Education & Risk Management


Glossary of Rural Telecommunications Terms

3G (third-generation wireless): The third-generation wireless communication systems follows the development of the first generation (analog) and second generation (digital) cellular telephone services, and support much higher data rates, measured in Mbps, intended for both voice and data applications. To do so, 3G uses wider band air interface technologies and adds packet-switching capabilities to the network.

4G (fourth-generation wireless): The stage of broadband mobile communications that will follow the still-burgeoning 3G. One distinction of 4G over 3G communications is increased data transmission rates, just as it is for 3G over 2G and 2.5G. 4G also is expected to provide universal access and device portability by allowing different wireless networks to interoperate.

802.11: An evolving family of specifications for wireless local area networks (WLANs) developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). There are several specifications in the family and new ones are occasionally added. The IEEE 802.11b standard, operating in the 2.4 GHz band with a data rate up to 11 Mbps, popularized the use of WLANs. The newer 802.11g (2.4 GHz) and 802.11a (5 GHz) standards offer data rates up to 54Mbps.

802.16: Commonly referred to as WiMAX , 802.16 is a group of broadband wireless communications standards for metropolitan area networks (MANs) developed by the IEEE. 802.16 standards are expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connection and, with a range of up to 30 miles, provide a viable last mile technology.

Access Charge: A fee charged to subscribers or other telephone companies for the use of local exchange facilities, especially for access to these facilities to provide long-distance service.

Access Point: A hardware device or a computer’s software that acts as a communications hub for users of a wireless device to connect to a wired LAN. Access points are important for providing heightened wireless security and for extending the physical range of service a wireless user has access to.

Ad Hoc Network: A short-term wireless network created between two or more wireless network adapters without going through an access point. Ad hoc networks are handy for quickly trading files when you have no other way of connecting two or more computers.

ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line): An “always on” technology designed to increase the bandwidth available over standard copper telephone wires (see also DSL), ADSL exploits the trend that most homes and businesses consume more data than they generate. The technology is ideal for one-way applications, such as video on demand and graphics downloading, but much less suitable for two-way applications, such as videoconferencing.

Air Interface : In cellular telephone communications, the radio-frequency portion of the circuit between the cellular phone set (or wireless modem) and the base station. Air interface also defines the frequency use, the bandwidth of the individual radio channels, the encoding methods used (e.g., W-CDMA, cdma2000) and other quantities used by the radio technology.

AMPS (advanced mobile phone service): A standard system for analog cellular telephone service in the United States, and it also is used in some Latin American and Asia Pacific countries. It is based on the initial spectrum allocation for cellular service (in the 800 MHz band) by the FCC in 1970. Introduced by AT&T in 1983, AMPS became and currently still is the most widely deployed cellular system in the United States.

Analog Transmission: A signaling technology in which sound waves or other information are converted into electrical impulses of varying strengths. Analog transmission is the traditional telephone technology for voice transmission.

ARPU (average revenue per unit): The average revenue generated per wireless customer unit (e.g. pager or cellular phone) per month. ARPU is an indicator of the financial performance of a wireless company.

ASP (application service provider) : A business that offers software application capabilities to business users via the Internet from a centralized data center.

ATM (asynchronous transfer mode): A high-speed multiplexing and switching method utilizing fixed-length cells to transmit voice, data and video.

AWS (advanced wireless service): A term the FCC uses to refer to an array of innovative wireless services, including wireless broadband Internet access. The FCC is currently writing service rules for the newly identified AWS bands.

Bandwidth: The capacity of a telecom line to carry signals. Bandwidth is both the total frequency spectrum, in hertz or cycles per second, that is allocated or available to a channel, as well as the amount of data that can be carried by a channel, in bits per second (bps). For analog transmission, it is measured in cycles per second; for digital transmission, it is measured in bits per second.

Basic Service: A telephone company service limited to providing only local switching and transmission.

Basic Trading Area (BTA): A geographic region defined by a group of counties that surround a city, which is the area’s basic trading center. The boundaries of each BTA were formulated by Rand McNally & Co., and are used by the FCC to determine service areas for PCS wireless licenses. The entire United States and some of its territories is divided into 493 non-overlapping BTAs.

Bell System: A group of affiliated regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs) in the United States that operate under rules and specifications established primarily by AT&T and the FCC.

BETR (basic exchange telecommunications radio) : A digital radio-based transmission system employed by telephone companies to provide basic local exchange telephone service to subscribers in remote areas where installation of conventional telephone lines is impractical due to expense or terrain.

BlackBerry: A handheld device made by RIM (Research In Motion) that competes with another popular handheld, the Palm, and is marketed primarily for its wireless e-mail handling capability. It has a miniature QUWERTY keyboard for users to type their messages. Through partnerships, Blackberry also provides access to cellular telephone and other Internet services.

Blog: Short for “Web log,” a specialized site that allows an individual or group of individuals to share a running log of events and personal insights with online audiences. Blogs with political or current-events themes have grown in popularity and become “soap boxes” for instant mass-audience commentary.

Bluetooth: A global initiative by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba to set a standard for cable-free connectivity between mobile phones, mobile PCs, handheld computers and other peripherals. It uses short-range radio links in the 2.4 GHz Instrumentation Scientific and Medical (ISM) band.

