Industry Definitions

1996 Telecommunications Act

Legislation designed to spur competition among wireless and wire line carriers. Signed into law by President Clinton Feb. 8, 1996.

3G (Third Generation)

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. In early July, the ITU received 10 proposals for 3G systems and is currently holding a series of meetings to evaluate the specifications.


The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers standard for wireless local area network interoperability.

Adaptive array antennas

A type of advanced smart antenna technology that continually monitors a received signal and dynamically adapts signal patterns to optimize wireless system performance. The arrays use signal processing algorithms to adapt to user movement, changes in the radio-frequency environment and multipath and co channel interference.

Adaptive power control

Technique employed by wireless infrastructure systems that lowers the power of a signal in a cell site whenever the site detects that the user's phone is close to the source of the signal. This saves power in the phone, too, but the cell site tells the phone to lower its power, thus saving battery life.

Adjacent channel interference

Signal impairment to one frequency due to presence of another signal on a nearby frequency.

AIN (advanced intelligent network):

Introduced by AT&T Network Systems in 1991. Enables service providers to define, test and introduce new multimedia messaging, PCS and cell routing.

Air interface

The standard operating system of a wireless network; technologies include AMPS, TDMA, CDMA and GSM.


A metallic rod that typically extends from a wireless phone or cell site from which the electrical signal that is transmitted emanates from. Cell sites might have different antennas for transmitting and receiving. Wireless phones might have either small, fixed antennas (called "stubbies") or retractable antennas. Newer phone models have "intennas," which are antennas that are not visible to the user because they are housed completely inside the phone unit.


A metallic rod that typically extends from a wireless phone or cell site from which the electrical signal that is transmitted emanates from. Cell sites might have different antennas for transmitting and receiving. Wireless phones might have either small, fixed antennas (called "stubbies") or retractable antennas. Newer phone models have "intennas," which are antennas that are not visible to the user because they are housed completely inside the phone unit.


Average revenue per user. One indicator of wireless carrier progress, generally divulged quarterly.

B-Band cellular

In the U.S. cellular duopoly, the regional Bell operating company's cellular subsidiary.

B-CDMA (broadband code division multiple access)

A technology developed by InterDigital Communications Corp. 


In wireless technology, backhaul refers to transporting voice and data traffic from a cell site to the switch. 


A relative range of frequencies that can carry a signal without distortion on a transmission medium. Sometimes referred to as a 'pipe.' 

Base station controller

The part of the wireless system's infrastructure that controls one or multiple cell sites' radio signals, thus reducing the load on the switch. It can be viewed as a form of distributed processing. 

Base transceiver station:

(BTS): The portion of the wireless system's infrastructure that is responsible for sending and receiving the actual radio signals over the airwaves. This device takes radio signals from subscribers' phones and sends them over leased telephone lines or microwave signals to the switch. 

Bent pipe technology

Satellite technology to transmit calls from one point on Earth to a satellite and back down to another point. 

Bidding credits

Discount sometimes given to small businesses in FCC spectrum auctions. 


Low-earth orbit satellite system that will offer voice and data services; e.g., Iridium, Globalstar. 

Blocked calls

An uncompleted call made from a wireless phone. Calls can be blocked for numerous reasons, but this typically refers to an instance where there are insufficient channels in a cell to handle the load of calls required. When a call is attempted within that cell and no channels are available, the call is "blocked" and the subscriber hears a fast busy signal. 


The code name for a new wireless technology being developed by Ericsson Inc Intel Corp Nokia Corp. and Toshiba. The technology enables data connections between electronic devices such as desktop computers, wireless phones, electronic organizers and printers in the 2.4 GHz range. Bluetooth would replace cable or infrared connections for such devices. 


Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless. An open-platform for wireless applications development, device configuration, application distribution, billing and payment, developed and licensed by Qualcomm.

Broadband PCS

Synonymous with personal communications services created in the A- through F-Block auctions and used for voice and data. 

BTA (basic trading area)

Usually composed of several contiguous counties. BTAs are a service area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC. There are 493 BTAs in the United States. 


