio services), a 2.5-generation technology (being implemented in GSM networks) that may offer wireless data access speeds of up to 144 kilobits per second in end-user devices.

GPS (global positioning system): A series of 24 geosynchronous satellites that continuously transmit their position. Used in personal tracking, navigation and automatic vehicle location technologies.

Gray market: May refer to a place where a carrier bought a product from another carrier, not direct from a vendor or the vendor's distribution channel. The exact location of the seller/buyer is unknown to the manufacturer.

GSM (global system for mobile communications): A digital cellular or PCS network used throughout the world.

GSM-Plus: An enhanced version of global system for mobile communications technology that will be developed to meet IMT-2000 capabilities.

GSM-R: Global system for mobile communications for railway networks. GSM-R uses standard base station and switching infrastructure to provide fast data transmission for railways.

GUI (graphical user interface): A computing term referring to an operating system or environment that displays options on the screen as graphical symbols, icons or photographs.


Hacker: A person or group that gains access to secured computer networks for pleasure or challenge, sometimes to steal information or to sabotage the system.

Half-Duplex: The radio term applied to transmissions which allow two-way communications over a single frequency through the use of a push-to-talk button that opens and closes the communication pathway over that frequency.

Handheld personal computer: A palmtop device or personal digital assistant that can wirelessly access e-mail, paging messages and the Internet/intranets.

Handoff: The process occurring when a wireless network automatically switches a mobile call to an adjacent cell site.

Hands-free: A feature for mobile phones that allows the driver to use their car phone without lifting or holding the handset to their ear

HDML (handheld device markup language): Written to allow Inter net access from wireless devices such as handheld personal computers and smart phones. Derived from hypertext markup language. One version of HDML is Unwired Planet Inc.'s UP.Link.

HDTV (high definition television): Digital television signals transmitted in the very high frequency band by national and local TV stations. HDTV promises improved image broadcasts and compact disc-quality sound.

Hertz (Hz): A unit of measurement of one cycle per second, or one radio wave passing one point in one second of time.  Named in honor of Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer of the theory of radio waves.

High-yield or junk financing: Bonds or other debts incurred by companies considered speculative or below "investment grade" by major credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service, Duff & Phelps or Fitch. Because a lender to such companies takes on a greater risk that the borrower will default-a typical risk with startup companies in PCS or financially stressed companies in paging-the borrower will pay a higher interest rate or yield on the loan.

HLR (home location register): A database residing in a local wireless network that checks the identity of a local subscriber.


iDEN (integrated digital enhanced network): A Motorola Inc. enhanced specialized mobile radio network technology that combines two-way radio, telephone, text messaging and data transmission into one network.

ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier): The historic local phone service provider in a market, often a former Bell company. Distinct from CLECs, competitive local exchange carriers, new market entrants.

Immunity: Immunity has special meaning in a 911 context. No CMRS or 911 provider, its employees, officers or agents is criminally liable or liable for any damages in a civil action for injuries, death or loss to person or property resulting from any act or omission in connection with the development, adoption, implementation, maintenance, enhancement or operation of E911 service, unless such damage or injury was intentional or the result of gross negligence or willful or wanton conduct.

Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS): The commercial form of mobile telephone service preceding cellular that allowed users to place and receive their own calls through the use of a dial or keypad on the telephone.  Prior service (MTS) required an operator’s intervention to actually place or receive a call.

IMT-2000: The International Telecommunication Union's name for the new third generation global standard for mobile telecommunications.

IMTA (International Mobile Telecommunications Association): A trade group serving specialized mobile radio and public access mobile radio carriers around the world.

InFLEXion: The narrowband PCS technology developed by Motorola Inc. that allows for voice paging. It has been adopted by carriers such as Paging Network Inc. and Conxus Communications Inc.

Interconnection: The connecting of one network with another, e.g. a cellular carrier's wireless network with the local exchange.

Interconnection Charge: A fee charged by the local telephone operating company to the wireless operator for completing a call into the landline network (the PSTN). 

Interoperability: the ability of a network to operate with other networks, such as two systems based on different protocols or technologies.

