Wireless Glossary Terms

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3G / 4G: A general term that refers to new wireless technologies which offer increased capacity and capabilities delivered over digital wireless networks.


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App (Application): Downloadable tools, resources, games, social networks or almost anything that adds a function or feature to a wireless handset which are available for free or a fee.


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Bluetooth: 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.

Broadband: [See Wireless Internet].


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Cache (or “Cookie”): Many websites store the initial visit so that when the mobile device user visits again, the data from the same website can appear faster.

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

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

“Cyberbullying”: Annoying, threatening, harassing, humiliating or embarrassing messages sent to victims by kids or teens using a text, e-mail, instant message, blog, social network or the Internet generally.


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Digital: 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.

Digital Download: A ringtone, application (or app), song, game, e-book, GPS, video, movie or tv show are all considered purchases of digital commerce.  The user will download these goods or services via wireless or high-speed broadband, by purchasing that item from their wireless carrier or from an app store.


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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.


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Federal Communications Commission (FCC): An independent U.S. government agency responsible with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.  This includes all aspects of the wireless industry and such as devices, policies, programs and outreach initiatives.

Filters: Most wireless carriers provide parents with the ability to filter Internet content accessed on a wireless phone on their network. [Also see Parental Controls]

“Friending”: Building your social network by accepting friends, family or acquaintances who ask to join your social network profile, particularly on Facebook, etc (See Social Network).


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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.


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

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


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LAN: Local Area Network (LAN) 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.

Location Based Services (LBS): An information, advertising or entertainment service that uses the geographical position of a cellphone. CTIA developed voluntary Best Practices and Guidelines for Location-Based Services to promote and protect user privacy. (See Privacy Settings).


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mHealth (Mobile Health):The use of mobile devices and technology in health care.  This includes text message reminders to prompt them to take medication, follow a certain diet, engage in physical activity, check glucose levels, monitor blood pressure and more. It can also be used to monitor patients’ health and track and guide self-care beyond the doctors’ offices.

mLearning (Mobile Learning): Education that takes advantage of the opportunities mobile devices provides, including not being prohibited by location. This includes sending text messages for in-class participation or voting, accessing the mobile Internet for information or conducting homework assignments.

Megahertz: Megahertz (MHz) 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.


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Parental Control Tools: Services offered by wireless carriers or third parties or built-in to a wireless device that allow parents to limit or monitor their child’s cellphone use.

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.

POPs: 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.

Premium Text: Text to or from a commercial entity that delivers news, information, images, ringtones or entertainment for a fee above standard messaging rates.

Privacy Settings: Ability to determine how much personally identifiable information (PII) is shared digitally. Many wireless services and apps allow users to determine the PII available to third parties including friends, advertisers and the general public.

Public Service/Utility Commission (PSC/PUC): A state government’s agency responsible for regulating intrastate communications. Although many states preempt a PSC/PUC’s authority to regulate wireless, federal law permits non-preempted states to regulate a wireless carriers terms and conditions but not rates.


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Rating System: A system for classifying and providing information about specific content such as games, music, TV, movies and apps. Wireless carriers and manufacturers may rate content or utilize existing rating system to help parents filter content available to children. (See CTIA Wireless Content Guidelines Classification Criteria).

Roaming: 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.


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“Sexting”: The sending or receipt of inappropriate explicit or implicit sexual messages or images electronically, but primarily between cellphones. Parents are encouraged to monitor their underage children to prevent this sort of behavior, and all adults should remember to avoid participating in inappropriate conduct while online, particularly using mobile.

SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) Card: A small card that fits inside some cellphones and communicates with a wireless network using a unique code. A SIM card can be removed and transferred to another wireless device.

Smartphone: Wireless phones with advanced data features and often keyboards or touch screens. What makes the phone “smart” is its ability to manage and transmit data in addition to voice calls and text messages.

SMS: 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.

“SMSishing”: A combination of ‘Short Message Service’ (SMS) text messaging and email ‘Phishing’. It begins when you receive what appears to be a legitimate text message, but from an unknown number. If you respond, you could place yourself at risk for identity or information theft at the hands of crafty cyber thieves.

Social Networking (SocNet): An online community of people who share similar interests (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more).

“SPAM”: Unsolicited and unwanted emails or text messages sent to wireless devices. If you receive a SPAM email on your mobile device, file a complaint with the FCC.

Spectrum: Spectrum allows your wireless device to send and receive information instantly – and there’s a finite amount of it. The more advanced functionality of modern-day phones, such as streaming music, videos and downloading apps requires larger amounts of spectrum for information to be transported than just what’s needed for voice calls.

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.


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Text (Short Message Service/SMS): SMS enables users to send and receive short text messages (usually about 160 characters) on wireless handsets. Usually referred to as “text messaging” or “texting.”

Text4Baby: In an effort to help expecting and new mothers to increase the health of their babies, the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) launched Text4Baby™.

“Tweet”: Twitter is a social networking platform used predominantly via mobile device, that composes information or messages in a simple, text-like 140 character limit.  When a user tweets a comment, unless account-protected the entire online community can access that tweet, and a friend or “follower” will find that comment in his/her timeline.


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VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): VoIP is a two-way communication service that can allow users to communicate via voice or video. Based on Internet technology, VoIP is also used to transfer a wide range of different type traffic.

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


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Wi-Fi®: Wi-Fi provides wireless Internet access to the immediate local area and is used in homes, businesses and other similar settings to allow people to go online without using a cord or wire. Wi-Fi offers local area connectivity to Wi-Fi enabled computers and devices, typically smartphones.

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

Wireless AMBER Alerts: Wireless companies have partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Department of Justice to make AMBER Alerts™ available to wireless consumers via text messages. Wireless AMBER Alerts will significantly increase the reach of the overall AMBER Alert program, by informing people of emergency situations wherever they are.

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

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.