RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Dashboarding Glossary


Terms and phrases of interest to dashboarders, arranged alphabetically:





A-Band carrier: In early 1981, the FCC announced that it would approve two licenses in each market a non-wireline company (which became known as the "A" side carrier), and a wireline company (the "B" side carrier).

A/B Switch: A feature found on new cellular telephones permitting the user to select either the "A" (non-wireline) carrier or the 'B" (wireline) carrier when roaming away from home.

Access fee: A special fee that local phone companies are allowed to charge customers for the right to connect with the local phone network. The fee is paid by wireless subscribers, as is a federal three percent telephone excise tax. (Back to top.)

Advanced Intelligent Networks: Systems that allow a wireless user to make and receive phone calls while roaming in areas outside the user's "home" network. These networks rely on computers and sophisticated switching techniques. (Back to top.)

Air Time: Actual time spent talking on the wireless telephone. Most carriers bill customers based on how many minutes of air time they use each month. The more minutes of time spent talking on the cellular phone, the higher the bill. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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

Alphanumeric: A message or other type of readout containing both letters and numbers. 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 wireless phone handset. The name can also be recalled by using the letters on the phone keypad. By contrast, standard memory dial recalls numbers from number-only locations. (Back to top.)

AMPS: Advanced Mobile Phone Service: The term used by AT&T's Bell Laboratories (prior to the break-up of the Bell System in 1984) to refer to its cellular technology. It is commonly known as Analog. (Back to top.)

Analog: The traditional method of modulating radio signals so that they can carry information. AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation) are the two most common methods of analog modulation. Is a Circuit-Switched system that divides geographic areas into small areas called cells. A cellular tower is built within each cell site. Each tower's coverage is 1 mile to 20 miles in diameter. A central computer in the system provider's office monitors the weakness/strength of the radio signals that emanate from a cell phone and can switch the cell signal from tower to tower as needed. Also the system can switch the cell call into the public telephone system. Each cell user occupies an entire frequency (no-sharing) and there are a limited number of users allowed per tower. Frequency for Analog is 800 MHz. (Back to top.)

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

Antenna: A device for transmitting and/or receiving signals. The size and shape of antennas are determined, in large part, by the frequency of the signal they are receiving. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

ARDIS: Two-way radio packet technology of the DataTAC network. Always on - no dial up service required. Mostly for enterprise level companies - applications for bar-code scanners and mobile communications. (Back to top.)

ASCII: (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). A standard code used by computer and data communication systems for translating characters, numbers and punctuation in to digital form. ASCII characters can be recognized by communication devices using a variety of applications. (Back to top.)

ATM: (asynchronous transfer mode): A high-speed, high-bandwidth transmission technology. It features low-delay, connection-oriented switching and multiplexing capabilities. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)


B-Band carrier: In early 1981, the FCC announced that it would approve two licenses in each market-a non-wireline company (which became known as the "A" side carrier), and a wireline company (the "B" side carrier). (see A-Band carrier). (Back to top.)

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

Base Station: The central radio transmitter/receiver that maintains communications with mobile radiotelephone sets within a give range (typically a cell site). (Back to top.)

Bent Pipe Technology: Satellite technology to transmit calls from one point on Earth to a satellite and back down to another point. (Back to top.)

Bluetooth: Name given to a specification for a wireless communication chip used for the transmission of voice and data. It is expected to be low cost (at less than $6 per chip), short-range, (30 feet) radio link that has been envisioned as cable-replacement system. Operates in the un-licensed 2.4 GHz range.- uses fast frequency-hopping technology to avoid interference from other radio signals when it transmits packets of data. (Back to top.)

Broadband: Using a wide-bandwidth channel for voice, data and/or video services. Allows for greater flow of data because the "pipe" is larger. (Back to top.)

BSIG: Bluetooth Special Interest Group: The original ten founding companies including Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Toshiba, Intel, 3-Com, Motorloa, Lucent, Microsoft and TDK that started creating applications in the late 90's. (Back to top.)