IS (Interim Standard): A designation of the American National Standards Institute--usually followed by a number--that refers to an accepted industry protocol; e.g, IS-95, IS-136, IS-54.

IS-41: The network standard that allows all switches to exchange information about subscribers.

IS-54: The first generation of the digital standard time division multiple access technology.

IS-95: The standard for code division multiple access.

IS-136: The latest generation of the digital standard time division multiple access technology.

IS-661: North American standard for 1.9 GHz wireless spread spectrum radio-frequency access technology developed by Omnipoint Corp. IS-661, for which Omnipoint was awarded a pioneer's preference license for the New York City market, is based on a composite of code division multiple access and time division multiple access technologies. The company says IS-661 reduces infrastructure costs and allows higher data speeds than mainstream GSM or TDMA platforms.

ISDN (integrated services digital network): An advanced, high-capacity wireline technology used for high-speed data transfer.

ITA (Industrial Telecommunications Association): A Washington, D.C. trade group serving private wireless licensees such as airlines and oil companies.

ITU (International Telecommunication Union): An agency of the United Nations, headquartered in Geneva, that furthers the development of telecommunications services worldwide and oversees global allocation of spectrum for future uses.


Ka-Band: Radio spectrum in the 18 GHz to 31 GHz range used by satellite communications systems.

Kilohertz (KHz): One thousand radio waves, or cycles, per second.

Ku-Band: Radio spectrum in the 10.9 GHz to 17 GHz range used by satellite communications systems.


LAN (local area network): A group of client computers connected to a server.

LBR: Low bit rate

LEC (local exchange carrier): A wireline phone company serving a local area.

LEO (low-earth orbit): A mobile communications satellite between 700 and 2,000 kilometers above the earth.

LifePage: A service of the PCIA Foundation that donates pagers to individuals awaiting organ donor transplants.

Lithium Ion: The latest form of battery technology, allowing the highest power-to-weight ratio (lots of power for very little weight) and no “memory effect,” which plagues batteries made from other materials.

Little LEO: A low-earth orbiting satellite system primarily providing data services; e.g., Leo One, Orbcomm.

LMCC (Land Mobile Communications Council): A trade group of frequency coordinators and associations serving private users and commercial operators.

LMDS (local mulitpoint distribution service): Located in the 28 GHz and 31 GHz bands, LMDS is a broadband radio service designed to provide two-way transmission of voice, high-speed data and video (wireless cable TV). FCC rules prohibit incumbent local exchange carriers and cable TV companies from offering in-region LMDS.

LNP (local number portability): The ability of subscribers to switch local or wireless carriers and still retain the same phone number, as they can now with long-distance carriers. Wireless carriers don't have to offer LNP until March 2000 and want the deadline further postponed.

Local calling area: The region across which the call is truly local, involving no toll charges.

LSGAC (Local-State Governmental Advisory Committee): An FCC-established group that is working on an antenna-siting solution. The LSGAC will advise carriers and communities on antenna siting.


Medium-Earth orbit satellite system: A communications system with satellites in orbits about 10,000 kilometers above the Earth. Such systems include those planned by Odyssey Telecommunications International Inc., scheduled to launch in 2000, and ICO Global Communications, launching in 1998.

Megahertz (MHz): One million radio waves, or cycles, per second.  Equal to one thousand Kilohertz.

Messaging: Synonymous with text paging, e-mail or short messages received on alphanumeric pagers and other wireless devices.

Microcell (also Picocell and Nanocell): A cell having a very small coverage area, which could be as small as one floor of an office building, one part of an airline terminal or one corner of a busy intersection.  These cells are typically used where coverage and/or capacity is strained and the use of a normal sized cell would cause interference or be impractical to install.  These cells transmit with extremely low power outputs. 

Microcellular: A technology that directs the cellular signal into an isolated spot, leaving broader coverage to conventional cell sites.

Middleware: Middleware is the "mix-and-match" communications software that acts as a universal translator between diverse radio frequency technologies and protocols. Middleware physically re sides on the remote client and on a communications server, located between the client and the applications server. The software eases computing and communicating with corporate information and encourages applications development, making wireless data more attractive to corporate customers.

