Wireless Glossary

Wireless Glossary of Terms and Words

Looking for the meaning of an acronym? Don’t know what a word means, this Wireless Glossary will assist you.

What Do Some Wireless Words Mean?

Glossary of Wireless Terms: Listed Alphabetically

3G (third generation)– An industry term used to describe the next generation of wireless applications which just happens to be the 3rd generation. It represents a move from circuit-switched communications (where a device user has to dial in to a network) to broadband, high-speed, packet-based wireless networks (which are always “on”). The first generation of wireless communications relied on analog technology, followed by digital wireless communications. The third generation expands the digital premise by bringing high-speed connections and increasing reliability. 

4G (third generation)- What does 4G Mean?  4G is a term used to describe the 4th generation of wireless applications. 4G systems do not support traditional circuit-switched telephony service, but all-Internet Protocol (IP) based communication such as IP telephony instead.  In layman terms, 4G creates fast mobile broadband access that uses the same type backbone (IP) as your DSL and other fixed broadband solutions.

802.11– A family of wireless specs being developed by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. These specifications are used to manage packet traffic over a network and ensure that packets do not collide-which could result in loss of data-while traveling from their point of origin to their destination. (that is, from wireless device to wireless device).

802.11 : An IEEE committee that standardizes a wireless Ethernet replacement technology in the ISM band.

802.11b is most commonly implemented and runs at approximately 10 Mbps in the 2.4GHz band. 

802.11a runs at 54 Mbps in the 5 GHz band. 

802.11g provides 24 Mbps in the same band as 802.11b. 

802.11a : A WiFi WLAN variant that is higher speed (54 Mbps) than 802.11b. Because it also operates in a different frequency band it has proven less popular than 802.11g which offers higher speed in the same band as 802.11b thus providing a simpler migration strategy. The range of this protocol is also lower and the LOS requirements more stringent. See ADRC 802.11b : IEEE Wireless LAN system providing throughput of about 11 Mbps but see ADRC

802.11c : An IEEE standard for network interoperability between WLAN protocols

802.11d : An IEEE standard for operation of their WLAN protocols outside the normal frequency bands (e.g. due to the unavailability of those bands in some countries)

802.11e : An IEEE standard for QoS in their WLAN protocols 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n 

802.11f : An IEEE standard for interconnection between wireless APs

802.11g : A second generation version of WiFi providing 54 Mbps raw throughput (typically a user data rate of about half that) in the same 2.4 GHz frequency band as 802.11b. This gave it an advantage over 802.11a which had similar performance but operated in a different frequency band. 

802.11hAn IEEE standard for spectrum and transmit power management for their WLAN protocols 
802.11i Enhanced security for IEEE WLAN protocols 
802.11j An adaptation of 802.11 WLAN protocols to the Japanese 4.9–5 GHz frequency band 
802.11k A proposed IEEE standard for RRM 
802.11m A group for editorial maintenance of IEEE 802.11 WLAN standards 
802.11n A future IEEE WLAN protocol that promises raw data rates of 540 Mbps in either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band and thus will likely eventually replace 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. The protocol is scheduled for completion in 2009. See EWC 
802.11p A proposed IEEE standard for ITS. Also known as WAVE 
802.11r A proposed IEEE standard for handoff between APs 
802.11s A proposed IEEE standard for mesh networking 802.11t A proposed test specification for IEEE WLAN standards 
802.11u A proposed standard for authorization of users on IEEE WLANs 
802.11v A proposed wireless network management standard for IEEE WLAN protocols 
802.11w A proposed standard for the protection of system management information in IEEE WLAN protocols 

802.11y A proposed standard for operation of IEEE WLAN protocols in the 3.65-3.7 GHz frequency band 802.15 See Bluetooth 802.16 IEEE WiMax radio interface. 