BTA: (Basic Trading Area): A service area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC to promote the rapid deployment and ubiquitous coverage of Personal Communications Services (PCS) and a variety of other services and providers. BTAs are usually composed of several contiguous counties. There are 493 BTAs in the United States. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)


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. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

CDMA: Code Division Multiple Access is a spread spectrum approach for the digital transmission of data/voice over radio frequencies. Sound bits are digitized and the data is split into data packets that are encoded with unique identification tags. All of the data/voice is sent over a spread range of radio frequencies. The cell phone or data device receives all of the data packets but only re-assembles those packets with the correct code and transforms the broken-up bits of data into useful sound and data. This allows more traffic for a finite number of available frequencies than analog or the other digital standards. (Back to top.)

CDMA-2000: CDMA-2000 is the 3-G product for Verizon, Alltel and Sprint. The first roll-out of this service is to be the end of 2001 and is referred to as CDMA-1X, (with average users seeing 90 to 130 Kbps). 1X -EV DO is (Evolution Data Only) no voice service, (with user speeds at 144 K (up) and 600 Kbps down) 1X-DV includes data and voice capabilities (with user speeds at 700 Kbps to 1 Mbps). 3-Generation (3-G) is to be a high-speed data and voice network. Its mission is to deliver the maximum number of bits of data per frequency per second per base station. 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. (Back to top.)

CDPD: Cellular Digital Packet Data. An enhanced system overlay installed on many of the analog cellular towers for transmitting and receiving data over cellular networks. Technology that allows data files to be broken into a number of "packets" and sent along idle channels of existing cellular voice networks (Back to top.)

Cell: The basic geographic unit of a cellular system. Also, the basis for the generic industry term "cellular." A city or county is divided into smaller "cells," each of which is equipped with a low-powered radio transmitter/receiver. The cells can vary in size depending upon terrain, capacity demands, etc. By controlling the transmission power, the radio frequencies assigned to one cell can be limited to the boundaries of that cell. When a wireless phone moves from one cell toward another, a computer at the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) monitors the movement and at the proper time, transfers or hands off the phone call to the new cell and another radio frequency. The handoff is performed so quickly that it's not noticeable to the callers. (Back to top.)

Cell site: The location where the wireless antenna and network communications equipment is placed. (Back to top.)

Cell Splitting: A means of increasing the capacity of a cellular system by subdividing or splitting cells into two or more smaller cells. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Channel: A path along which a communications signal is transmitted. (Back to top.)

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

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

CLEC: Competitive Local Exchange Carrier: A new entrant providing local wireline phone service. Smaller regional telephone companies. See also ILEC. (Back to top.)

Cloning: A wireless phone programmed with stolen or duplicated electronic serial and mobile identification numbers. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Compression: Reducing the size of data to be stored or transmitted in order to save transmission time, capacity, or storage space. Some software programs accomplish this by stripping color graphics and other "non-essential" data identifiers from the data stream. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)


Dashboarders: Individuals who use a variety of wireline and wireless devices to connect to the Internet while working and/or living on the road. Dashboarders use cars, trucks, airplanes, boats, RVs, bicycles, and even travel on foot as they use emerging technology to forge new life- and workstyles. (Back to top.)

Dashboarding: The lifestyle and work-style utilized and created by Dashboarders. (Back to top.)

Digital Modulation: A method of encoding information or transmission. Information is turned into a series of digital bits - the 0s and 1s of computer binary language. Digital transmission offers a cleaner signal and is more immune to the problems of analog modulation such as fading and static. (Back to top.)

Dual band: Describes a handset that works on 800 MHz cellular, (Digital) and 1900 MHz PCS (Digital) frequencies. Sometimes written as 1.9GHz. These phones do not access the Analog version of the 800 MHz band. (Back to top.)

Dual mode: Describes a handset that works on both analog and digital networks. (Back to top.)

DVG: Daedalus Venture Group. One of the primary venture capital research and market analysts involved in the roll-out of Bluetooth products and technologies. (Back to top.)


EDGE: This was to be the network used by AT&T and Rogers in Canada. EDGE is Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution. Unlikely to see it launched with switch of technologies. (Back to top.)

Electromagnetic Compatibility: The ability of equipment or systems to be used in their intended environment within designed efficiency levels without causing or receiving degradation due to unintentional electromagnetic interference. Proper shielding of devices reduces interference. (Back to top.)