The process by which independent firms find and build antenna sites to meet a carrier's specifications. 

CAD (computer-aided dispatch)

Computer systems to help dispatch personnel and vehicles, commonly used by public-safety agencies.

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 wire line carriers to enable eavesdropping equipment use in digital networks.

Call Diversion

The term used for call forwarding on a GSM system.

CDMA (code division multiple access)

A spread spectrum air interface technology used in some digital cellular, personal communications services and other wireless networks.


Code division multiple access. CDMA2000 refers to current-generation, digital wireless network technology.

CDMA2000 1X

Code division multiple access. CDMA2000 1X is one type of IP-based, so-called 'third-generation' wireless technology; enabling wireless data transfer speeds of up to 144 kilobits per second.

cdmaOne (code division multiple access)

The IS-95 CDMA standard developed by Qualcomm Inc.; a word coined by the CDMA Development Group.

CDPD (cellular digital packet data)

An enhanced system overlay for transmitting and receiving data over cellular networks.


A geographic area within a wireless system that is covered by the signal sent and received by the transmitter and receiver equipment located within that area. Typically referred to as a "cell site," these are represented by hexagonal shapes by engineers when planning systems. That shape was originally derived from the honeycomb of bees, within which each single unit is referred to as a cell.

Cell site

The location where the wireless antenna and network communications equipment is placed.

Cell splitting

The processes of creating more coverage and capacity in a geographic area by having more than one cell cover the same area that a single cell originally did. Each cell then covers a smaller area, with lower power, and thus offers the ability to reuse frequencies more times in a larger geographic coverage area such as a city or MTA.


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.


The name given to the original concept of dividing a large geographic area into smaller coverage areas called cells. Each cell handles calls on different channels and communicates with the central processing unit, called a switch, to facilitate the handing-off of calls from one cell to another as a user moves through the system. Cellular is currently used in hundreds of countries worldwide and boasts more than 200 million subscribers.


Two radio frequencies, one used for sending and the other for receiving.

Citizen Alert Program

Program in which residents of a community patrol streets and school areas with wireless phones and notify police of suspicious or illegal activity.


A program of the CTIA Foundation providing wireless phones to schools for teacher use and student Internet access

CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier)

A new entrant providing local wire line phone service.

Click-box bidding

A method of bidding for FCC spectrum licenses in which the participant does not enter a bid amount but simply clicks on the computer screen to enter an amount shown. The method was first introduced in the auction of upper channel 800 MHz licenses in the fall of 1997.

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.


The use of two or more different brand names on a single product, such as wireless phones bearing the name and logo of both the manufacturer and wireless carrier.


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.

COLT (cell site on light truck)

A mobile site on a vehicle placed at a location to fill in or increase coverage.


Semiconductors and smaller elements used in handsets and infrastructure equipment.

Control channel

Logic channel carrying network information rather than the actual voice or data messages transmitted over the network.

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.

Covered SMR

A subset of specialized mobile radio operators subject to a particular set of regulations. A definition developed in December 1997 during the implementation of E911 regulations encompasses operators whose networks use intelligent switching capabilities and offer seamless hand-off to customers. An earlier, broader definition, still applicable in other contexts, encompasses operators that provided two-way, real-time voice services across geographic license areas in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands.

COW (cell site on wheels)

A mobile site placed at a location to fill in or increase coverage.

CPE (consumer premise equipment)

Telephones, PBXs and other communications devices located in the home or office.

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.


Interference in a wireless communications system that stems from other conversations in nearby cells using the same channel.

CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association)

A trade group representing cellular, PCS and enhanced specialized mobile radio carriers.

D-AMPS (digital AMPS)

Used by Ericsson Inc. to describe IS-136 time division multiple access technology.

DCMA (dynamic channel multicarrier architecture)

A technology developed by ComSpace Corp. used for specialized mobile radio networks that can configure the number and bandwidth of voice and data channels based on a carrier's requirements.

DCS 1800 (digital cellular system):

A global system for mobile communications-based PCS network used outside of the U.S.