802.3 IEEE standard for Ethernet Access fee – Also known as the Universal Service Access Fee. A fee that local telephone companies are allowed to charge all telephone customers for the right to connect with the local phone network. Cellular subscribers pay this fee along with a 3 percent federal telephone excise tax. It is a FCC charge that carriers can pass onto the consumer, but are not mandated to do so.

Activation Fee – An activation fee is a charge that wireless carriers bill a customer when they activate new service on a new line.  Typically those charges help the carrier offset number portability and the labor costs.  In many cases, the wireless carrier will waive the activation fee if you simply ask.

Airtime – Airtime is the amount of time, generally measured in minutes, offered by cellular carriers on their service plans. Most carriers bill customers based on how many minutes of airtime they use each month. Airtime charges vary acording to the carrier and the time of day most often. 

ALPHANUMERIC – a term used to denote a wireless device equipped to receive both numeric and text messages. A message or other type of readout containing both letters (“alphas”)and numbers (“numerics”). In cellular, “alphanumeric memory dial” is a special type of dial-from-memory option that displays both the name of the individual and that individual’s phone number on the cellular phone handset. The name also can be recalled by using the letters on the phone keypad. By contrast, standard memory dial recalls numbers from number-only locations.

AMPLIFICATION – is the process of increasing the strength of a signal, current, voltage or power within a particular area. 

AMPS (advanced mobile phone service)- A term used for analog technologies, the first generation of wireless technologies. 

ANALOG – refers to a type of measurement in which the “line of measure” is continuous as compared to one which is discretely incremented. Analog Radio signals that are converted into a format that allows them to carry data. While cellular phones and other wireless devices still use analog in geographic areas where there is little or no coverage by digital networks, analog will eventually give way to faster digital networks. Analog is much less secure than digital. 

ANALOG TRANSMISSION – transmission of a continuously variable signal as compared to a discrete (digital) one.

ANTENNA – device which radiates and/or receives radio signals. 

ASCII (american standard code for information interchange) – a code that represents letters, numerals, punctuation marks and control signals as seven bit groups. It is used as a standard code by the transmission of data. The values range from hex value 00 to hex value 7F.

Authentication – A fraud prevention technology that takes a number of values to create a shared, secret value used to verify a user’s authenticity. Used to stop cloning of phones.

B BAND – range of radio frequencies between two defined limits which are used for a specific purpose. 

Bandwidth – The size of a network “pipe” or channel for communications in wired networks. In wireless, it refers to the range of available frequencies that can carry a signal. It is the portion of the frequency spectrum required to transmit desired information. Each radio channel has a center frequency and additional frequencies above and below this carrier frequency which is used to carry the transmitted information. The range of frequencies from the lowest to the highest used is called the bandwidth. 

BASEBAND – transmission of a digital or analog signal signaling at its original frequencies. The signal is in its original form, not changed by modulation. 

BAUD RATE – The number of discrete signal events per second that occur on a communications channel. 

BINARY – Refers to the base-two number system. The system contains only two numbers, 0 and 1. In computer-like circuits, the presence of a voltage, current or other such signal indicates a “1” whereas the absence of the same signal indicates “0”. BIT – Contraction of binary digit. It is the smallest unit of information in a binary system. 

BITS PER SECOND (bps) – Rate at which bits of information are transmitted. 

BlackBerry – Two-way wireless device, made by RIM,Ontario-based Research in Motion, that allows users to check e-mail and voice mail (translated into text), as well as page other users via a wireless network service. Also known as a RIM device, it has a miniature qwerty keyboard for users to type their messages. It uses the SMS protocol (see SMS). BlackBerry users must subscribe to a wireless service that allows for data transmission. 

Bluetooth – A short-range wireless specification that allows for radio connections between devices within a 30-foot range of each other. The name originates from a 10th-century Danish King Harald Blåtand (King Bluetooth), who unified Denmark and Norway. Allows devices like smart phones the ability to communicate with hands free kits and computers.