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

ESMR: Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio: Digital SMR networks, usually referring to Nextel Communications Inc., which provide dispatch, voice, messaging and data services. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Extranet: An Internet-like secure network, which a company creates and implements to conduct business with its customers and/or suppliers. (See also VPNs). (Back to top.)


FCC: Federal Communications Commission. The government agency responsible for regulating telecommunications in the United States. (Back to top.)

Frequency: A measure of the energy, as one or more waves per second, in an electrical or lightwave information signal. A signal's frequency is stated in either cycles-per-second or Hertz (Hz). (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

FWA: Fixed Wireless Access: Also known as wireless local loop. Both Richochet and ARDIS are known as Fixed Wireless. See also WCS. (Back to top.)


GHz: gigaHertz. Billions of Hertz. (Back to top.)

GEO: Geostationary Earth Orbit satellite constellations. GEO satellites present two primary problems for use by dashboarders. First, the distance of approximately 22,000 miles from earth requires a fairly powerful phone, and the distance that the RF signal must travel causes a noticeable delay for voice communication. (Back to top.)

Globalstar Satellite System: Data is sent by the handset to a land-based Gateway (via a system of 48 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites ) is converted into packet data using CDMA and sent to the internet in IP (Back to top.)

GPRS: General Packet Radio Service: A GSM data transmission technique that does not set up a continuous channel from a portable terminal for the transmission and reception of data, but transmits and receives data in packets. It makes very efficient use of available radio spectrum, and users pay only for the volume of data sent and received. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

GSM: Global System for Mobile communications: A digital cellular or PCS network used throughout the world. Recently adopted as AT&T's primary standard. (Back to top.)


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

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. An important safety feature. (Back to top.)

HDML: Handheld Device Markup Language: A modification of standard HTML, developed by Unwired Planet, for use on small screens of mobile phones, PDAs, and pagers. HDML is a text-based markup language, which uses HypeText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and is compatible with Web servers. (Back to top.)

Hertz: A measurement of electromagnetic energy, equivalent to one "wave" or cycle per second. (Back to top.)

HTML: HyperText Markup Language: An authoring software language used on the Web. HTML is used to create Web pages and hyperlinks. (Back to top.)

HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol: The protocol used by the Web server and the client browser, (eg: software on a personal computer like Netscape or Internet Explorer) to communicate and move documents around the Internet. (Back to top.)


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. Used by Nextel equipment. (Back to top.)

ILEC: Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier: The historic local phone service provider in a market, often former Bell company. Also known as a LEC. Distinct from CLECs, competitive local exchange carriers who are the new market entrants. (Back to top.)

Inmarstat: The Inmarstat satellite network is a Geostationary system (GEO) that is considered to be fixed in relation to the earth (at over 28,000 miles from earth). There are a number of devices that can be used to surf the web or send e-mail in this system. The two principal manufacturers are Thrane & Thrane and Nera. Most of the applications use compression techniques and there is no monthly service fee. Usage is billed either on the bandwidth used or on cost per minute basis. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

IMSI: International Mobile Station Identifier: A number assigned to a mobile station by the wireless carrier uniquely identifying the mobile station nationally and internationally. See also MIN, TMSI. (Back to top.)

IMT-2000: The International Mobile Telecommunication Union's name for the new third generation global standard for mobile telecommunications. In Europe, it is called UMTS and in Japan it is called J-FPLMTS. (Back to top.)

Infrared: A band of the electromagnetic spectrum used for airwave communications and some fiber-optic transmission systems. Infrared is usually used for short range (up to 20 feet) and through-the-air data transmission. See also IrDA. (Back to top.)

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

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

Intranet: An internal network, which is private or employs a firewall to secure it from outside access, that supports Internet technology. The Intranet is used for inter-company communications and can be accessed only by authorized users. (Back to top.)

IP: Internet Protocol: See TCP/IP. (Back to top.)

IP-Centric: End-to-end Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity instead of conversion from circuit-switched technology for mobile hand overs. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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

IS-54: The first generation of the digital standard TDMA technology. (Back to top.)