Broadband: A term used in evolving digital technologies in which multiple signals share the bandwidth of a medium, such as fiber-optic cable. This allows the transmission of voice, data and video signals over a single medium.

Broadband over power line (BPL): Also known as power line carrier (PLC) technology, BPL allows high-speed Internet data transmission over medium-voltage power lines. Related home networking technologies carry data over home electric wiring. Both Internet access and home networking products allow consumers to send and receive signals using standard AC electric plugs.

Broadband Wireless Access (BWA): Any of the technologies aimed at providing wireless access to data networks, with high data rates. From the point of view of connectivity, broadband wireless access is equivalent to broadband wired access, such as asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) or cable modems. Examples of BWA are local multipoint distribution services (LMDS), multichannel multipoint distribution service (MMDS), and IEEE 802.16.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act): Enacted in October 1994, CALEA is a law defining the statutory obligation of telecommunications carriers to assist law enforcement in executing electronic surveillance.

Calling Party Pays: A billing method in which a wireless phone caller pays only for making calls and not for receiving them. The standard billing system in the United States requires wireless phone customers to pay for all calls made and received on a wireless phone.

CATV (community antenna television): Cable television is also known as community antenna television or community access television.

CDMA (code division multiple access): A digital cellular technology that uses spread-spectrum techniques. Unlike competing systems, such as GSM, that use time-division multiplexing (TDM), CDMA does not assign a specific frequency to each user. Instead, every voice channel uses the full available spectrum. Individual conversations are encoded with a pseudo-random digital sequence.

cdma2000: A 3G technology based on the CDMA platform. Cdma2000 can support mobile data communications at speeds ranging from 144 Kbps to 2 Mbps. Versions have been developed by Ericsson and Qualcomm.

CDPD (cellular digital packet data): Cellular digital packet data is an add-on technology that enables first-generation analog cellular telephone systems to provide packet data. It uses unused bandwidth normally used by AMPS mobile phones to transfer data with speeds up to 19.2 kbps. Introduced in 1994, CDPD is now being usurped by 2.5G and 3G technologies.

Cell Site: Also called base station, is the central radio transmitter/receiver that maintains communications with a mobile telephone with a given range. A cellular network is made up of many cell sites, all connected back to the mobile telephone switching office (MTSO) via landline or microwave.

Cellular Technology: This term, typically used for all cellular phones regardless of the technology use, derives from cellular base stations that receive and transmit calls. Both cellular and personal communications service (PCS) phones use cellular technology.

CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier): A telephone company that competes with an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), such as a regional Bell operating company (RBOC), GTE and ALLTEL.

Closed Captioning: A service for people with hearing disabilities that translates television program dialogue into written words on the television screen.

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.

CMSS (cable media switching system): An integrated solution that handles both VoIP and circuit-switched voice calls simultaneously on a single packet switch.

CO (central office): A common carrier switching center in which trunks and loops are terminated and switched. The central office contains the associated inside plant network elements required to perform this function, such as distribution frames, interoffice facility termination points, etc.

Cognitive Radio: A cognitive radio is aware of its own capabilities, the needs of its user, the RF environment, and the governing regulatory framework in ways that allow it to configure itself intelligently in response to novel and rapidly changing conditions.

Colocation: The placement of multiple antennas at a common physical site to reduce both environmental impact and real estate costs, as well as to speed zoning approvals and network deployment.

Commercial Leased Access: The manner through which independent video producers can access cable capacity for a fee.

Common Carrier: A telephone company, or similar supplier of non-private telecommunications services, such as a local telephone company. Under the common carrier principle, telephone companies must offer service to the public without discrimination, within a territory approved by a governmental agency, and with the companies held strictly accountable to the public through government regulation.

Communications Act of 1934: The first communications legislation that established the FCC to regulate interstate and foreign communications by wire or radio. It sets forth the duties and responsibilities of common carriers engaged in wire and radio communications, all of which are subject to FCC regulation. This act also established the principle of universal service.

Convergence: The blending of data, voice and entertainment.

COS (class of service): A method of managing traffic on a network by grouping like traffic together and giving each type a different priority level. COS differs from QOS (quality of service) in that it does not guarantee a certain level of service, but instead offers a “best effort” delivery.

CPE (customer premise equipment): The terminal, equipment and/or inside wiring located at a subscriber’s premises, which is connected to a carrier’s communication channel(s) at the interconnection point.

CPNI (customer proprietary network information): Any information about the specific service agreement provided to the customer by their telephone company; any specific information about the customer’s usage of their telephone service; and, any trade secrets, marketing data or other information of a proprietary nature supplied to a telephone company by its customers to facilitate provisioning the customer’s telephone service.

Cream Skimming: A situation in which a service provider only offers its service to the more profitable segments, the “cream” of a communications market.CRM (customer relationship management): A technique of establishing and maintaining a long-term business relationship with your customers. It generally involves utilizing the data collected during your customer interactions to determine the demographics and future needs of each customer.

DBS (direct broadcast satellite): A high-powered satellite that transmits or retransmits signals intended for direct reception by the public. The signal is transmitted to a small earth station or dish mounted on the outside of homes or other buildings.

