Glossary Of Wireless And Mobile Industry Terms

We have pulled together some of the well know terms used in the industry to help you when searching for telecoms jobs, though this is by no means a comprehensive list.

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This is the protocol used for PAN’s or Personal Area Networks. They have a small range of just a few metres, as it is designed for moving and transferring data from one handheld device or PC to another.

This stands for Digitally Enhanced Cordless Technology and is a European protocol for cordless phones, based on TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access). This technology has been around for quite some time and has been very successful, with hundreds of millions of DECT cordless phones sold.

Wi-Fi (short for "wireless fidelity") is a term for certain types of wireless local area network (WLAN) that use specifications in the 802.11 family.

Wi-Fi has gained acceptance in many businesses, agencies, schools and homes as an alternative to a wired LAN. Many airports, hotels and fast-food facilities offer public access to Wi-Fi networks. These locations are known as hot spots. Many charge a daily or hourly rate for access, but some are free. An interconnected area of hot spots and network access points is known as a hot zone.

Wi-Fi networks are susceptible to people gaining unauthorised access, though this can be overcome by enabling the wireless encryption facility, WEP.

WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless industry coalition whose members organised to advance IEEE 802.16 standards for broadband wireless access (BWA) networks. WiMax 802.16 technology is expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connections. WiMax also has a range of up to 30 miles, presenting provider networks with a viable wireless last mile solution.

Wireless is a term used to describe telecommunications in which electromagnetic waves (rather than some form of wire) carry the signal over part of, or the entire communication path. Examples of wireless applications include:-

  • Mobile phones and pagers -- provide connectivity for portable and mobile applications, both personal and business
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) -- allows drivers of cars and trucks, captains of boats and ships, and pilots of aircraft to ascertain their location anywhere on earth
  • Cordless computer peripherals -- the cordless mouse is a common example; keyboards and printers can also be linked to a computer via wireless
  • Cordless telephone sets -- these are limited-range devices, not to be confused with cell phones
  • Home-entertainment-system control boxes -- the VCR control and the TV channel control are the most common examples; some hi-fi sound systems and FM broadcast receivers also use this technology
  • Remote garage-door openers -- one of the oldest wireless devices in common use by consumers; usually operates at radio frequencies
  • Two-way radios -- this includes Amateur and Citizens Radio Service, as well as business, marine and military communications
  • Baby monitors -- these devices are simplified radio transmitter/receiver units with limited range
  • Satellite television -- allows viewers in almost any location to select from hundreds of channels
  • Wireless LANs or local area networks -- provide flexibility and reliability for business computer users

Wireless technology is rapidly evolving and is playing an increasing role in the lives of people throughout the world. In addition, ever-larger numbers of people are relying on the technology directly or indirectly. More specialised examples of wireless communications and control include:

  • Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) -- a digital mobile telephone system used in Europe and other parts of the world; the de facto wireless telephone standard in Europe
  • General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) -- a packet-based wireless communication service that provides continuous connection to the Internet for mobile phone and computer users
  • Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE) -- a faster version of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) wireless service
  • Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) -- a broadband, packet-based system offering a consistent set of services to mobile computer and phone users no matter where they are located in the world
  • Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) -- a set of communication protocols to standardise the way that wireless devices, such as cellular telephones and radio transceivers can be used for Internet access
  • i-Mode -- the world's first "smart phone" for Web browsing, first introduced in Japan; provides color and video over telephone sets

Wireless can be divided into:

  • Fixed wireless -- the operation of wireless devices or systems in homes and offices, and in particular, equipment connected to the Internet via specialised modems
  • Mobile wireless -- the use of wireless devices or systems aboard motorised, moving vehicles; examples include the automotive mobile phone and PCS (personal communications services)
  • Portable wireless -- the operation of autonomous, battery-powered wireless devices or systems outside the office, home, or vehicle; examples include handheld cell phones and PCS units
  • IR wireless -- the use of devices that convey data via IR (infrared) radiation; employed in certain limited-range communications and control systems

Two Way Radio
Radio technology forms the basis of most mobile and wireless communications, though one of the main differentiators is it’s a simple ‘push to talk’ system, designed for short conversations where spontaneity is key. Therefore, if you are working remotely as part of a team or group, radio is better than a mobile phone, where you have to dial a number before you can talk, or arrange for a group call. With radio, everyone on the network can hear each other. Analogue radio has been around for a long time and has been superseded by digital two way radio, which has better sound quality and a higher bandwidth. The higher bandwidth means more applications can be delivered and is used increasingly by the military, police and emergency services. The de-facto standard for digital two way radio in Europe is TETRA, whilst P25 is used more widely in the US as it has advantages over wider ranges.

Another advance has been the integration of two way radio applications into mobile phones. This is known as Push over Cellular, or PoC. Nextel in the US is a good example of a network provider making this application available for business.

Global System for Mobile communications, the second generation digital technology originally developed for Europe but which now has in excess of 71 per cent of the world market. Initially developed for operation in the 900MHz band and subsequently modified for the 850, 1800 and 1900MHz bands. GSM originally stood for Groupe Speciale Mobile, the CEPT committee which began the GSM standardisation process

The first generation of analogue mobile phone technology

The second generation of mobile phone technology, which is digital and includes GSM and CDMA technologies that have been around since the 1990’s

This is the next generation of digital mobile phones also known as GPRS. These phones were the first WAP enabled phones, giving access to the internet, though user experience was poor.