IS-95: The standard for CDMA. (Back to top.)

IS-136: The latest generation of the digital standard TDMA technology. (Back to top.)

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 CDMA and TDMA technologies. The company says IS-661 reduces infrastructure costs and allows higher data speeds than mainstream GSM or TDMA platforms. (Back to top.)

ISDN: Integrated Services Digital Network: An advanced, high-capacity wireline technology used for high-speed data transfer. Usually stated as 64 Kbps. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

IXC: Interexchange Carrier: A long-distance phone company. (Back to top.)


Java: A programming language from Sun Microsystems which abstracts data on byte codes so that the same code runs on any operating system. Java software is generally posted on the Web and is downloadable over the Internet to a PC. HotJava is installed on a Web browser and enables Java programs to be delivered over the Web and run on a PC. (Back to top.)


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

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


LAN: Local Area Network: A software-enabled system of copper wire cables that connect different PCs and devices to allow sharing of files and programs. Each PC connects to the LAN by the use of a Network Interface Card (NIC). Data is sent from one PC to a node and then to the next PC. Network protocols are not used in LANs (see WAN). (Back to top.)

LEC: Local Exchange Carrier: A wireline phone company serving a local area. See also ILEC and CLEC. (Back to top.)

LEO: Low-earth orbit satellite system that offers voice and data services; e.g., Iridium, Globalstar. The satellites operate in a zone about 913 miles above the earth. (Back to top.)

LMDS: Local Multipoint 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. (Back to top.)

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 were supposed to have been required to offer LNP starting March 2000 but the deadline has been postponed. (Back to top.)

Local calling area: The region across which the call is truly local, involving no toll charges. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)


Message Alert: Also called a "call-in-absence" indicator. A light or other indicator on a wireless phone that notifies a user that a call has come in. A useful feature especially if the wireless subscriber has voice mail. (Back to top.)

MEO: Medium Earth Orbit satellite systems are much closer at around 6,200 miles above the earth. See also LEO and GEO. (Back to top.)

MIME: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions: The standard format, developed and adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), for including non-text information in Internet mail, thus supporting the transmission of mixed-media messages across TCP/IP networks. In addition to covering binary, audio, and video data, MIME is the standard for transmitting foreign language text which can not be represented in ASCII code. (Back to top.)

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 MIN is meant to be changeable, since the phone could change hands or a customer to another city. The number differs from the ESN which is the unit number assigned by a phone manufacturer. See also ESN, IMSI, TMSI. (Back to top.)

MIPS: Millions of Instructions Per Second: Used in defining digital signal processing capabilities. (Back to top.)

Mobile Satellite Service: Communications transmission service provided by satellites. A single satellite can provide coverage to the whole United States. (Back to top.)

MSA: Metropolitan Statistical Area: An MSA demotes one of the 306 largest urban population markets as designated by the U.S. government. Two wireless operators are licensed in each MSA. (Back to top.)

MTA: Major Trading Area: A geographic area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC to promote the rapid deployment and ubiquitous coverage of Personal Communications Services (PCS). Built from Basic Trading Areas, (BTAs), MTAs are centered on a major city and generally cover the area the size of a state. There are 51 MTAs in the United States. (Back to top.)

MTSO: Mobile Telephone Switching Office: The central computer that connects a wireless phone call to the public telephone network. The MTSO controls the entire system's operations, including monitoring calls, billing and handoffs. (Back to top.)


NAM: Number Assignment Module. The NAM is the electronic memory in the wireless phone that stores the telephone number and an electronic serial number. (Back to top.)

NAMPS: Narrowband Advanced Mobile Phone System: NAMPS combines cellular voice processing with digital signaling, increasing the capacity of AMPS systems and adding functionality. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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

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

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

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. (Back to top.)


OFDM: Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing: Divides a range of available bandwidth spectrum into a series of frequencies known as tones. Flarion uses the 5 GHz channel and divides each channel into 400 discrete tones (each at slightly different frequency). Orthoganal tones do not interfere with each other when the peak of one tone corresponds with the null. All frequencies fade but the rapid switching, frequency-hopping technique is supposed to allow more robust data service. (Back to top.)