Deregulation: In 1984, AT&T no longer was allowed to provide local service, nor were the Bell companies allowed to provide interLATA, long-distance information service, nor could they manufacture equipment. In 1996, the barriers preventing competitive entry into the local exchange market were lifted, thus allowing broadcast cable, telephone, utilities, etc., to compete equally.

Detariffing: The removal of regulations requiring that a common carrier service be offered under a tariff approved by the regulatory agency. Detariffing affects direct price controls.

Dial Around: Long-distance services that require customers to dial a long-distance provider’s access code (or a “10-10″ number) before dialing a long-distance number to bypass or “dial around,” the customer’s chosen long-distance carrier to get a better rate.

Digital Transmission: A system using discrete numbers to represent data. Digital transmission provides sharper, clearer, faster transmission than analog transmission.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR): Sometimes called personal video recorders (PVRs), DVRs are hard-drive based recording systems that allow viewers to copy TV programs for later viewing, similar to videocassette recorders. In addition, DVRs can pause live video and automatically record programs based on users’ past viewing preferences. Many DVRs come integrated in cable or satellite TV set-top boxes. Some of the latest models include home networking features that allow viewers to access DVR features on TV sets throughout the home. Viewers must pay a monthly fee to use DVR services.

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

Divestiture: The break-up of AT&T that mandated the company’s reorganization of 22 Bell operating companies (BOCs) into seven regional Bell holding companies: Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, Bell South, Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, US WEST and NYNEX. These companies now consist of Verizon, SBC, Qwest and Bell South.

DOCSIS (data over cable service interface specifications): A set of communications and interface specifications for cable modems.

DSL (digital subscriber line): A technology for bringing high-bandwidth information to homes and small businesses over ordinary copper telephone lines. xDSL refers to different variations of DSL, such as ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line), HDSL (high bit-rate digital subscriber line), and RADSL (rate adaptive digital subscriber line).

DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer): A network device, generally located within a company central office, that receives signals from multiple customer digital subscriber line (DSL) connections and puts the signals on a high-speed backbone line using multiplexing techniques.

DSP (digital signal processor): An integrated circuit especially designed to process digital waveforms generally used for compressing and decompressing audio and video data.

DTV (digital television): A new technology for transmitting and receiving broadcast television signals. DTV provides clearer resolution and improved sound quality.

Dual Band: Dual band mobile phones can work on networks that operate on two different frequency bands. In the United States, dual band technology enables a network operator with spectrum at both 900MHz and 1800MHz to support the seamless use of dual band handsets across both frequencies. Dual band networks can provide major benefits in terms of capacity enhancement and revenue optimisation through the introduction of new services.

Dual Mode: Dual mode mobile phones have more than one air interface and hence can work on more than one network. One example is phones that operate on both digital and analog networks. Another example is phones that could work in both cdma2000 and W-CDMA networks.

DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing): A technology that puts data from different sources together on an optical fiber, with each signal carried at the same time on its own separate light wavelength. Using DWDM, up to 80 separate wavelengths or channels of data can be multiplexed into a lightstream transmitted on a single optical fiber. Each channel carries a time division multiplexed (TDM) signal. In a system with each channel carrying 2.5 Gbps (billion bits per second), up to 200 billion bits can be delivered a second by the optical fiber. E1: The European counterpart to T1, which transmits at 2.048 mega bits per second.

E911 (enhanced 911): A location technology advanced by the FCC that will enable mobile, or cellular, phones to process 911 emergency calls and enable emergency services to locate the geographic position of the caller.

EDGE (enhanced data rates for GSM evolution): An enhanced modulation technique designed to increase network capacity and data rates in GSM networks. EDGE should provide data rates up to 384 Kbps. EDGE will let operators without a 3G license to compete with 3G networks offering similar data services.

E-mail (electronic mail): Refers to messages sent over the Internet. E-mail also can be sent and received via some newer wireless phones.

End User: Customers who directly use, rather than provide, telecommunications services.

Enhanced Service Providers: A business that transmits voice and data messages. Examples include telephone answering services, alarm/security companies and transaction processing companies.

Equal Access: Starting in 1985, consumers could choose their long-distance carrier.

ESMR (enhanced specialized mobile radio): Digital, specialized mobile radio (SMR) networks that provide voice, messaging, dispatch and data services to customers. ESMR most commonly refers to Nextel Communications.

Extensible Markup Language (XML): A protocol, interoperable with HTML, which distributes Internet intelligence between the server and the client.

FCC (Federal Communications Commission): The federal agency empowered by law to regulate all interstate and foreign wire and radio communications services originating in the United States, including radio, television, facsimile, telegraph and telephone systems. The agency was established under the Communications Act of 1934.

FCC Lottery: The method of distributing spectrum for wireless services in the early days of cellular. The lottery system was replaced by the auction system in the early 1990s.

FDMA (frequency division multiple access): The division of the frequency band allocated for wireless communication into individual channels, each of which can carry a voice conversation or, with digital service, carry digital data. FDMA is a basic technology for analog AMPS, which divides the cellular spectrum into 832 channels each with 30 kHz bandwidth. With FDMA, each channel can be assigned to only one user at a time. D-AMPS (digital AMPS) also uses FDMA but adds TDMA to get three channels for each FDMA channel, tripling the number of calls that can be handled on a channel.