C CAP CODE – Every functioning pager within a paging system is assigned a unique cap code. A pager identifies which messages are intended for it by it’s unique cap code. 

Caller I.D. – A call-screening feature that allows the user to pinpoint the originating phone number of an incoming call prior to answering the phone. Sometimes, large PBX, Centrex systems prevent caller id from occuring.

CARRIER – Continuous frequency capable of being modulated or impressed with a second signal

CARRIER FREQUENCY – Radio wave, current or voltage used for transmitting intelligence, usually the frequency of a radio channel 

CDMA (code division multiple access)- U.S. wireless carriers, such as Sprint PCS and Verizon, use CDMA to allocate bandwidth for users of digital wireless devices. CDMA distinguishes between multiple transmissions carried simultaneously on a single wireless signal. It carries the transmissions on that signal, freeing network room for the wireless carrier and providing interference-free calls for the user. Several versions of the standard are still under development. CDMA promises to open up network capacity for wireless carriers and improve the quality of wireless messages and users’ access to the wireless airwaves. It’s an alternative to GSM, which is popular in Europe and Asia (see GSM). 

CDPD (cellular digital packet data)- Telecommunications companies can use CDPD to transfer data on unused cellular networks to users. If one section, or “cell,” of the network is overtaxed, CDPD automatically allows for the reallocation of resources. It is a method of bursting data bits across the network for a reliable, always on data connection.

Cellular – Technology that sends analog or digital transmissions from transmitters that have areas of coverage called cells. As a user of a cellular phone moves between transmitters from one cell to another, the user’s call travels from transmitter to transmitter uninterrupted. 

Circuit switched – Used by wireless carriers, this method lets a user connect to a network or the Internet by dialing in, such as with a traditional phone line. It’s similiar to a dial-in Internet service provider for wireless device users. Circuit-switched connections can be slow and unreliable compared with packet-switched networks, but for now circuit-switched networks are the primary method of Internet and network access for wireless users in the United States. Also called Dial UP, Carriers who use this method of transferring data use your Cellular Airtime and minutes. Can get expensive – quick!

Digital modulation – A method of decoding information for transmission. Information, or in this case, a voice conversation is turned into a series of digital bits – the 0s and 1s of computer binary language. At the receiving end, the information is reconverted. 

Dual-band mobile phone – Phones that support both analog and digital technologies by picking up analog signals when digital signals fade. You lose your digital services when it goes into analog mode.

EDGE (enhanced data GSM environment) – A faster version of the GSM standard. It is faster than GSM because it can carry messages using broadband networks that employ more bandwidth than standard GSM networks (see GSM). 

ESN (Electronic Serial Number)- Each cellular phone is assigned a unique ESN, which is automatically transmitted to the cellular tower station every time a cellular call is placed. The Mobile Telephone Switching Office validates the ESN with each call.

FDMA (frequency division multiple access)- An analog standard that lets multiple users access a group of radio frequency bands and eliminates interference of message traffic.

Frequency hopping spread spectrum – A method by which a carrier spreads out packets of information (voice or data) over different frequencies. For example, a phone call is carried on several different frequencies so that when one frequency is lost another picks up the call without breaking the connection. 

Frequency reuse – The ability to use the same frequencies repeatedly across a cellular system, made possible by the basic design approach for cellular. Since each cell is designed to use radio frequencies only within its boundaries, the same frequencies can be reused in other cells not far away with little potential for interference. The reuse of frequencies is what enables a cellular system to handle a huge number of calls with a limited number of channels.

GPRS (general packet radio service)- A technology that sends packets of data across a wireless network at speeds of up to 114Kbps. It is a step up from the circuit-switched method; wireless users do not have to dial in to networks to download information. With GPRS, wireless devices are always on-they can receive and send information without dial-ins. GPRS is designed to work with GSM. 