MIN (mobile identification number): Uniquely identifies a mobile unit within a wireless carrier's network. The MIN often can be dialed from other wireless or wireline networks. The number differs from the electronic serial number, which is the unit number assigned by a phone manufacturer. MINs and ESNs can be electronically checked to help prevent fraud.

MIPS (millions of instructions per second): Used in defining digital signal processing capabilities.

Moratoria: Moratoria (the singular form is moratorium) are waiting periods on the issuance of construction permits by local zoning authorities. Moratoria are typically imposed to allow time for localities to develop or refine ordinances dealing with antenna siting issues. However, they have been used by some localities as tools to delay or block the rollout and/or expansion of wireless networks. Such usage has resulted in lawsuits by carriers.

Modem pools: Racks of modems for more reliable cellular data communications.

MOU (minutes of use): A measurement of wireless subscriber activity directly affecting revenue.

MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group): Standard set by the International Telecommunications Union for Telephony (ITU-T).

MSA (metropolitan statistical area): The coverage area of a city as in a cellular network. A U.S. Census Bureau term.

MTA (major trading area): MTAs are usually composed of several contiguous basic trading areas. A service area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC. There are 51 MTAs in the United States.

MTSO (mobile telephone switching office): The electronic "middleman" between cell sites and the public switched telephone network, processing traffic back and forth.

Multipath propagation: Signal distortion resulting when part of a transmitted radio-frequency signal is reflected from nearby surfaces on its way to a receiver. The "ghosting" effect on television screens illustrates the multipath phenomenon.

Mutual compensation: The concept that carriers must pay when they terminate traffic on the networks of carriers with which they are interconnected.

Mutually exclusive applications: Two or more applications for the same spectrum use rights.


NAMPS (narrowband advanced mobile phone system): NAMPS combines cellular voice processing with digital signaling, increasing the capacity of AMPS systems and adding functionality.

NANC (North American Numbering Council): The FCC advisory group formerly responsible for administering the North American Numbering Plan that oversees assignment of area codes, central office codes and other numbering issues in the United States, Canada, Bermuda and part of the Caribbean. NANP administration responsibility was transferred to Lockheed Martin.

Narrowband PCS: The next generation of paging networks, including two-way, acknowledgment and "wireless answering machine" paging.

NCIC (National Crime Information Center): A national database of crime and criminal information operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

NENA (National Emergency Numbering Association): NENA's mission is to foster the technological advancement, availability and implementation of a universal emergency telephone number system.

Ni-Cd (Nickel Cadmium): A battery technology that is rapidly losing favor in the wireless industry. These batteries don’t provide much power for wireless phones and suffer from a “memory effect” that depletes their charge very quickly if the battery is not drained all the way down before recharging.

NIMBY (not in my back yard): Public sentiment that opposes local placement of "undesirable" facilities such as antenna towers or toxic waste dumps.

NmH (Nickel Metal Hydride): The most popular battery technology because it strikes a balance between cost and performance.  Has nominal memory effect and provides significantly better standby and talk time than Ni-Cad batteries, but not quite as good as Lithium Ion batteries.

NMT (Nordic mobile telephone): An older analog cellular protocol used in Europe and elsewhere.

NOI (notice of inquiry): Often the predecessor to an FCC rulemaking, the NOI takes public comment on a general topic. For instance, an NOI would ask "Do interconnection rates need regulation?" The subsequent proposed rulemaking, if any, would offer a specific regulatory scheme and again be put to public comment.

NOVRAM: NOn-Volatile Random Access Memory. RAM that contains a constant power source. Maintains data withou the presence of external power (to the end of life of the internal source.

NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration): The federal government's spectrum management authority.

Number pooling: Increasingly popular tactic for conserving phone numbers. Numbers are returned by all carriers to a central authority, which puts them in a pool, from which carriers receive numbers in lots of 1,000, not 10,000 as was originally done. It relies on local number portability.

Numeric: a display, message or readout that contains numerals only, such as in paging.


OBRA 93 (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993): First legislation authorizing the FCC to auction spectrum.