Dead spot

An area within a wireless communications system where there is no coverage. This can occur because an cell site cannot be located close enough to the area without coverage, or because two signals on the same channel interfere with each other, causing them to "phase out" the other signa

DEMS (digital electronic message service)

The FCC wants to relocate this service from 18 GHz to 24 GHz.


The newest form of wireless communications that takes all voice transmissions and converts them to computer language (zeros and ones, or "binary" language) and then reconstructs them into the original voice format at the other end. More secure than its original sibling, analog, and also relatively impervious to static or fading signals.


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


FCC proceeding on domestic-international satellite service consolidation.


The portion of a telecommunications path from a satellite to the ground. Also referred to as the reverse link.

Drive test

A method of taking signal strength measurements in a cellular coverage area.

DSP (digital signal processor)

A specialized microprocessor that performs mathematical operations on a data stream in real time to produce a second (modified) data stream.

Dual band

Describes a handset that works on 800 MHz cellular and 1900 MHz PCS frequencies.

Dual mode

Describes a handset that works on both analog and digital networks.

Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF)

The sounds made by a phone's keypad when a button is pressed. Each button emits a sound that is actually the combination of two specific sounds in order to minimize the possibility of an incorrect signal being received by the equipment listening to the press of the buttons.

E911 (enhanced 911)

911 service becomes E911 when automatic number identification and automatic location information is provided to the 911 operator.

EA license (economic area license)

Geographically defined licenses based on 176 "economic areas" delineated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce. EAs can be grouped into 52 larger "major economic areas" or 12 "regional economic area groupings."

ECO test (effective competitive opportunities test)

Developed to determine whether U.S. carriers enjoy effective competition in a foreign carrier's market before granting U.S. market access to that foreign carrier. Following the Basic Telecom Agreement signed by World Trade Organization members in February, 1997, the FCC decided not to apply the ECO test to WTO members.

EDACS (enhanced digital access communications system)

A private radio or specialized mobile radio network designed by Ericsson Inc.

EDGE (enhanced data rates for global (or GSM) evolution)

An advanced technology for GSM and TDMA networks that may offer wireless data access speeds of up to 384 kilobits per second in end-user devices.

Electronic assistant

Generic term for telecommunications access systems based on voice-activation or voice-response technology, enabling the user to dial phone numbers or send and receive information such as voice messages or other content. Systems may be network based, such as Wildfire Communications Inc.'s Wildfire, or offered via a service bureau, such as General Magic Inc.'s Portico or Motorola Inc.'s planned Myosphere.


The process of "scrambling" a message such as a digital phone signal to prevent it from being read by unauthorized parties.

ERMES (European radio messaging system)

A paging system used in Europe and other parts of the world.

ESMR (enhanced specialized mobile radio)

Digital SMR networks, usually referring to Nextel Communications Inc., which provides dispatch, voice, messaging and data services.

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.

ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute)

A standards-setting body in Europe.


Certified frequency advisory committee, also known as a frequency coordinator.


A method of making a network system or a computer resistant to software errors, hardware problems or power failures.

FCC (Federal Communications Commission)

The federal agency responsible for commercial and private spectrum management.

Feature Group D

Local exchange carrier network service that, among other things, lets public-safety dispatch offices receive a 10-digit data stream, including the full callback number, alongside wireless 911 calls. Offered as a way by which wireless carriers can meet FCC enhanced 911 rules and dispatch offices can overcome their current bandwidth limits.

FHMA (frequency hopping multiple access)

A digital technology used in Geotek Communications Inc.'s specialized mobile radio network.

Flash memory

A component used for memory that can retain information without power.

Flash ROM

A class of Electrically Alterable Programmable Read Only Memory (EAPROM), the contents of which can be altered in the field, normally without disassembly of the product containing the memory. Maintains data in absence of power.


A Motorola Inc.-licensed protocol that gives carriers more capacity on their networks and faster transmission times. Also refers to the FLEX family of protocols: FLEX, InFLEXion and ReFLEX.