Federal-State Joint Board: An ad hoc advisory panel established by the FCC and composed of commissioners representing state and federal jurisdictions.

Fiber Optics: Communications technology that uses thin filaments of glass or other transparent materials. Fiber optic technology offers extremely high transmission speeds, allowing for data-intensive services such as video-on-demand.

Fixed Wireless: Refers to the operation of wireless devices or systems in fixed locations such as homes and offices. Fixed wireless technologies are increasingly being used as a fast and economic way to roll out modern telephone services, since it avoids the need for wires.

Flat Rate: A type of service pricing charged per month (or other stated billing period) that does not vary according to usage.

Frame Relay: A telecommunications service that provides cost-efficient data transmission for sporadic traffic between local area networks (LANs) and endpoints in a wide area network (WAN).

GPRS (GSM packet radio service or general packet radio service): An upgrade to the GSM technology that adds packet-switching capability to the voice network. GPRS uses the same time slots as voice calls and each time slot is capable of approximately 9.6 Kbps of data throughput. GPRS is considered a 2.5G c technology.

GPS (global positioning system): A satellite-based navigation system. It allows people using small handheld receivers to pinpoint their geographic location within 10 to 100 meters. GPS consists of a “constellation” of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth at a height of 10,900 miles.

GSM (global system for mobile communications): One of the leading digital cellular telephone systems, GSM uses a variation of time division multiple access (TDMA), which employs eight time slots in a 200 kHz channel. GSM has become the de facto digital cellular standard in much of the world. GSM operates in the 900 MHz and 1.8 GHz bands in Europe, and 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz bands in the United States. T-mobile, Cingular, and AT&T use the GSM technology.

H.323: A specification by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that defines how voice, data and video traffic will be transported over IP-based local area networks.

HDTV (high definition television): An improved television system that provides approximately twice the resolution of existing video standards.

HFC (Hybrid Fiber Coaxial): A technology that allows optical fiber cable and coaxial cable to be used in different portions of a network to carry broadband content, such as video, data and voice.

Hotspot: A specific geographic location in which an access point provides public wireless broadband network services to mobile visitors through a wireless LAN. Hotspots often are located in heavily populated places, such as airports, train stations, libraries, marinas, conventions centers and hotels. Hotspots typically have a short range of access.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): The most common communications protocol on the Internet, HTML defines the layout of graphics, text and other digital features on a Web page.

iDEN: A Motorola proprietary version of TDMA with a unique “push-to-talk” two-way radio capability. Nextel Communications is the largest iDEN operator in the United States.

IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): A technical professional association, composed of engineers, scientists, and students. The IEEE fosters the development of standards that often become national and international standards. In particular, the IEEE 802 standards for local area networks are widely followed.

IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force): A standards body that regulates the technical standards of the Internet.

IGMP (Internet group management protocol): An Internet protocol that provides a way for an Internet computer to report its multicast group membership to adjacent routers. Multicasting allows one computer on the Internet to send content to multiple other computers that have identified themselves as interested in receiving the originating computer’s content.

ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier): A telephone company in the United States that was providing local service when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted, mostly notably the former Bell operating companies. ILECs are in contradistinction to CLEC.

IM (instant messaging): A service that enables users to see whether a specific user is connected to the Internet and, if they are, to exchange messages with them. Users must be online at the same time and subscribers of the same service. Messages, which appear in a pop-up box on the user’s screen, are easier and more immediate than traditional e-mails.

i-mode: A proprietary packet-based information service for mobile phones. i-mode delivers information (such as mobile banking and train timetable) to mobile phones and enables the exchange of e-mail from handsets on a 2G digital cellular telephone network.

IMT-2000: The term used by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the specification for the third-generation wireless services. The ITU officially endorsed 5 standards for 3G, the most widely accepted of which are W-CDMA and cdma2000.

Independent Carrier: A telephone company not affiliated with one of the Bell telephone companies. There are about 1,400 independent phone companies. They serve more than half of the geographic area of the United States, but only around 15% of its telephones.

Interference Temperature: An FCC proposed model for determining RF interference. It accounts for the cumulative radio frequency energy from transmissions and sets a maximum cap on their aggregate level, as opposed to the current approach that manages interference by limiting the transmit power of individual devices.

Intra-LATA: Telecommunications between two points located within the same local access and transport area (LATA).

IP (Internet protocol): The method by which data is transmitted from one computer (or host) to another over the Internet using a system of addresses and gateways.

IPv4 (Internet protocol version 4): The most widely used version of Internet Protocol today, it uses a system of unique 32-bit identifiers to address data to computers (or hosts) on the Internet.

IPv6 (Internet protocol version 6): A newer version of IPv4 that is gaining popularity, expands the address length of 32 bits up to 128 bits.

ISDN (integrated services digital network): A set of standards for digital transmission over ordinary telephone copper wire as well as over other media.