Off-peak: Part of the day that wireless subscribers can expect to pay reduced airtime rates.

On circulation: A common way the FCC commissioners decide items. An item is circulated among the commissioners, allowing them to vote without having to come together as a group, which under federal law would necessitate a public meeting.

One-stop shop: Describes the all-in-one store where carriers sell wireless, long-distance, Internet access and any other services they are able to sell in that market.

Operating cash flow/EBITDA: A corporate income statement item that measures a company's total sales minus such items as operating expenses before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Because companies such as cellular, paging and PCS carriers often begin operations with huge capital debts, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization) is considered a better gauge of their performance than net income, which likely will be skewed negatively by large debt payments and other items.

Operating margin: A measurement of a company's relative profitability calculated by dividing operating profit (the profit realized from one year's business operations) by net sales. The higher the percentage, the better.

Orbit: A fixed circular, elliptical or other path around the Earth.

OTASP (over-the-air service provisioning): The ability of carriers to add new types of services to a customer's handset by using the wireless network instead of requiring the customer to bring in the phone for reprogramming.

Over The Air Activation (OTAP): The process by which wireless carriers can activate a phone, assign a telephone number, change or update features and much more from a remote location by sending signals to the phone over radio frequencies.  Eliminates the need for subscribers to physically take their phones into retail stores or other locations when they want to change a number or add a feature.

Overlay area code: A solution to the scarcity of new phone numbers, overlays involve issuance of new 10-digit phone numbers for use alongside an area's existing seven-digit numbers, which have a different area code.


PACS (personal access communications system): An extended personal cordless technology developed by Hughes Network Systems Inc. and Bellcore, planned for implementation by C-Block licensee 21st Century Telesis.

Pager: A small device capable of receiving numbers and, in some cases, text messages that are sent through a telephone connection or a computer.  The earliest pagers were only one-way, i.e., they could only receive information.  More recent models allow the pager user to reply back to the sender, called 2-way paging.  Some pagers cannot respond, but have the benefit of guaranteeing that the page will be received because they send a brief acknowledgement back to the system when they receive a page.  Until that acknowledgement is sent, the system will continue sending the page repeatedly. 

PAMR (public access mobile radio): The European designation for services similar to specialized mobile radio in the United States.

Partitioning: Parceling a spectrum license into two or more geographic areas.

Pay phone service provider: The company that owns and operates a pay phone.

PC Card: Formerly called a PCMCIA card, a detachable card that can be connected to the mother board inside a personal computer. It is used to link the PC to other devices to carry out a special function.

PCIA (Personal Communications Industry Association): A trade group representing PCS, SMR, private radio and other wireless users and carriers.

PCS (personal communications services): A two-way, 1900 MHz digital voice, messaging and data service designed as the second generation of cellular.

PDA (personal digital assistant): A portable computing device capable of transmitting data.

Peak: part of the day that mobile phone customers can expect to pay full service airtime rates.

PHS (personal handyphone system): The extended cordless system used primarily in Japan.

PIN (personal identification number): A code used by a mobile telephone number in conjunction with an SIM card to complete a call.

POCSAG: Referring to a standard developed by the U.K.'s Post Office Code Standards Advisory Group, a paging protocol.

Pool consolidation: The restructuring of 20 private land mobile services into two pools--public safety and industrial/business--during the commission's ongoing refarming proceeding.

POPs (persons of population): Wireless industry term for the number of potential subscribers within the licensed area of a cellular or PCS system. 

Pre-emption: A federal agency voiding a local ordinance or state law, asserting that the federal government, not the state or locality, has ultimate jurisdiction on the matter.

Prepaid cellular: A system allowing subscribers to pay in advanced for wireless service. Prepaid is generally used for credit-impaired customers or those who want to adhere to a budget.

Price/earnings ratio: A measurement of a company's value as expressed by the stock market. P/E is a company's stock price divided by its net income per share. When a company has a high P/E, that typically means investors are willing to pay a premium for its stock in anticipation that net income will continue to grow at a certain pace. High P/Es are emblematic of established growth companies such as Microsoft. Companies with lower P/Es would include banks, the Bell phone companies and other sectors with slower growth rates. Low P/E also could signal a company is viewed negatively by investors.