FNPRM (further notice of proposed rulemaking)

A document issued by the FCC to spur additional comment on a future commission action.

Foliage attenuation

Reductions in signal strength or quality due to signal absorption by trees or foliage obstructions in the signal's line-of-sight path. For example, 800 MHz systems are seldom deployed in forested areas. Pine needles-nearly the same length as 800 MHz antennas-can negatively affect signal reception in that band.

Forward looking

An action that ignores the past, particularly previous investment. Often used regarding FCC efforts to set interconnection terms; its forward-looking price-setting method ignored phone companies' historic network costs and was struck down by a federal appeals court.

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.

FRS (Family Radio Service)

A very low power, short-range two-way radio service in the 460 MHz band.


The radio term applied to transmissions such as telephone calls that allow talking and listening at the same time by using two frequencies to create one channel. Each frequency is used solely for either transmitting or receiving.

FWA (fixed wireless access)

Also known as wireless local loop.


Ground-based link to a mobile satellite service network.

Geostationary orbit satellite system

A communications system with satellites in geosynchronous orbits 22,300 miles above the Earth. These satellites appear stationary because they move at the same rate as the Earth's rotation.


Maintaining a fixed orbit, about 24,000 miles above the Earth.

Gigahertz (GHz)

One billion radio waves, or cycles, per second. Equal to one thousand Megahertz.

GLONASS (global navigation system)

A Russian satellite location technology similar to global positioning system.

GMPCS (global mobile personal communications services)

A term that refers to future mobile satellite systems that will provide wireless phone service anywhere in the world.

GPRS (general packet radio services)

A 2.5-generation technology (being implemented in GSM networks) that may offer wireless data access speeds of up to 144 kilobits per second in end-user devices.

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.

GSM (global system for mobile communications)

A digital cellular or PCS network used throughout the world.


An enhanced version of global system for mobile communications technology that will be developed to meet IMT-2000 capabilities.


Global system for mobile communications for railway networks. GSM-R uses standard base station and switching infrastructure to provide fast data transmission for railways.

GUI (graphical user interface)

A computing term referring to an operating system or environment that displays options on the screen as graphical symbols, icons or photographs.


The radio term applied to transmissions, which allow two-way communications over a single frequency through the use of a push-to-talk button that opens and closes the communication pathway over that frequency.


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

Hertz (Hz)

A unit of measurement of one cycle per second, or one radio wave passing one point in one second of time. Named in honor of Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer of the theory of radio waves.

HLR (home location register)

A database residing in a local wireless network that checks the identity of a local subscriber.

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.


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.

Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS)

The commercial form of mobile telephone service preceding cellular that allowed users to place and receive their own calls through the use of a dial or keypad on the telephone. Prior service (MTS) required an operator's intervention to actually place or receive a call.


The International Telecommunication Union's name for the new third generation global standard for mobile telecommunications.

IMTA (International Mobile Telecommunications Association)

A trade group serving specialized mobile radio and public access mobile radio carriers around the world.


The narrowband PCS technology developed by Motorola Inc. that allows for voice paging. Carriers such as Paging Network Inc have adopted it. and Conxus Communications Inc.


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

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.

IS-136 (Interim Standard)

The latest generation of the digital standard time division multiple access technology.

IS-41 (Interim Standard)

The network standard that allows all switches to exchange information about subscribers.

IS-54 (Interim Standard)

The first generation of the digital standard time division multiple access technology.

IS-661 (Interim Standard)

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 code division multiple access and time division multiple access technologies. The company says IS-661 reduces infrastructure costs and allows higher data speeds than mainstream GSM or TDMA platforms.

IS-95 (Interim Standard)

The standard for code division multiple access.

ITA (Industrial Telecommunications Association)

A Washington, D.C. trade group serving private wireless licensees such as airlines and oil companies.

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.

Java 2 Micro Edition (aka J2ME)

Java 2 Micro Edition is a mobile platform enabling carriers to offer subscribers downloadable applications on wireless phones. Developed by Sun Microsystems, J2ME enables developers to write a single application program that is compatible with several types of devices. The platform directly competes with BREW -- Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless -- backed by Qualcomm.