ISM Band: The industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) radio bands were originally reserved internationally for non-commercial use of RF electromagnetic fields for industrial, scientific and medical purposes. ISM bands also have been used for unlicensed (or license-free) communications applications such as wireless LANs and Bluetooth.

ISP (Internet service provider): A company that provides customers access to the Internet, Web hosting and or other related services.

ITFS (instructional television fixed service): A band of microwave frequencies set aside by the FCC exclusively for the transmission of educational programming. Allows broadcast of audio, video and data to receive sites located within 20 miles of the point of origination. Receive sites require a converter that changes signals to those used by a standard television set.

IVDS (interactive video data service): A communications system, operating over a short distance, which allows nearly instantaneous two-way responses by using hand-held devices at a fixed location. Examples of this are viewer participation in game shows, distance learning and e-mail on computer networks.

IXC (interexchange carrier): A common carrier that provides services to the public between local exchanges on an intra- or inter-LATA basis in compliance with local or federal regulatory requirements. It is not an end user of the services provided.

Ka band: The frequency band in the 18 GHz to 31 GHz range used for satellite communications. New Ka-band services launching in 2005 will support mid- to high-end computer data and digital television.

Ku band: The frequency band in the 10.9 GHz to 17 GHz range used for satellite communications systems, including DBS.

LAN (local area network): A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building.

Land Mobile Service: A public or private radio service providing two-way communications, paging and radio signaling on land.

Landline: Traditional wired phone service.

LATA (local access and transport area): A local telephone exchange area established as a result of the AT&T divestiture that serves to distinguish local from long-distance phone service.

LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol): A software protocol that enables anyone to locate organizations, individuals and/or files whether on the public Internet or on a corporate intranet.

LEC (local exchange carrier): A telephone company.

Lifeline Service: Basic local exchange telephone service provided at a discount to low-income and elderly people. Lifeline service is subsidized by other telephone services or by state and local taxes.

LMDS (local multipoint distribution services): A fixed wireless technology that operates in the 28 GHz band and offers line-of-sight coverage over distances up 23 miles. It can deliver data and telephony services to 80,000 customers from a single node. LMDS is one proposed solution for bringing high-bandwidth services to homes and offices within the “last mile” of connectivity, an area where cable or optical fiber may not be convenient or economical.

LOS (line of sight): RF engineers use the term LOS to describe an unobstructed path between the location of the signal transmitter and the location of the receiver. Obstacles that can cause an obstruction in the line of sight include trees, buildings, mountains, hills and other natural or manmade structures or objects.

LPTV (low power television): Established by the FCC in 1982, its intention was to provide locally oriented television service in small, primarily rural communities.

MAC (media access control) Address: In a LAN, this address is your computer’s unique hardware number. When you are connected to the Internet from your computer (or host), a correspondence table relates your IP address to your computer’s physical MAC address on the LAN.

MAG (Multi-Association Group): A group formed to propose access charge and universal service reform plans that are friendly to small, independent telecommunications providers.

MAN (metropolitan area network): A regional computer or communication network spanning the area covered by an average to large-sized city. A WiMAX network is an example of a MAN.

MDU (multi-dwelling unit): Also known as a multi-tenant unit (MTU), MDU is a large building with multiple occupants, such as hotels or office buildings.

MGCP (media gateway control protocol): An Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) protocol that enables communication with gateway interface devices between IP and circuit-based networks.

MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service): A broadcasting and communications service that operates between 2.1 GHz and 2.7 GHz. MMDS also is known as wireless cable. It was originally conceived as a substitute for conventional cable TV. However, it also has applications in telephone/fax and data communications.

MMOG (massive multiplayer online gaming): The move toward interactive web-based games with multiple players that compete against each other from various locations.

MMS (multimedia messaging service): Similar to short messaging service (SMS), but in addition to plain text, MMS messages may include multimedia elements such as pictures, video and audio. These multimedia elements are included in the message, not as attachments as with e-mail.

MPLS (multiprotocol label switching): A technology, designed to speed up network traffic and manage flow, in which each packet is given a label that designates its network path. This helps to unclog networks because routers simply pass the packet on, instead of determining a route. MPLS is called multiprotocol because it works with multiple standards.

MSA (metropolitan statistical area): One of the 305 urban cellular telephone service areas as defined by the FCC. When the FCC began issuing cellular radio licenses, it divided the United States into RSA and MSA markets.

MSO (multiple system operator): A company that operates more than one cable TV system.

MTA (major trading area): An area consisting of two or more basic trading areas (BTAs) as defined by Rand McNally & Co. These large areas are used by the FCC to determine service areas for some PCS wireless licenses. The United States is divided into 51 MTAs.

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.

MTU (multi-tenant unit): Also known as a multi-dwelling unit (or MDU), a large building with multiple occupants, such as hotels or office buildings.

MVNO (mobile virtual network operator): A mobile service operator that does not have its own licensed spectrum and does not have the infrastructure to provide mobile service to its customers. Instead, MVNOs lease wireless capacity from preexisting mobile service providers and establish their own brand names different from the providers.

NANP (North American Numbering Plan): The numbering system used primarily within the United States, Canada, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and certain Caribbean Islands. NANP format stipulates a 10-digit telephone number – comprised of a three-digit numbering plan area (NPA) code (more commonly referred to as an area code), followed by a three-digit central office code, and ending with a four-digit line number.

NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners): An association of state and local utility commissioners who regulate intrastate utility services such as electric, power, gas, transportation and telephone.

NECA (National Exchange Carrier Association): NECA was established by the FCC to act as an association for LECs. NECA prepares common tariffs and administers the revenue pool among its members for access provided to interexchange long-distance carriers.

Network: Any connection of two or more computers that enables them to communicate. Networks may include transmission devices, servers, cables, routers and satellites. The phone network is the total infrastructure for transmitting phone messages.

NLOS (non or near line of sight): RF engineers use the term NLOS to describe a partially obstructed path between the location of the signal transmitter and the location of the signal receiver.

NOI (notice of inquiry): Issued by the FCC when it is seeking information or ideas on a given topic. Time periods are specified during which all interested parties should submit comments.

NPA (numbering plan area): A geographic area identified in the North American numbering plan (NANP) by a unique three-digit area code.

NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking): Issued by the FCC when it proposes a new body of regulations or changes to existing regulations. Before any changes to regulations can be made, interested parties are given a time period during which they can comment on the proposed changes. If the FCC decides to make substantial alterations to the proposed rules, an additional comment period may be allotted.

NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Agency): A federal, executive-branch agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes the telecommunications policy of the incumbent administration. NTIA also contributes to developing administration policy on telecom issues.

Number Portability: Sometimes referred to as local number portability (LNP), a term used to describe the ability of individuals, businesses and organizations to maintain their existing telephone number(s), and the same quality service, when switching to a new local service provider.

NXX Code: A code normally used as a central office code. It also may be used as a numbering plan area (NPA) code or special NPA code.

OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing): A method of digital modulation in which a signal is split into several narrowband channels at different frequencies. OFDM is similar to conventional frequency-division multiplexing (FDM). The difference lies in the way in which the signals are modulated and demodulated. Priority is given to minimizing the interference, or crosstalk, among the channels and symbols comprising the data stream. Less importance i splaced on perfecting individual channels. (802.11a WLAN, 802.16 and WiMAX use OFDM.)

OSS (operational support system): Refers to carrier systems that provide operations services such as workforce management, trouble processing, dispatch, customer line records, testing, etc.

PAN (personal area network): Typically covers the few meters surrounding a user’s workspace and provides the ability to synchronize computers, transfers files and gain access to local peripherals like printers and a range of pocket hardware. Examples of wireless PAN technologies are Bluetooth and ultra wideband (UWB).

PBX (private branch exchange): A telephone switching system that interconnects telephone extensions to each other in-house as well as to the outside telephone network.

PCS (personal communications services): The FCC term used to describe a set of digital cellular technologies introduced in the mid-1990s. PCS emerged after the U.S. government auctioned commercial licenses in 1994-1995. Unlike cellular systems that employ both analog or digital technologies and operate in the 800 MHz frequency range, PCS systems are completely digital and operate at the 1900 MHz frequency range.

Phased Array Antenna: A phased array antenna is composed of many radiating elements, each of which is equipped with a phase shifter. Beams are formed by shifting the phase of the signal emitted from each radiating element, to provide constructive/destructive interference so as to steer the beams in the desired direction.

PICC (prescribed interexchange charge): The fee that a local exchange company charges a long-distance company when a customer chooses it as their long-distance carrier.

PON (passive optical network): A system that brings optical fiber cabling and signals all or most of the way to the end user. Depending on where the PON terminates, the system can be described as fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC), fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) or fiber-to-the-home (FTTH).

POP (point of presence): The physical location within a local access and transport area (LATA) where an interexchange carrier’s circuits interconnect with the local lines of the telephone company (or companies) within that LATA.

POPs: In wireless parlance, the number of wireless POPs refer to the total population covered by a wireless service operator’s license.

POTS (plain old telephone service): Refers to traditional telephone, or dial tone, service.

Price Cap: An alternative to rate-of-return regulation in which a ceiling price is set for telecommunications services. The regulated company is free to move rates to any point below the ceiling level without prior approval of the regulatory agency.

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.

PSTN (public switched telephone network): The traditional telephone system.

Push-to-Talk: A two-way communication service that works like a walkie talkie. A normal cell phone call is full-duplex, meaning both parties can hear each other at the same time. PTT is half-duplex, meaning communication can only travel in one direction at any given moment. To control which person can speak and be heard, PTT requires the person speaking to press a button while talking and then release it when they are done. The listener then presses their button to respond.

QOS (quality of service): The idea that transmission rates, error rates and other characteristics can be measured, improved and, to some extent, guaranteed in advance.

Radio-frequency Fingerprinting: An electronic process that identifies each individual wireless handset by examining its unique radio transmission characteristics. Fingerprinting is used to reduce fraud, since the illegal phone cannot duplicate the legal phone’s radio-frequency fingerprint.

Rate of Return: The percentage that a regulated telephone company, an interexchange carrier or a public utility company is authorized to earn on its capital investment for services provided.