Project 25: An APCO-sponsored project to ensure interoperability of 800 MHz trunked Public Safety communications systems produced by different manufacturers.

Project Angel: AT&T Corp.'s code name for a wireless local loop residential network.

Proportional and owned subscribers: Since many wireless carriers share certain markets in partnership with other carriers, they report subscribership for those markets in proportion to their share of the venture (e.g., their proportionate share of 10,000 subscribers in a market they share 50-50 with a partner would be 5,000). Conversely, in markets they operate solely, carriers report all of their subscribers as their own.

PSP: A company that owns or operates pay phones.

PSTN (public switched telephone network): The worldwide voice telephone system, also called the Bell System in the United States.

PSWAC (Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee): The FCC group that identified the safety community's wireless needs, motivating the commission's decision to reallocate 24 megahertz currently used by broadcasters to public safety agencies.

PSAP (public-safety answering point): The dispatch office that receives 911 calls from the public. A PSAP may be local fire or police department, an ambulance service or a regional office covering all services.

PUC (public utility commission): The general name for the state regulatory body charged with regulating utilities including telecommunications.

Punch list: The list of sophisticated wiretapping function that the FBI wants common carriers to provide under the 1994 digital wiretap law, but which the carriers say is too costly and may exceed the law's scope. The FCC has been asked to decide whether the industry's standard is sufficient.

Push-to-talk (PTT): Works with half-duplex devices to transmit and receive voice traffic over the same frequency.  CB radios, police radios and walkie-talkies designed for family use would all be examples of PTT devices.


Radio Common Carrier (RCC): An independent company licensed by the FCC to provide a service to the general public that uses the radio spectrum.  In the early 1980s, RCCs were also referred to as “non-wireline" companies and were afforded one of two licenses for the original cellular spectrum in each market in the United States.

Radio-frequency fingerprinting: A process that identifies a cellular phone by the unique "fingerprint" that characterizes its signal transmission. RF fingerprinting is one process used to prevent cloning fraud, since a cloned phone will not have the same fingerprint as the legal phone with the same electronic identification numbers.

Rate center: The geographic area used by local exchange carriers to set rate boundaries for billing and for issuing phone numbers. Wireless industry groups decry the rate center concept as wasteful of phone numbers because the concept is issued over larger areas.

RBOC (regional Bell operating company): The list of such companies includes Bell Atlantic, U S West, Ameritech, Southwestern Bell and BellSouth.

Reciprocal billing: The 1996 Telecommunications Act mandated that wireline companies pay wireless companies for their cost of terminating calls that originated on the wireline network. Previously, only wireless companies were obligated to pay compensation for calls originated on their networks but terminated on the wireline network.

Recon petition: Petition for reconsideration of an FCC decision.

Refarming: An FCC initiative to promote more efficient use of the frequency bands below 512 MHz, allocated to private land mobile radio services.

ReFLEX 25: The narrowband PCS technology developed by Motorola that allows for two-way text messaging.

ReFLEX 50: The technology that denotes the proprietary two-way system implemented by SkyTel Communications Inc.

Repeater: Devices that receive a radio signal, amplify it and re transmit it in a new direction. Used in wireless networks to extend the range of base station signals, thereby expanding coverage-within limits-more economically than by building additional base stations. Repeaters typically are used for buildings, tunnels or difficult terrain.

Reseller: An independent company that buys airtime in bulk at wholesale rates from carriers and then sells the airtime directly to individuals or companies.  The difference between the wholesale and retail rate is their margin and they keep whatever portion of the margin they can after paying for all other operating expenses, such as billing, customer service, etc.

Residuals: Funds retailers receive after a cellular customer has activated service; the funds usually are calculated based on the customer's ongoing service.

Roaming: Traveling outside a carrier's local area.

ROE (return on equity): An indication of how much a company is earning on the investment its shareholders have made in it. ROE is calculated by dividing the company's net income by its shareholder equity.