Radio spectrum in the 18 GHz to 31 GHz range used by satellite communications systems.

Kilohertz (KHz)

One thousand radio waves, or cycles, per second.


Radio spectrum in the 10.9 GHz to 17 GHz range used by satellite communications systems.


Low bit rate

LEO (low-earth orbit)

A mobile communications satellite between 700 and 2,000 kilometers above the earth.


A service of the PCIA Foundation that donates pagers to individuals awaiting organ donor transplants.

Little LEO

A low-earth orbiting satellite system primarily providing data services; e.g., Leo One, Orbcomm.

LMCC (Land Mobile Communications Council)

A trade group of frequency coordinators and associations serving private users and commercial operators.

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.

LSGAC (Local-State Governmental Advisory Committee)

An FCC-established group that is working on an antenna-sighting solution. The LSGAC will advise carriers and communities on antenna sighting.

Medium-Earth orbit satellite system

A communications system with satellites in orbits about 10,000 kilometers above the Earth. Such systems include those planned by Odyssey Telecommunications International Inc., scheduled to launch in 2000, and ICO Global Communications, launching in 1998.

Megahertz (MHz)

One million radio waves, or cycles, per second. Equal to one thousand Kilohertz.

Microcell (also Picocell and Nanocell)

A cell having a very small coverage area, which could be as small as one floor of an office building, one part of an airline terminal or one corner of a busy intersection. These cells are typically used where coverage and/or capacity are strained and the use of a normal sized cell would cause interference or be impractical to install. These cells transmit with extremely low power outputs.


A technology that directs the cellular signal into an isolated spot, leaving broader coverage to conventional cell sites.

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 wire line networks. The number differs from the electronic serial number, which is the unit number assigned by a phone manufacturer. MINs and ESNs can be electronically checked to help prevent fraud.

MIPS (millions of instructions per second)

Used in defining digital signal processing capabilities.

Modem pools

Racks of modems for more reliable cellular data communications.


Moratoria (the singular form is moratorium) are waiting periods on the issuance of construction permits by local zoning authorities. Moratoria are typically imposed to allow time for localities to develop or refine ordinances dealing with antenna sighting issues. However, they have been used by some localities as tools to delay or block the rollout and/or expansion of wireless networks. Such usage has resulted in lawsuits by carriers.

MOU (minutes of use)

A measurement of wireless subscriber activity directly affecting revenue.

MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)

Standard set by the International Telecommunications Union for Telephony (ITU-T).

MSA (metropolitan statistical area)

The coverage area of a city as in a cellular network. A U.S. Census Bureau term.

MTA (major trading area)

MTAs are usually composed of several contiguous basic trading areas. A service area designed by Rand McNally and adopted by the FCC. There are 51 MTAs in the United States.

MTSO (mobile telephone switching office)

The electronic 'middleman' between cell sites and the public switched telephone network, processing traffic back and forth.

Multipath propagation

Signal distortion resulting when part of a transmitted radio-frequency signal is reflected from nearby surfaces on its way to a receiver. The 'ghosting' effect on television screens illustrates the multipath phenomenon.

Mutual compensation

The concept that carriers must pay when they terminate traffic on the networks of carriers with which they are interconnected.

Mutually exclusive applications

Two or more applications for the same spectrum use rights.

NAMPS (narrowband advanced mobile phone system)

NAMPS combines cellular voice processing with digital signaling, increasing the capacity of AMPS systems and adding functionality.

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.

Narrowband PCS

The next generation of paging networks, including two-way, acknowledgment and 'wireless answering machine' paging.

NCIC (National Crime Information Center)

A national database of crime and criminal information operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

NENA (National Emergency Numbering Association)

NENA's mission is to foster the technological advancement, availability and implementation of a universal emergency telephone number system.

NIMBY (not in my back yard)

Public sentiment that opposes local placement of 'undesirable' facilities such as antenna towers or toxic waste dumps.