RBOC (regional Bell operating company): AT&T’s divested “baby bells,” now consisting of Verizon, Qwest, SBC and Bell South.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS): An XML-based system for aggregating and rapidly scanning information from blogs, news and current-event Web sites, and other Web sites that update content frequently.

Resale: An arrangement in which a carrier sells telecommunications services to another carrier that does not own transmission facilities. The buying carrier then resells the services to the public for profit.

RFC (request for comment): A proposal created by a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force and provided to the general public as a draft for comment for the specific purpose of establishing standards on the Internet.

RFID (radio frequency identification): A technology similar in theory to bar code identification. RFID systems can be used just about anywhere, from clothing tags to missiles to pet tags to food.

RLEC (rural local exchange carrier): A public telephone company that provides local telephone service in rural areas.

Roaming: Using a wireless phone outside of the service provider’s local coverage area or home calling area. Roaming arrangements between service providers expand the potential area for phone use. Service providers typically charge a higher per-minute fee for calls placed outside their home calling or coverage area.

RSA (rural service areas): Areas not included in MSAs are divided into RSAs. Generally, these are the rural regions of the United States. The FCC used RSAs to license cellular carriers in areas not included in MSAs. There are 428 RSAs in the United States.

RUS (Rural Utilities Service): A rural lending system made up of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and other similar programs.

SDR (software-defined radio): Sometimes shortened to software radio (SR), SDR refers to wireless communication in which the transmitter modulation is generated or defined by a computer, and the receiver uses a computer to recover the signal intelligence. SDR allows network operators to simultaneously support multiple communications standards on one network infrastructure without begin bound by a particular standard.

SDSL (single line digital subscriber line): A version of DSL technology using just one twisted pair line, while some other previous DSL standards needed two, or even three pairs.

Secondary Market: An FCC initiative to allow spectrum leasing by licensed users. Secondary market is intended to encourage (commercial) spectrum use in response to economic demand, thus improving its efficiency.

Service Area: The geographic area serviced by a telecommunications provider.

Service Plan: The rate plan a customer selects when choosing a wireless phone service. A service plan typically consists of a monthly base rate for access to the system as well as a fixed amount of monthly minutes.

Service Provider: A telecommunications provider that owns circuit switching equipment.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio: A measure of the power of a signal versus noise. A lower ratio means there is more noise relative to signal.

SIM (subscriber identity module) Card: A small printed circuit board that must be inserted in any GSM-based mobile phone when signing on as a subscriber. It contains subscriber identification, security information and memory for a personal directory of numbers. The card can be plugged into any GSM-compatible phone, and the phone is instantly personalized to the user.

SIP (session initiation protocol): A standard protocol for initiating an interactive user session that involves multimedia elements, such as video, voice, chat, gaming and virtual reality.

SLA (service level agreement): A contract between a network service provider and a customer that specifies, usually in measurable terms, what services the network service provider will furnish.

Slamming: The unauthorized switching of a customer’s long-distance phone service from one carrier to another without the customer’s permission. Slamming violates FCC regulations.

SLC (subscriber line charge): A monthly access charge paid by telephone subscribers that is used to compensate the local telephone company for a portion of its costs to install and maintain telephone wires, poles and all other facilities.

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 to reduce the number of dropped calls, improve call quality and improve channel capacity.

SMR (specialized mobile radio service): A two-way radio telephone service making use of macro cells covering an area of up to 50 miles in diameter. An SMR system is simpler than a cellular telephone network. Typically, there is only one repeater in a SMR system, and it links only the mobile/portable units for that system, not to other repeaters.

SMS (short messaging service): Popularly known as “text messaging,” SMS is available on many 2G and all 3G wireless networks. With SMS, subscribers can send short text messages (usually about 160 characters) to and from wireless handsets. Enhancements are being made to support rich text and graphics.

SOHO (small office, home office): A term for the small office or home office environment and business culture. A number of organizations, businesses and publications exist to support people who work or have businesses in this environment. It also is called “virtual office.”

SONET (synchronous optical network): An ultra-high-speed, fiber optic transmission standard developed for large-scale, fiber-based digital transmission networks that use equipment from many different manufacturers.

Spectrum: The range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used in the transmission of voice, data and television.

Spectrum Allocation: Federal government designation of a range of frequencies for a category of uses.

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

Spread Spectrum: A communication technique in which the frequency of the transmitted signal is deliberately varied. This results in greater bandwidth and lessens the chances of interruption or interception of the transmitted signal. There are two types of spread spectrum radio: direct spread and frequency hopping. In direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS), the stream of information to be transmitted is divided into small pieces, each of which is spread across the entire allocated spectrum. With frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS), a carrier spreads out information (voice or data packets) over different frequencies.

SS7 (signaling system 7): A specific network control system made up of protocols for the interpretation and use of an array of network control and operation signals. The system puts the information required to set up and manage telephone calls in a separate network rather than within the same network on which the telephone call is made.

Standard-Definition Television (SDTV): Lower-resolution (525 horizontal lines) digital TV service. Broadcasters have the option of offering one full HDTV (1050 lines) signal or multiple lower-bandwidth SDTV signals in their 6 MHz digital TV channels. Some consumer electronics manufacturers have sought to hasten the national transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting by offering low-cost (less than $500) SDTV sets that also down-convert HDTV signals to standard-definition resolution.