GSM (global system for mobile communications)- A standard for how data is coded and transferred through the wireless spectrum. The European wireless standard also used in Asia, GSM is an alternative to CDMA. GSM digitizes and compresses data and sends it down a channel with two other streams of user data. The standard is based on time division multiple access (see TDMA). 

Handoff – The process by which the Mobile Telephone Switching Office passes a cellular phone conversation from one radio frequency in one cell to another radio frequency in another. The handoff is performed so quickly that users usually never notice.

Hands-free – An important safety feature that’s included with most of today’s mobile phones. It permits drivers to use their cellular phone without lifting or holding the handset to their ear. 

HDML (handheld device markup language)- It uses hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP, the underlying protocol for the Web) to allow for the display of text versions of webpages on wireless devices. Unlike wireless markup language (see WML), HDML is not based on XML. HDML also does not allow developers to use scripts, while WML employs its own version of JavaScript. Phone.com, now part of Openwave Systems, developed HDML and offers it free of charge. Website developers using HDML must recode their webpages in this language to tailor them for the smaller screens of handhelds. 

I-Mode – A service in Japan for transferring packet-based data to handheld devices. I-Mode is based on a compact version of HTML and does not use WAP (see WAP), setting it apart from other widely used transmission methods. I-Mode’s creator, NTT DoCoMo of Tokyo, agreed in November 2000 to pay $9.8 billion to buy 16 percent of AT&T Wireless. DoCoMo is developing a version of I-Mode that supports the WAP standard. 

IDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network)- A technology that allows users to access phone calls, two-way radio transmissions, paging and data transmissions from one wireless device. Developed by Motorola, iDEN is based on TDMA. Services based on the technology are available in North America (offered by Nextel), South America and parts of Asia (see TDMA). Most Secure – commercially available wireless service today. Clone and Scanner Proof. indicator announcing that a phone call came in; an especially important feature if the cellular subscriber has voice mail.

No-answer transfer – A service feature (provided by some cellular carriers in combination with call-waiting) that automatically transfers an incoming cellular call to another phone number if the cellular subscriber is unable to answer.

Off-peak – The period of time after the business day has ended during which carriers may offer reduced airtime charges. Typically begins 8 – 9pm thru 6-7am.

Packet – A burst or chunk of data that is sent over a network, whether it’s the Internet or wireless network. 

Packet data – is the basis for packet-switched networks, which are under development in the United States as a faster, more reliable method of transferring wireless data than a circuit-switched network. Packet-switched networks eliminate the need to dial in to send or receive information because they are “always on,” transferring data without the need to dial. The packets that hold data depend on the size of the data involved; “chunks” are broken down into an efficient size for routing. Each of these packets has a separate number and carries the Internet address for which it is destined. 

Packet-switched network – Networks that transfer packets of data. 

PCS (personal communications services)- An alternative to cellular, PCS works like cellular technology because it sends calls from transmitter to transmitter as a caller moves. But PCS uses its own network, not a cellular network, and offers fewer “blind spots”-areas in which access to calls is not available-than cellular. PCS transmitters are generally closer together than their cellular counterparts. 
PDA (personal digital assistant)- Mobile, handheld devices-such as the Palm series and Handspring Visors-that give users access to text-based information. Users can synchronize their PDAs with a PC or network; some models support wireless communication to retrieve and send e-mail and get information from the Web. 

Peak – Highest-usage period of the business day when a cellular system carries the most calling traffic.

Radio frequency devices – These devices use radio frequencies to transmit data. One typical use- a bar code scanner gathers information about products in stock or ready for shipment in a warehouse or distribution center and sends them to a database or ERP system. 
Repertory dialing- Sometimes known as “memory dialing” or “speed-calling.” A feature that allows you to recall from 1-to-99 (or more) phone numbers from a phone’s memory with the touch of just one, two or three buttons.

Roaming – The ability to use your cellular phone outside your usual service area – when traveling, for example.