NOI (notice of inquiry)

Often the predecessor to an FCC rulemaking, the NOI takes public comment on a general topic. For instance, an NOI would ask 'Do interconnection rates need regulation?' The subsequent proposed rulemaking, if any, would offer a specific regulatory scheme and again be put to public comment.


Non-Volatile Random Access Memory. RAM that contains a constant power source. Maintains data without the presence of external power (to the end of life of the internal source.

NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration)

The federal government's spectrum management authority.

OBRA 93 (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993)

First legislation authorizing the FCC to auction spectrum.

On circulation

A common way the FCC commissioners decide items. An item is circulated among the commissioners, allowing them to vote without having to come together as a group, which under federal law would necessitate a public meeting.


A fixed circular, elliptical or other path around the Earth.

OTASP (over-the-air service provisioning)

The ability of carriers to add new types of services to a customer's handset by using the wireless network instead of requiring the customer to bring in the phone for reprogramming.

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.

PACS (personal access communications system)

An extended personal cordless technology developed by Hughes Network Systems Inc. and Bellcore, planned for implementation by C-Block licensee 21st Century Telesis.

PAMR (public access mobile radio)

The European designation for services similar to specialized mobile radio in the United States.


Parceling a spectrum license into two or more geographic areas.

PCIA (Personal Communications Industry Association)

A trade group representing PCS, SMR, private radio and other wireless users and carriers.

PCS (personal communications services)

A two-way, 1900 MHz digital voice, messaging and data service designed as the second generation of cellular.

Perpetual Easement

The placement of an easement on a structure or property for an indefinite amount of time.

PHS (personal handy phone system)

The extended cordless system used primarily in Japan.

PIN (personal identification number)

A code used by a mobile telephone number in conjunction with an SIM card to complete a call.


Referring to a standard developed by the U.K.'s Post Office Code Standards Advisory Group, a paging protocol.

Pool consolidation

The restructuring of 20 private land mobile services into two pools--public safety and industrial/business--during the commission's ongoing refarming proceeding.

POPs (persons of population)

Wireless industry term for the number of potential subscribers within the licensed area of a cellular or PCS system.


A federal agency voiding a local ordinance or state law, asserting that the federal government, not the state or locality, has ultimate jurisdiction on the matter.

Project 25

An APCO-sponsored project to ensure interoperability of 800 MHz trunked Public Safety communications systems produced by different manufacturers.

Project Angel

AT&T Corp.'s code name for a wireless local loop residential network.

Proportional and owned subscribers

Since many wireless carriers share certain markets in partnership with other carriers, they report subscribership for those markets in proportion to their share of the venture (e.g., their proportionate share of 10,000 subscribers in a market they share 50-50 with a partner would be 5,000). Conversely, in markets they operate solely, carriers report all of their subscribers as their own.

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 worldwide voice telephone system, also called the Bell System in the United States.

PSWAC (Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee)

The FCC group that identified the safety community's wireless needs, motivating the commission's decision to reallocate 24 megahertz currently used by broadcasters to public safety agencies.

PUC (public utility commission)

The general name for the state regulatory body charged with regulating utilities including telecommunications.

Punch list

The list of sophisticated wiretapping function that the FBI wants common carriers to provide under the 1994 digital wiretap law, but which the carriers say is too costly and may exceed the law's scope. The FCC has been asked to decide whether the industry's standard is sufficient.

Radio Common Carrier (RCC)

An independent company licensed by the FCC to provide a service to the general public that uses the radio spectrum. In the early 1980s, RCCs were also referred to as "non-wire line' companies and were afforded one of two licenses for the original cellular spectrum in each market in the United States.

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.

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.

Recon petition

Petition for reconsideration of an FCC decision.


An FCC initiative to promote more efficient use of the frequency bands below 512 MHz, allocated to private land mobile radio services.


The narrowband PCS technology developed by Motorola that allows for two-way text messaging.


The technology that denotes the proprietary two-way system implemented by SkyTel Communications Inc.


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.


Right-of-first-refusal.  Gives the individual or organization the right to buyout your Cell Site Lease at the same offer price someone else has made.