RSA (rural service area): Designation of a non-metropolitan area covered by a cellular licensee.


S-Band: The frequency spectrum near 2 GHz used for land based microwave and some mobile satellite communications.

Satellite phone: A wireless phone that uses mobile satellite service to send voice and data.

Shareholder rights provision or "poison pill": A stock plan intended to discourage or prevent unwanted, "hostile" corporate takeovers by making them prohibitively expensive to the buyer. Typically the plan will issue "rights" to existing shareholders that become effective once a would-be acquirer's stake exceeds a certain threshold, such as 10 percent or 15 percent of the outstanding shares. The rights typically entitle the existing shareholders to acquire more shares at a significant discount, creating a much larger pool of securities the acquirer must buy to succeed with the takeover. Other variations may include the issuance of shares with superior voting rights.

SIM (subscriber identity module): Synonymous with smart card.

Simplex: A radio technology that allows only one-way communication.  The FM radio in your car, or your TV set, could be viewed as simplex devices. 

Simulcast: A signaling technique that broadcasts the same signal over each site in a network.

Slamming: The unauthorized switching of a customer's phone service to another carrier.

Sleep mode: Designed to conserve battery life, this mode automatically turns off a terminal after it has been unused for a specified period of time. The unit is reactivated when the keypad is touched.

Smart antenna: An antenna system whose technology enables it to focus its beam on a desired signal to reduce interference. A wireless network would employ smart antennas at its base stations in an effort to reduce the number of dropped calls, improve call quality and improve channel capacity.

Smart card: A plastic card containing important data about a person's identity to allow access to a network or premises. Also, a card containing subscriber information, often inserted into GSM phones for roaming to different countries.

Smart phone: A class of wireless phones typically used to describe handsets with many features and often a keyboard. What makes the phone "smart" is its ability to handle data, not only voice calls.

SMR (specialized mobile radio): A dispatch radio and interconnect service for businesses. Covers frequencies in the 220 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands.

SMS (short message service): Electronic messages on a wireless network.

Soft key: A key below the phone's display that performs whatever function is listed on the display.

SMT (surface mount technology): A surface mount device is a component, either active or passive, having no separate leads but which is part of the component body to permit direct mounting on a printed circuit board.

Soft handoff: Procedure in which two base stations-one in the cell site where the phone is located and the other in the cell site to which the conversation is being passed- both hold onto the call until the handoff is completed. The first cell site does not cut off the conversation until it receives information that the second is maintaining the call.

SOHO (small office/home office): A market that consists of individuals that work some of their time at home and some of their time in an office.

Spectrum allocation: Federal government designation of a range of frequencies for a category of use or uses. For example, the FCC allocated the 1900 MHz band for personal communications services. Allocation, typically accomplished in years-long FCC proceedings, tracks new technology development. However, the FCC can shift existing allocations to accommodate changes in spectrum demand. As an example, some UHF television channels were recently reallocated to public safety.

Spectrum assignment: Federal government authorization for use of specific frequencies or frequency pairs within a given allocation, usually at stated a geographic location(s). Mobile communications authorizations are typically granted to private users, such as oil companies, or to common carriers, such as cellular and paging operators. Spectrum auctions and/or frequency coordination processes, which consider potential interference to existing users, may apply.

Spectrum cap: A limit to the allocated spectrum designated for a specific service.

Spectrum etiquette: Scheme under which various brands of equipment for unlicensed-band communications can share the same frequencies. For example, a "listen-before-talk" etiquette would have all devices first sense if a channel is clear.

Spread spectrum: Jamming-resistant and initially devised for military use, this radio transmission technology "spreads" information over greater bandwidth than necessary for interference tolerance and is now a commercial technology.

SRAM (static random access memory): A memory technology used in pagers and handsets. So named because it requires no refresh cycle, as required by dynamic RAM (DRAM) and therefore consumes less power. SRAM maintains data only while power is applied.

SS7 (Signaling System 7): An international high speed signaling backbone for the public switched telephone network.

Standby time: The amount of time a subscriber can leave a fully charged handset turned on to receive incoming calls before the phone will discharge the batteries.