Satellite phone – Phones that connect callers via satellite. The idea behind a satellite phone is to give users a worldwide alternative to sometimes unreliable digital and analog connections. So far, such services have proven very costly and have appealed to few users aside from, for example, the crews at deep-sea oil rigs with phones configured to connect to a satellite service. 

Service plan – A rate plan selected by subscribers when they start up cellular service, usually consisting of a base rate for system access and a per-minute rate for usage. Service plans are designed to provide the most cost-effective rates for different types and amounts of usage by the cellular subscriber. 

Smart phone – A combination of a mobile phone and a PDA, smart phones allow users to converse as well as perform tasks, such as accessing the Internet wirelessly and storing contacts in databases. Smart phones have a PDA-like screen. As smart phone technology matures, some analysts expect these devices to prevail among wireless users. A PDA equipped with an Internet connection could be considered a smart phone. Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola also make smart phones. 

SMS (short messaging service) – A service through which users can send text-based messages from one device to another. The message appears on the screen of the receiving device. SMS works with GSM networks and IDEN. 

Standby time – The amount of time you can leave your fully charged cellular portable or transportable phone turned on before the phone will completely discharge the batteries. Standby time decreases as you talk on the phone. 

Talk time – The length of time you can talk on your portable or transportable cellular phone without recharging the battery. The battery capacity of a cellular portable or transportable is usually expressed in terms of so many minutes of talk time OR so many hours of standby time. When you’re talking,the phone draws additional power from the battery.

TDMA (time division multiple access)- This protocol allows large numbers of users to access one radio frequency by allocating time slots for use to multiple voice or data calls. TDMA breaks down data transmission, such as a phone conversation, into fragments and transmits each fragment in a short burst, assigning each fragment a time slot. With a cell phone, the caller would not detect this fragmentation. Whereas CDMA (which is used more frequently in the United States) breaks down calls on a signal by codes, TDMA breaks them down by time. The result in both cases- increased network capacity for the wireless carrier and a lack of interference for the caller. 

Voice mail – (Also called voice messaging) A computerized answering service that automatically answers your call, plays a greeting in your own voice and records a message. After you retrieve your messages, you can delete, save, reply to or forward the messages to someone else on your voice mail system.

Voice-activated dialing – A feature available only on selected phones that permits you to dial numbers by calling them out to your cellular phone, instead of dialing them manually. This function is especially convenient for making calls from your vehicle while driving.

WAP (wireless application protocol)- WAP is a set of protocols that lets users of mobile phones and other digital wireless devices access Internet content, check voice mail and e-mail, receive text of faxes and conduct transactions. WAP works with multiple standards, including CDMA and GSM. Not all mobile devices support WAP, but IDC (a sister company to CIO’s publisher, CXO Media) projects that more than 1.3 billion wireless Internet users will have WAP-capable devices in their hands by 2004. 

WASP (wireless application service provider)- These vendors provide hosted wireless applications so that companies will not have to build their own sophisticated wireless infrastructures. Vendors include Etrieve and Wireless Knowledge. 

WCDMA (wideband CDMA)- A third-generation wireless technology under development that allows for high-speed, high-quality data transmission. Derived from CDMA, WCDMA digitizes and transmits wireless data over a broad range of frequencies. It requires more bandwidth than CDMA but offers faster transmission because it optimizes the use of multiple wireless signals-not just one, as with CDMA. 

Wireless LAN (WLAN)- It uses radio frequency technology to transmit network messages through the air for relatively short distances, like across an office building or college campus. A wireless LAN can serve as a replacement for or extension to a wired LAN. 

Wireless spectrum – A band of frequencies where wireless signals travel carrying voice and data information. Most Wireless Devices operate either on 800mhz Spectrum or 1900Mhz.

WISP (wireless Internet service provider)- A vendor that specializes in providing wireless Internet access. 

WML (wireless markup language)- A version of HDML, WML is based on XML and will run with its own version of JavaScript. Wireless application developers use WML to redirect content for wireless devices. 

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