RSA (rural service area)

Designation of a non-metropolitan area covered by a cellular licensee.


The frequency spectrum near 2 GHz used for land based microwave and some mobile satellite communications.

SIM (subscriber identity module)

Synonymous with smart card.


A radio technology that allows only one-way communication. The FM radio in your car, or your TV set, could be viewed as simplex devices.


A signaling technique that broadcasts the same signal over each site in a network.

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.

Smart card

A plastic card containing important data about a person's identity to allow access to a network or premises. Also, a card containing subscriber information, often inserted into GSM phones for roaming to different countries.

SMR (specialized mobile radio)

A dispatch radio and interconnect service for businesses. Covers frequencies in the 220 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands.

SMS (short message service)

Electronic messages on a wireless network.

SMT (surface mount technology)

A surface mount device is a component, either active or passive, having no separate leads but which is part of the component body to permit direct mounting on a printed circuit board.

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.

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. Allocation, typically accomplished in years-long FCC proceedings, tracks new technology development. However, 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.

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.

Spectrum cap

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

Spectrum etiquette

Scheme under which various brands of equipment for unlicensed-band communications can share the same frequencies. For example, a 'listen-before-talk' etiquette would have all devices first sense if a channel is clear.

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.

SRAM (static random access memory)

A memory technology used in pagers and handsets. So named because it requires no refresh cycle, as required by dynamic RAM (DRAM) and therefore consumes less power. SRAM maintains data only while power is applied.

SS7 (Signaling System 7)

An international high speed signaling backbone for the public switched telephone network.

Stratospheric platform

Blimp-like platform for wireless telephone service in urban areas.

Strongest signal

The concept that a wireless 911 call should be routed to the cell site with the strongest link to the phone, regardless of which carrier holds the caller as a customer. The strength of the call's setup link isn't always equal to that of the link the cell assigns for voice traffic; the latter can be weaker.

Subscriber profiling

The process of compiling subscriber usage information (such as frequency of calls, locations called to or from and monthly airtime usage), typically to identify potentially fraudulent use or to identify customers likely to terminate service.


The joint venture between Ericsson Inc., Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp. and Psion to develop new operating systems based on Psion's EPOC32 platform for small mobile devices including wireless phones or handheld personal computers.

System Identification Number (SID)

A unique number assigned to every wireless operator in the United States that is then programmed into the phones that subscriber's to that service purchase.

TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol)

Internet protocol suite developed by the U.S Department of Defense in the 1970s. TCP governs the exchange of sequential data. IP routes outgoing and recognizes incoming messages.

TDMA (time division multiple access)

A digital air interface technology used in cellular, PCS and ESMR networks.


The integration of wireless communications, vehicle monitoring systems and location devices.

Termination charges

Fees that wireless telephone companies pay to complete calls on wire line phone networks or vice versa.

TETRA (terrestrial trunked radio)

An open digital trunked radio standard defined by the European Telecommunications Standardization Institute.


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 macro cellular technology and allow global roaming. (Also see '3G.')

TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association)

A trade group representing manufacturers and suppliers of communications and information technology products. TIA is a standards-developing organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute.


The term applied to a phone that will work on 800 MHz analog, 800 MHz digital and 1900 MHz (also known as 1.9 GHz) frequencies.

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.


The lengthy process of pinning down a caller's location using radio receivers, a compass and a map.

Triple band

A network infrastructure or wireless phone designed to operate in three frequency bands.


The process of changing the Electronic Serial Number (ESN) in a single phone each time that a phone call is made, thus allowing the user to make calls and have then illegally charged to someone else's number.

UHF (Ultra high frequency)

Referring to radio channels in the 300 MHz to 3 GHz band.

ULS (Universal Licensing System)

The new Wireless Telecommunications Bureau program under which electronic filing of license applications and reports of changes to licenses create 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.

UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)

Europe's approach to standardization for third-generation cellular systems.

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.


The portion of a telecommunications path from the ground to the satellite. Also referred to as the forward link.

