Glossary of Terms

Air Time
Actual time spent talking on the wireless telephone. Customers are generally billed based on how many minutes of air time they use each month.

Companies who work with larger carriers to build a nationwide network. Affiliates may use the larger carrier's brand name, network operations, customer service or other resources.

Air Interface
The operating system of a wireless network. Technologies include AMPS, TDMA, CDMA, GSM and iDEN.

Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) is the analog service first deployed in the United States and still used in some regions around the world.

The traditional method of adapting radio signals so they can carry information. AM (Amplitude Modulation) and FM (Frequency Modulation) are the two most common analog systems. Analog has largely been replaced by digital technology, which are more secure, more efficient and provide better quality.

Analog technology that enables radio signals to carry information through radio signals. In contrast to digital technology, which allows up to 15 calls per channel, analog permits only one call per channel.

A device for transmitting and receiving signals. Often camouflaged on existing buildings, trees, water towers or other tall structures, the size and shape of antennas are generally determined by the frequency of the signal they manage.

API (Application Programming Interface)
Advanced Mobile Phone Service is an analog system that was first deployed in 1984. Advanced Mobile Phone Service; the standard for analog cellular telephones; uses a frequency-modulated transmission and frequency spacing to separate user transmission; operates in the 800MHz band.

To send data a modem is required on both ends creating a circuit connection. The geographical area is divided into adjacent, non-overlapping, hexagonal-shaped "cells." Each cell has its own transmitter and receiver (called a base station) to communicate with the mobile units in that cell; a mobile switching station coordinates the handoff of mobile units crossing cell boundaries. Portions of the radio spectrum are reused, greatly expanding system capacity but also increasing infrastructure complexity and cost.

* AMPS is the only ubiquitous standard for North America

* Most digital cellular phones have AMPS fallback mode

Base Station
The central radio transmitter/receiver that communicates with mobile telephones within a given range (typically a cell site).

The code name for a new technology that enables mobile devices equipped with a special chip to send and receive information wirelessly. Using Bluetooth, electronic devices such as desktop computers, wireless phones, electronic organizers and printers in the 2.4 GHz range can “talk to” each other. Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Toshiba and IBM have led the development effort, and are now joined by over 700 partners, including Compaq, Dell, Motorola, Qualcomm, BMW and Casio.

A general term describing telecommunications systems that can move data, such as voice and video services, at higher speeds.

Also known as service provider or operator, a carrier is the communications company that provides customers service (including air time) for their wireless phones.

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
A technology used to transmit wireless calls by assigning them codes. Calls are spread out over the widest range of available channels. Then codes allow many calls to travel on the same frequency and also guide those calls to the correct receiving phone.

CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data)
A technology that separates data files into many "packets" and sends them through empty channels of existing voice networks. It allows users to send and receive data from anywhere in a particular coverage area at any time, quickly and efficiently.

The basic geographic unit of wireless coverage. Also, shorthand for generic industry term "cellular." A region is divided into smaller "cells," each equipped with a low-powered radio transmitter/receiver. The radio frequencies assigned to one cell can be limited to the boundaries of that cell. As a wireless call moves from one cell to another, a computer at the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) monitors the call and at the proper time, transfers the phone call to the new cell and new radio frequency. The handoff is performed so quickly that it’s not noticeable to the callers.

Cell Site
The location where a wireless antenna and network communications equipment is placed.

Cell Splitting
A means of increasing the capacity of a wireless system by subdividing one cell into two or more smaller cells.

A path along which a communications signal is transmitted.

CMRS (Commercial Mobile Radio Service)
An FCC designation for any wireless carrier or license owner whose wireless service is connected to the public switch telephone network and/or is operated for profit.

Placement of multiple antennas at a common site to reduce environmental impact and leasing costs, and to speed zoning approvals and network deployment. Some companies act as brokers, arranging cell sites and coordinating many carriers' antennas at a single cell site.

Technology that converts signals (including voice) into the binary digits ‘0’ and ‘1’. This data is compressed, and then transformed into electronic pulses for a wired network, optical light waves for fiber optic networks or radio waves for wireless networks. Digital wireless technology is rapidly replacing analog, because digital offers better sound quality, more secure signals, more callers per cell site and faster data services.