Off-peak: The periods of time after the business day has ended during which carriers offer discounted airtime charges. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

OS: Operating System: A software program, which manages the basic operations of a computer system. These operations include memory appointment, the order and method of handling tasks, flow of information into and out the main processor and to peripherals, etc. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)


Packet: A bundle of data organized in a specific way of transmission. The three principal elements of a packet include the header, the text, and the trailer (error detection and correction bits). (Back to top.)

Packet Switching: Sending data in packets through a network to a remote location. The data is assembled by the modem software into individual packets of data. See TDMA and CDMA. (Back to top.)

Partitioning: Parceling a spectrum license into two or more geographic areas. (Back to top.)

PCS: Personal Communications Services: A two-way, 1900 MHz digital voice, messaging and data service designed as the second generation of cellular. (Back to top.)

PDA: Personal Digital Assistant: A portable computing device capable of transmitting data. These devices make possible services such as paging, data messaging, electronic mail, computing, facsimile, date book and other information handling capabilities. (Back to top.)

PIM: Personal Information Manager: Also known as a "contact manager," is a form of software that logs personal and business information, such as contacts, appointments, lists, notes, occasions, etc. (Back to top.)

PIN: Personal Identification Number: A code used by a mobile telephone number in conjunction with a SIM card to complete a call. (Back to top.)

Peak: That part of the business day in which cellular customers can expect to pay full service rates. (Back to top.)

PocketMail: Pocket Science created the service that the Pocketmail devices use. These devices are PDA's built by Sharp Electronics, Palm, Audiovox and Oregon Scientific and can be used on any public telephone system. They are acoustic couplers with a small screen display and keyboard. (Back to top.)

POPs Persons of Population: This term is used to designate the number of potential subscribers in a market. (Back to top.)

POS: Point-of-Sale Terminal: A type of computer terminal used to collect and store retail sales data. Wireless POS terminals are used for remote or temporary locations. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Protocol: A specific set of rules for organizing the transmission of data in a network. (Back to top.)

PSTN - Public Switched Telephone Network: The worldwide voice telephone system, also called the Bell System in the United States. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

PUC - Public Utility Commission: The general name for the state regulatory body charged with regulating utilities including telecommunications. (Back to top.)


QoS - Quality of Service: A benchmark for quantifying a user's experience per session of wireless service. This is a method of prioritizing the use of the spectrum to ensure that data transmissions are not lost. (Back to top.)


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. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

RBOC Regional Bell Operating Company: The list of such companies includes Bell Atlantic, U S West, Ameritech, Southwestern Bell and BellSouth. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

RIM: Research in Motion, a Canadian company that created the popular wireless device known as "Blackberry." (Back to top.)

Roaming: Traveling outside a carrier's local area. (Back to top.)

RSA: Rural Service Area: One of the 428 FCC designated rural markets across the United States. There are two cellular carriers licensed for each RSA. (Back to top.)


Service Charge: The amount you pay each month to receive wireless service. This amount is fixed, and to paid monthly regardless of how much or how little you use your wireless phone. (Back to top.)

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

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. (Back to top.)

Smart Card: A credit card-sized card with a microprocessor and memory. (Back to top.)

Smart phone: A phone with a microprocessor, memory, screen and built-in modem. The smart phone combines some of the capabilities of a PC in a handset device. Most of the current models also include a Web browser. (Back to top.)

SMR Specialized Mobile Radio: A dispatch radio and interconnect service for businesses. Covers frequencies in the 220 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands. (Back to top.)

SMS Short Messaging Service: Two-way electronic messages on a wireless network. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

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. Such allocations, typically require years of debate and discussion within the industry and track new technology development. 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. However, the owners of the TV channels are resisting the mandate to give up those channels. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Spectrum cap: A limit to the allocated spectrum designated for a specific service. (Back to top.)

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. (Back to top.)

Synchronization: Also known as "replication," it is the process of uploading and downloading information from two or more databases, so that each is identical. (Back to top.)


TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol: The standard of protocol or rules used by the Internet for transferring information between computers, handsets, and other devices. (Back to top.)