Stratospheric platform: Blimp-like platform for wireless telephone service in urban areas.

Strongest signal: The concept that a wireless 911 call should be routed to the cell site with the strongest link to the phone, regardless of which carrier holds the caller as a customer. The strength of the call's setup link isn't always equal to that of the link the cell assigns for voice traffic; the latter can be weaker.

Subordinated debt: A corporate debt that is considered secondary to so-called "senior" obligations both in terms of priority of payment and in claims to corporate as sets during bankruptcy. Financial analysts have said C-Block PCS carriers have had difficulty borrowing money in the capital markets because those loans would be subordinated to the debt they owe the government for their licenses.

Subscriber fraud: A deception deliberately practiced by an impostor to secure wireless service with intent to avoid payment. This is in contrast to bad debt, which occurs when a known person or company has a payment obligation overdue and the debt cannot be collected.

Subscriber profiling: The process of compiling subscriber usage information (such as frequency of calls, locations called to or from and monthly airtime usage), typically to identify potentially fraudulent use or to identify customers likely to terminate service.

Symbian: The joint venture between Ericsson Inc., Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp. and Psion to develop new operating systems based on Psion's EPOC32 platform for small mobile devices including wireless phones or handheld personal computers.

System Identification Number (SID): A unique number assigned to every wireless operator in the United States that is then programmed into the phones that subscriber’s to that service purchase. 


TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol): Internet protocol suite developed by the U.S Department of Defense in the 1970s. TCP governs the exchange of sequential data. IP routes outgoing and recognizes incoming messages.

TDMA (time division multiple access): A digital air interface technology used in cellular, PCS and ESMR networks.

Telematics: The integration of wireless communications, vehicle monitoring systems and location devices.

Termination charges: Fees that wireless telephone companies pay to complete calls on wireline phone networks or vice versa.

TETRA (terrestrial trunked radio): An open digital trunked radio standard defined by the European Telecommunications Standardization Institute.

Thin client: A pen-based tablet computer used on a wireless local area network.

Third-generation: A new standard that promises to offer increased capacity and high-speed data applications up to 2 megabits. It also will integrate pico-, micro- and macrocellular technology and allow global roaming. (Also see "3G.")

TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association): A trade group representing manufacturers and suppliers of communications and information technology products. TIA is a standards-developing organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

Tri-Mode: The term applied to a phone that will work on 800 MHz analog, 800 MHz digital and 1900 MHz (also known as 1.9 GHz) frequencies. 

Triangulation: The lengthy process of pinning down a caller's location using radio receivers, a compass and a map.

Tri-mode handset: Phones that work on three frequencies, typically using 1900 MHz, 800 MHz digital or reverting to 800 MHz analog cellular when digital is not available.

Triple band: A network infrastructure or wireless phone designed to operate in three frequency bands.

Trunking: Spectrum-efficient technology that establishes a queue to handle demand for voice or data channels.

Tumbling: The process of changing the Electronic Serial Number (ESN) in a single phone each time that a phone call is made, thus allowing the user to make calls and have then illegally charged to someone else’s number. 

Turnkey: an entire system with hardware and software assembled and installed by a vendor and sold as a total package.


UHF (Ultra high frequency): Referring to radio channels in the 300 MHz to 3 GHz band.

ULS (Universal Licensing System): The new Wireless Telecommunications Bureau program under which electronic filing of license applications and reports of changes to licenses creates a database that can be accessed remotely for searches. Using ULS, for example, the user can learn all the specialized mobile radio licenses in a given region.

UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System): Europe's approach to standardization for third-generation cellular systems.

Unified messaging: Software technology that allows carriers and Internet service providers to manage customer e-mail, voice and fax messages from any phone, PC or information device.

Universal service: The government's aim, starting in the 1930s, of providing phone service to all, regardless of distance from the switch or ability to pay. Today, universal service encompasses those aims, plus a subsidy to public schools, libraries and rural health care facilities for telecom services.

Unvalidated phone: A wireless phone lacking a service contract. Also called an unregistered phone.

Uplink: The portion of a telecommunications path from the ground to the satellite. Also referred to as the forward link.