TCP (transport control protocol): A widely used network protocol that supports communication across interconnected networks and between computers with diverse hardware architectures and various operating systems.

TDM (time division multiplexing): Transmits data by breaking the signal down into multiple segments, which are transmitted separately over a single signal. Data then is reconstructed at the receiving end using a method based on the timing of the transmissions.

TDMA (time division multiple access): A method of digital wireless communications transmission that allows 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. TDMA is used in second generation wireless phone systems, such as GSM and D-AMPS; the latter often is called TDMA.

Telecommunications Act of 1996: Enacted and signed into law by President Bill Clinton February 8, 1996, this act provides a comprehensive reform of the Communcations Act of 1934. It was designed to promote competition among wireless and wireline carriers.

Telephony: A term used to describe the science of transmitting voice over a telecommunications network.

Traffic-sensitive Costs: Costs that are not fixed, but vary according to use.

Triband: A triband cellular phone will operate on three different frequency bands.

TRS (trunked radio systems): TRS are used whenever a large number of mobile radios need to share radio frequencies. In a trunked radio network, a large number of users can share a small number of channels because the trunking equipment dynamically allocates an available channel when users key their radio.

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

UDP (user datagram protocol): One of the protocols for data transfer that is part of the TCP/IP suite of protocols. UDP is a “stateless” protocol in that it makes no provision for acknowledgement of packets received.

Unbundling: Refers to the access provided by local exchange carriers so that other service providers can buy or lease portions of its network elements, such as interconnection loops, to serve subscribers.

Universal Service: The government’s aim, as stated in the Communications Act of 1934, of providing phone service to everyone, regardless of their distance from the switch or ability to pay. Expanded under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, universal service also encompasses a subsidy to public schools, libraries and rural health care facilities for telecom services.

Universal Service Cap: A limit on the amount of universal service funding available to local exchange carriers.

UWB (ultra wideband): Also known as digital pulse wireless, UWB is a wireless technology for transmitting large amounts of digital data over a wide spectrum of frequency bands with very low power for a short distance. UWB radio not only can carry a huge amount of data over a distance up to 230 feet at very low power (less than 0.5 milliwatts), but has the ability to carry signals through doors and other obstacles that tend to reflect signals at more limited bandwidths and a higher power. Both UWB and Bluetooth are considered personal area network technologies.

Very High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL): An extremely wide bandwidth version of DSL that delivers data over copper lines at speeds up to 52.8 Mbps over a maximum distance of 4,500 feet. Some rural telephone companies combine VDSL and IP video technology to offer multichannel video service in competition with cable and satellite TV providers.

VoATM (voice over ATM): A cell-based broadband service that uses asynchronous transfer mode technology to transmit voice. Also see ATM.

VOD (video on demand): An interactive multimedia system similar to cable television that gives customers the ability to select movies from a large video database to view at their convenience.

VoDSL (voice over DSL): A method used to transmit voice conversations using digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. See also voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).

VoIP (voice over Internet protocol): The technology used to transmit voice conversations over a data network using IP. This is done by digitizing voice into discrete packets that are transferred independently over the network, instead of traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network.

VPN (virtual private network): A network in which some of the parts are connected using the public Internet. Encryption is used to protect data, making the network “virtually” private. Companies that want to set up their own private data networks can use the public Internet, instead of leasing lines.

WAN (wide area network): An Internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus.

W-CDMA (wideband code division multiple access): One of the five 3G standards endorsed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It makes use of a wider spectrum than CDMA, and therefore can transmit and receive greater amount of information faster.

Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity): A term promulgated by the Wi-Fi Alliance, it is meant to be used generically when referring to any type of 802.11 network, whether 802.11b, 802.11a or dual-band. Wi-Fi devices operate in both the 2.4 GHz (802.11b and 802.11g) and 5 GHz bands (802.11a). Wi-Fi is gaining acceptance as an alternative to a wired LAN in companies and multicomputer homes.

WiMax: Popular name of the IEEE 802.16 wireless metropolitan-area network standard that is being developed. WiMax technology is expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connection and, with a range of up to 30 miles, enable networks to have a wireless last-mile solution.

Wireless Local Loop (WLL): Sometimes called radio in the loop (RITL) or fixed-radio access (FRA), WLL is a system that connects subscribers to the public switched telephone network using radio signals as a substitute for copper for all or part of the connection between the subscriber and the switch. This includes cordless access systems, proprietary fixed radio access and fixed cellular systems.

WISP (wireless Internet service provider): An ISP that allows subscribers to connect to a server at designated hot spots (access points) using a wireless connection such as Wi-Fi.

WLAN (wireless local area network): A LAN in which a mobile user can connect to a LAN through a wireless connection. IEEE 802.11 is a popular standard for wireless LANs.

XG Communication: Stands for next generation (XG), a program created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. forces face unique spectrum access issues in each country in which they operate, due to competing civilian or government users of national spectrum.

ZigBee: Popular name for the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for an extremely low power, and low bit rate wireless PAN technology, Zigbee is designed for wireless automation and other lower data tasks, such as smart home automation and remote monitoring.