Dual Band
A wireless handset that works on 800 MHz frequencies and 1900 MHz PCS frequencies.

Dual Mode
A wireless handset that works on both analog and digital networks.

ESMR (Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio)
A single wireless device which combines a two-way radio, phone, mobile dispatch, radio paging and Mobile data capabilities, and operates on digital networks. Usually refers to Nextel Communications.

ESN (Electronic Serial Number)
The unique serial identification number programmed into a wireless phone by the manufacturer. Each time a call is placed, the ESN is transmitted to a nearby base station so the wireless carrier can validate the call. The ESN differs from the Mobile Identification Number, which identifies a customer’s cellular phone number. MINs and ESNs are electronically monitored to help prevent fraud.

Federal Communications Commission. The government agency responsible for regulating telecommunications in the United States.

FWA (Fixed Wireless Access)
Also known as wireless local loop. Fixed wireless refers to wireless devices or systems set in fixed locations, such as an office or home, as opposed to devices mobile devices, such as wireless phones and PDAs. Fixed wireless devices usually derive their power from fixed utilities, as opposed to portable wireless devices that are powered by batteries.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)
A packet technology that enables high-speed wireless Internet and other GSM data communications. It makes very efficient use of available radio spectrum, and users pay only for the volume of data sent and received.

GPS (Global Positioning System)
A worldwide satellite navigational system, made up of 24 satellites orbiting the earth and their receivers on the earth’s surface. The GPS satellites continuously transmit digital radio signals, with information used in location tracking, navigation and other location or mapping technologies.

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
A technology that works similarly to TDMA by dividing wireless calls into time slots. GSM is most common in Europe, Australia and much of Asia and Africa. But, GSM phones from the United States are not compatible with international GSM phones because they operate on different frequencies.

The process when a wireless network automatically switches a mobile call to an adjacent cell site with a stronger signal.

A measure of electromagnetic energy, equivalent to one "wave" or cycle per second.

iDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network)
A specialized mobile technology that combines two-way radio, telephone, text messaging and data transmission into one digital network. iDEN is designed to give users quick access to information on a single device. Introduced by Motorola and used exclusively by Nextel Communications.

Connecting one wireless network to another, such as linking a wireless carrier's network with a local exchange network.

The ability of a network to coordinate and communicate with other networks, such as two systems based on different protocols or technologies.

LAN (Local Area Network)
is a small data network covering a limited area, such as a building or group of buildings. Most LANs connect workstations or personal computers. This allows many users to share devices, such as laser printers, as well as data. The LAN also allows easy communication, by facilitating e-mail or supporting chat sessions.

MHz (Megahertz)
Megahertz is a unit of frequency equal to one million hertz or cycles per second. Wireless mobile communications within the United States occur in the 800 MHz, 900MHz and 1900MHz bands.

MIN (Mobile Identification Number): The MIN, more commonly known as a wireless phone number, uniquely identifies a wireless device within a wireless carrier's network. The MIN is dialed from other wireless or wireline networks to direct a signal to a specific wireless device. 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)
A rating of speed and power, MIPS describes a digital signal’s processing capabilities. It roughly measures the number of machine instructions a device can execute in one second. However, due to a lack of standards for measuring MIPS and differences in applications, it is not always an accurate measure of speed.

MRM/Mobile Resource Management
Internet services and applications that leverage on-demand GPS, wireless capabilities, transaction process, and software to maximize the productivity of mobile workforces.

MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area)
One of the 306 largest urban markets as designated by the U.S. government, based on population. At least two wireless operators are licensed in each MSA.

MTA (Major Trading Area)
A Personal Communications Services area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC. MTAs are usually several neighboring basic trading areas (BTA’s). There are 51 MTAs in the United States.

MTSO (Mobile Telephone Switching Office)
The central computer that connects wireless phone calls to the public telephone network. The MTSO controls the series of operations required to complete wireless calls, including verifying calls, billing and antenna handoffs.

NAM (Number Assignment Module)
The NAM is the electronic memory bank in the wireless phone that stores its specific telephone number and electronic serial number.

A piece of data sent over a packet-switching network, such as the Internet. A packet includes not just data but also address information about its origination and destination.