USAT (ultra small aperture terminal)

Satellite receives dishes for telemetry and other remote monitoring, usually smaller than VSATs.


A third-generation wireless standard proposal based on TDMA technology that was developed by the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium and is one of the 3G candidates submitted to the International Telecommunication Union by the United States.

UWCC (Universal Wireless Communications Consortium)

Industry groups supporting IS-136 time division multiple access and IS-41 wireless intelligent network technology.

VCXO (voltage-controlled crystal oscillator)

A crystal oscillator is an oscillator in which the frequency is controlled by a piezoelectric crystal. Types of crystal oscillators include voltage-controlled crystal oscillators (VCXO), temperature-compensated crystal oscillators (TCXO), oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXO), temperature-compensated-voltage controlled crystal oscillators (TCVCXO), oven-controlled voltage-controlled crystal oscillators (OCVCXO), microcomputer-compensated crystal oscillators (MCXO), and rubidium crystal oscillators (RbXO).

VHF (very high frequency)

Referring to radio channels in the 30 to 300 MHz band.

VLR (visitor location register)

A network database that holds information about roaming customers.

Voice activation

A feature that allows a subscriber to dial a phone by spoken commands.

Voice recognition

The capability for cellular phones, PCs and other communications devices to be activated or controlled by voice commands.

VSAT (very small aperture terminal)

A small satellite dish installed at end-user locations.

W-CDMA (wideband code division multiple access)

The third generation standard offered to the International Telecommunication Union by GSM proponents.

WCS (wireless communications services)

Frequencies in the 2.3 GHz band designated for general fixed wireless use.


Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b, is a leading wireless networking standard and operates in the unlicensed spectrum at 2.4 GHz, which is the same frequency band used by cordless phones, microwave ovens and Bluetooth. It uses a direct sequence spread spectrum modulation scheme.

Wi-Fi is capable of transmitting data normally at distances up to about 300 feet at a data rate of 11 megabits per second. Because the spectrum is shared with other users, the rates fall as more users log on. Security is provided by the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) specification, which is relatively easy to break


Wi-Fi5 refers to the 802.11a wireless networking standard, a technology that operates in the unlicensed 5 GHz band and can deliver data wirelessly at speeds up to 54 Mbps. Wi-Fi5 uses the same medium access controller as Wi-Fi but a different physical layer so it is not compatible.

WIN (wireless intelligent network)

The architecture of the wireless switched network that allows carriers to provide enhanced and customized services for mobile telephones.


Using the radio-frequency spectrum for transmitting and receiving voice, data and video signals for communications.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)

A protocol designed for advanced wireless devices allowing the easy transmission of data signals, particularly Internet content, to micro-browsers built into the device's software.

Wireless Internet

An RF-based service that provides access Internet e-mail and/or the World Wide Web.

Wireless IP

The packet data protocol standard for sending wireless data over the Internet.

Wireless IT (wireless information technology)

The monitoring, manipulating and troubleshooting of computer equipment through a wireless network.

Wireless LAN (local area network)

Local area network using wireless transmissions, such as radio or infrared instead of phone lines or fiber-optic cable to connect data devices.

Wireless PBX

Equipment that allows employees or customers within a building or limited area to use wireless handsets connected to an office's private branch exchange system.

WLL (wireless local loop)

A fixed service that competes with or substitutes for local wire line phone service.

World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC)

Biannual meetings of International Telecommunication Union member nations to discuss and resolve global spectrum allocation issues.

WPDA (Wireless Partnership for Donor Awareness)

The industry's effort to raise organ and tissue donor awareness.

WTO (World Trade Organization)

Intergovernmental organizations set up in 1995 to oversee the rules of international trade, thus helping smooth the flow of trade, resolve disputes and organize trade negotiations. The Geneva-based group, created as successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1997 negotiated the agreement to open trade and investment in basic telecommunications and information technology products.


A specification from the Consultative Committee on International Telephone and Telegraph on layered protocols connecting computer terminals to a public, packet-switched network.

Zulu time

Synonymous with Greenwich Meridian Time, a time designation used in satellite systems.