USAT (ultra small aperture terminal): Satellite receive dishes for telemetry and other remote monitoring, usually smaller than VSATs.

UWC-136: A third-generation wireless standard proposal based on TDMA technology that was developed by the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium and is one of the 3G candidates submitted to the International Telecommunication Union by the United States.

UWCC (Universal Wireless Communications Consortium): An industry group supporting IS-136 time division multiple access and IS-41 wireless intelligent network technology.


VCXO (voltage-controlled crystal oscillator): A crystal oscillator is an oscillator in which the frequency is controlled by a piezoelectric crystal. Types of crystal oscillators include voltage-controlled crystal oscillators (VCXO), temperature-compensated crystal oscillators (TCXO), oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXO), temperature-compensated-voltage controlled crystal oscillators (TCVCXO), oven-controlled voltage-controlled crystal oscillators (OCVCXO), microcomputer-compensated crystal oscillators (MCXO), and rubidium crystal oscillators (RbXO).

VHF (very high frequency): Referring to radio channels in the 30 to 300 MHz band.

VLR (visitor location register): A network database that holds information about roaming customers.

Voice activation: A feature that allows a subscriber to dial a phone by spoken commands.

Voice recognition: The capability for cellular phones, PCs and other communications devices to be activated or controlled by voice commands.

VSAT (very small aperature terminal): A small satellite dish installed at end-user locations.


W-CDMA (wideband code division multiple access): The third generation standard offered to the International Telecommunication Union by GSM proponents.

WCS (wireless communications services): Frequencies in the 2.3 GHz band designated for general fixed wireless use.

WIN (wireless intelligent network): The architecture of the wireless switched network that allows carriers to provide enhanced and customized services for mobile telephones.

Windows CE: The Microsoft operating system developed for handheld computing devices. Variations of Windows CE also may eventually become a platform for applications used by communications devices such as wireless phones or two-way pagers.

Wireless: Using the radio-frequency spectrum for transmitting and receiving voice, data and video signals for communications.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP): A protocol designed for advanced wireless devices allowing the easy transmission of data signals, particularly Internet content, to micro-browsers built into the device’s software. 

Wireless Internet: An RF-based service that provides access Internet e-mail and/or the World Wide Web.

Wireless IP: The packet data protocol standard for sending wireless data over the Internet.

Wireless IT (wireless information technology): The monitoring, manipulating and troubleshooting of computer equipment through a wireless network.

Wireless LAN (local area network): Local area network using wireless transmissions, such as radio or infrared instead of phone lines or fiber-optic cable to connect data devices.

Wireless PBX: Equipment that allows employees or customers within a building or limited area to use wireless handsets connected to an office's private branch exchange system.

WLL (wireless local loop): A fixed service that competes with or substitutes for local wireline phone service.

World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC): Biennual meetings of International Telecommunication Union member nations to discuss and resolve global spectrum allocation issues.

WPDA (Wireless Partnership for Donor Awareness): The industry's effort to raise organ and tissue donor awareness.

WTO (World Trade Organization): An intergovernmental organization set up in 1995 to oversee the rules of international trade, thus helping smooth the flow of trade, resolve disputes and organize trade negotiations. The Geneva-based group, created as successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1997 negotiated the agreement to open trade and investment in basic telecommunications and information technology products.


X.25: A specification from the Consultative Committee on International Telephone and Telegraph on layered protocols connecting computer terminals to a public, packet-switched network.

xDSL: Designation for digital subscriber line technology enabling simultaneous two-way transmission of voice and high-speed data over ordinary copper phone lines.


Y2K (The Year 2000): Often used when describing the upgrade of computer systems that must acknowledge the new millennium for billing customers and for other purposes.


Zero coupon bond: A debt instrument that pays all accrued interest at the bond's maturity instead of making regular cash payments to the bondholder during the life of the bond. Many PCS and other wireless companies used zero-coupon bonds to finance their startups to ease the burden on their cash flows during their early years of operation.

Zulu time: Synonymous with Greenwich Meridian Time, a time designation used in satellite systems.




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