Packet Data
Information that is reduced into digital pieces or ‘packets’ of bytes, so it can travel more efficiently across radio airwaves and wireless networks.

PCS (Personal Communications Services)
A two-way digital voice, messaging and data service, which operates in the 1900 MHz band. Considered the ‘second generation’ of wireless services.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)
A portable computing device capable of transmitting data. These devices offer services such as paging, data messaging, e-mail, computing, faxes, date books and other information management capabilities.

PIN (Personal Identification Number)
An additional security feature for wireless phones, much like a password. Programming a PIN into the Subscriber Information Module (SIM) on a wireless phone requires the user to enter that access code each time the phone is turned on.

For wireless, Persons of Population refers to the number of people in a specific area where wireless services are available. For traditional ‘landline’ communications, Point of Presence defines the interconnection point between the two networks.

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 and to expand coverage. Repeaters are typically used in buildings, tunnels or difficult terrain.

When traveling outside their carrier's local area, roaming allows users the ability to move from one carrier’s coverage area to another, without interruption in service or dropped calls.

RSA (Rural Service Area)
One of the 428 rural markets across the United States, as designated by the FCC.

Smart Antenna
A wireless antenna with technology that focuses its signal in a specific direction. Wireless networks use smart antennas to reduce the number of dropped calls, and to improve call quality and channel capacity.

Smart Phone
Wireless phones with advanced data features and often keyboards. What makes the phone "smart" is its ability to manage and transmit data in addition to voice calls.

SMS (Short Messaging Service)
Short Messaging Service enables users to send and receive short text messages (usually about 160 characters) on wireless handsets. Available on many ‘second generation’ and all advanced wireless networks.

Spectrum Allocation
Process whereby the federal government designates frequencies for specific uses, such as personal communications services and public safety. Allocation is typically accomplished through lengthy FCC proceedings, which attempt to accommodate changes in spectrum demand and usage.

*Spectrum Assignment
Federal government authorization for the use of specific frequencies within a given spectrum allocation, usually in a specific geographic location. Mobile communications assignments are granted to both private users such as businesses, and commercial providers such as wireless and paging operators. Spectrum auctions and/or frequency coordination processes, which consider potential interference to existing users, may apply.

Spread Spectrum
A method of transmitting a radio signal by spreading it over a wide range of frequencies. This reduces interference and can increase the number of users on one radio frequency band.

TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access)
A technology that transmits information by dividing calls into time slots, each one lasting only a fraction of a second. Each call is assigned a specific portion of time on a designated channel. By dividing each call into time ‘packets,’ a single channel can carry many calls at once.

Third-Generation (3G)
A general term that refers to increased capacity and high-speed data (up to 2 megabits) via digital wireless networks.

Tri-Mode Handset
Phones that work on multiple frequencies, typically in the 1900 MHz and 800 MHz digital, or the 800 MHz analog frequencies.

Voice Recognition
The capability for wireless phones, computers and other devices to be activated and controlled by voice commands.

Wireless Application Protocol is a set of standards that enables wireless devices, such as phones, pagers and palm devices, to browse content from specially-coded Web pages.

General term for using radio-frequency spectrum for transmitting and receiving voice, data and video communications.

Wireless Internet
A general term for using wireless services to access the Internet, e-mail and/or the World Wide Web.

Wireless IT (Wireless Information Technology)
The monitoring, managing and troubleshooting of computer equipment throughout a wireless network.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
Using radio frequency (RF) technology, WLANs transmit and receive data wirelessly in a certain area. This allows users in a small zone to transmit data and share resources, such as printers, without physically connecting each computer with cords or wires.

Wireless Private Branch Exchange (PBX)
Equipment that allows employees or customers within a building or limited area to use wireless devices in place of traditional landline phones. Instead of contracting with a commercial wireless carrier, the company would provide service and support for all the wireless devices in their area.

WLL (Wireless Local Loop)
WLL is a system that connects wireless users to the public switch telephone network (PSTN) using wireless technology and other circuitry to complete the "last mile" between the wireless user and the exchange equipment. Wireless systems can often be installed faster and cheaper than traditional wired systems.

Learn More

White Papers

Enterprise Integration




©2005 @Road, Inc. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy and Legal Notice