TDMA: Time Division Multiple Access: A method of digital wireless communications transmission allowing a large number of users to access (in sequence) a single radio frequency channel without interference by allocating unique time slots to each user within each channel. Rather than encoding bits of data like CDMA, each frequency is broken into time slots through which bits of data flow. Data can only flow in their assigned time slots. (Back to top.)

Telecommunications Act of 1996: Legislation designed to spur competition among wireless and wireline carriers. (Back to top.)

Telematics: The integration of wireless communications, vehicle monitoring systems and location devices. (Back to top.)

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

Third-Generation (3G): 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. (See CDMA-2000). 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. (Back to top.)

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

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. (Back to top.)

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

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


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. (Back to top.)

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

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. (Back to top.)


Voice activation: A feature that allows a subscriber to dial a phone by spoken commands instead of punching the numbers in physically. The feature contributes to convenience as well as safe driving. (Back to top.)

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


WAN - Wide Area Network: A network that uses local telephone company lines to connect geographically dispersed locations. WANs provide connectivity between LANs and network addresses. See LAN. (Back to top.)

WAP: Wireless Applications Protocol: A protocol for wireless applications that simplifies the output of the data to match the screen properties on cellular phone and wireless devices. (Back to top.)

W-CDMA Wideband Code Division Multiple Access: The third generation standard offered to the International Telecommunication Union by GSM proponents. (Back to top.)

WCS Wireless Communications Services: Frequencies in the 2.3 GHz band designated for general fixed wireless use. See also FWA. (Back to top.)

WI-FI: Wireless Fidelity (also known as 802.11b) is a radio frequency technology. Typically a land-line Internet access (DSL or faster) is connected to a Wi-Fi transmitter that enables any device equipped with a Wi-Fi transceiver to send and receive data at broadband speeds. The working distance for most Wi-Fi devices is 300 feet. Beyond 300 feet the through-put of the connection speed decreases.

This radio technology is described through the use of standards developed by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), an international organization that is developing standards for hundreds of electronic technologies. The IEEE uses an arbitrary series of numbers (like the Dewey Decimal system used in libraries) to differentiate between different types of technologies. The 802 committee develops standards for local (LANs) and wide-area networks (WANs). For example, the 802.3 committee develops standards for Ethernet-based wired networks, the 802.15 group develops standards for personal area networks, and the 802.11 committee develops standards for wireless local area networks (LANs). 802.11 is then further divided. 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, is a standard for wireless LANs operating in the 2.4 GHz spectrum with a bandwidth of 11 Mbps. 802.11a is a different standard for wireless LANs operating in the 5 GHz frequency range with a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. Another draft standard, 802.11g, is for wireless LANs operating in the 2.4 GHz frequency but with a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. (Back to top.)

WIN-4 Wireless Intelligent Network: The architecture of the wireless switched network that allows carriers to provide enhanced and customized services for mobile telephones. (Back to top.)

Wireless: Using the radio-frequency spectrum for transmitting and receiving voice, data and video signals for communications. (Back to top.)

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

Wireless IP: The packet data protocol standard for sending wireless data over the Internet. (Back to top.)

Wireless ISPs: Commercial companies that bundle wireless telecommunication service plans and wireless devices for consumers and enterprise customers. All use packet-data transmission services. Primary examples are GoAmerica, Yada Yada and Omnisky. (Back to top.)

Wireless LAN: Using radio frequency (RF) technology, wireless LANs or WLANs transmit and receive data over the air, minimizing the need for wired connections. Thus, wireless LANs combine data connectivity with user mobility. WLANs are essentially networks that allow the transmission of data and the ability to share resources, such as printers, without the need to physically connect each node, or computer, with wires. Wireless LANs offer the productivity, convenience, and cost advantages over traditional wired networks. 802.11 (b) PC cards that provide networking in the 75 to 300 foot range at 5-7 Mbps. (Back to top.)

WLL Wireless Local Loop: A local wireless communication network the bypasses the local exchange carrier and provides high-speed, fixed data transmission. See FWA and WCS. (Back to top.)


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

XML: eXtensible Mark-up Language: A web authoring language that operates over multiple devices and network platforms. (Back to top.)



Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association
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