3G includes capabilities and features such as:

  • Enhanced multimedia (voice, data, video, and remote control).
  • Usability on all popular modes (cellular telephone, e-mail, paging, fax, videoconferencing, and Web browsing).
  • Broad bandwidth and high speed (upwards of 2 Mbps).
  • Roaming capability throughout Europe, Japan, and North America.

While 3G is generally considered applicable mainly to mobile wireless, it is also relevant to fixed wireless and portable wireless. A 3G system should be operational from any location on, or over, the earth's surface, including use in homes, businesses, government offices, medical establishments, the military, personal and commercial land vehicles, private and commercial watercraft and marine craft, private and commercial aircraft (except where passenger use restrictions apply), portable (pedestrians, hikers, cyclists, campers), and space stations and spacecraft.

3G offers the potential to keep people connected at all times and in all places, which opens up the potential for new revenue streams. However, 3G is being challenged by other high-speed wireless technologies, especially WiMax and the ability to roam between different kinds of wireless networks.

The current status of mobile wireless communications, as of July 2007, is a mix of 2nd and 3rd generation technologies.

4G is the broadband mobile communications that will supersede 3G. Standards bodies and carriers have not yet concretely defined or agreed upon what exactly 4G will be. However, it is expected that end-to-end IP and high-quality streaming video will be among 4G's distinguishing features. Fourth generation networks are likely to use a combination of Wi-Fi & Wi-Max.


5th generation wireless systems, abbreviated 5G, are improved wireless network technologies deploying in 2018 and later, although it was already in use in South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The 3GPP groups definition is the one most widely used, although no one is in agreement on the speeds that can be delivered. It could be 10 Gbps, or less. It will encompass connectivity for the IoT and radio communications.

A chipset is a group of integrated circuits (microchips) that can be used together to serve a single function and are therefore manufactured and sold as a unit. For example, one chipset might combine all the microchips needed to serve as the communications controller between a processor and memory and other devices in a computer.

BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) is Qualcomm's open source application development platform for wireless devices equipped for code division multiple access (CDMA) technology. BREW makes it possible for developers to create portable applications that will work on any handsets equipped with CDMA chipsets.

BREW is competing for wireless software market share with J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), a similar platform from Sun Microsystems. The initial version of BREW is solely for CDMA networks; later versions could be enabled for time division multiple access (TDMA) and Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) networks.

Operating System
An operating system (sometimes abbreviated as "OS") is the program that, after being initially loaded into the mobile phone or PC by a boot program, manages all the other programs. The other programs are called applications or application programs. The application programs make use of the operating system by making requests for services through a defined application program interface (API). In addition, users can interact directly with the operating system through a user interface such as a command language or a graphical user interface (GUI).

An operating system performs these services for applications:

  • In a multitasking operating system where multiple programs can be running at the same time, the operating system determines which applications should run in what order and how much time should be allowed for each application before giving another application a turn.
  • It manages the sharing of internal memory among multiple applications.
  • It handles input and output to and from attached hardware devices, such as hard disks, printers and dial-up ports.
  • It sends messages to each application or interactive user (or to a system operator) about the status of operation and any errors that may have occurred.
  • It can offload the management of what are called batch jobs (for example, printing) so that the initiating application is freed from this work.
  • On computers that can provide parallel processing, an operating system can manage how to divide the program so that it runs on more than one processor at a time.

Mobile managers face a tough choice when weighing which mobile platform or operating system to deploy to mobilise the workforce. There's BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian, Linux and J2ME developed by Sun Microsystems.

CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) refers to any of several protocols used in so-called second-generation (2G) and third-generation (3G) wireless communications. As the term implies CDMA is a form of multiplexing which allows numerous signals to occupy a single transmission channel, optimizing the use of available bandwidth. The technology is used in ultra-high-frequency (UHF) mobile telephone and radio systems in the 800-MHz and 1.9-GHz bands.

TDMA (time division multiple access) is a technology used in digital mobile telephone communication that divides each mobile channel into three time slots in order to increase the amount of data that can be carried.

TDMA is used in the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), Digital-American Mobile Phone Service (D-AMPS), and Personal Digital Cellular (PDC). Each of these systems implements TDMA in somewhat different and potentially incompatible ways. An alternative multiplexing scheme to FDMA with TDMA is CDMA (code division multiple access), which takes the entire allocated frequency range for a given service and multiplexes information for all users across the spectrum range at the same time.

FDMA (frequency division multiple access) is the division of the frequency band allocated for wireless cellular telephone communication into 30 channels, each of which can carry a voice conversation or, with digital service, carry digital data. FDMA is a basic technology in the analog Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS), the most widely-installed cellular phone system installed in North America. With FDMA, each channel can be assigned to only one user at a time. FDMA is also used in the Total Access Communication System (TACS).

VoIP (voice over IP) is an IP telephony term for a set of facilities used to manage the delivery of voice over the Internet. VoIP involves sending voice information in digital form in packet form rather than by using the traditional circuit-switching protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). A major advantage of VoIP and Internet telephony is that it avoids the tolls charged by ordinary telephone service. VoIP is being used in wireless applications, such as within TETRA networks, in order to deliver low cost communication solutions.

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