A Glossary of Cell Phone Terms and Definitions
Analog, digital, broadband, GSM – these terms and many
more like it are verbally thrown at you by salespeople trying to get you to buy
their cell phone products. How can you make an intelligent decision when your
head’s been filled with gobbledygook? Have no fear – help is on its way!
Below, you’ll find a glossary of cell phone terms and definitions – all you’ll
need to know to help you make an informative buying decision.
- Access Fee
An access fee is charged by the local telephone companies to all telephone
customers for the right to connect with a local phone network. Cellular phone
users pay this fee along with a 3% federal telephone excise tax.
- Activation Fee
The activation fee is the initial set up fee to turn on a cell phone so that it
can operate within the selected carrier network.
Airtime, or the time spent talking on a cellular telephone, consists of the
total airtime used making both incoming and outgoing calls.
Built in the 1980's, analog technology allows a cell phone to transmit by
sending voice, video, and data signals. Analog is a method of modulating radio
signals so that they can transmit voice or data information.
An antenna is a device used for transmitting, sending and receiving radio
- Automatic Call Delivery
Automatic call deliver permits a cellular phone to receive incoming calls, even
The band is a Range of radio frequencies between two defined limits which are
used in wireless communications.
Bluetooth is the name given to a radio technology making transmission of signals
over short distances between telephones, computers and other devices, like
household appliances, without the use of wires.
Broadband refers to communications medium that uses wide-bandwidth channels for
sending and receiving large amounts of data, video or voice information.
The carrier is the company that provides wireless telecommunications services,
using equipment, to transmit the frequencies upon which the cell phone calls,
signals and data are carried.
CDMA is an acronym for Code Division Multiple Access. CDMA technology is a
multiple access technique, using sequenced code to divide traffic channels
within the same radio channels.
A cell is the basic geographic unit of a cellular system and the basis for the
generic industry term "cellular.” A city or county is divided into small
"cells," each of which is equipped with a low-powered radio
transmitter/receiver. By controlling the transmission power and the radio
frequencies assigned from one cell to another, a computer at the Mobile
Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) monitors the movement and transfers the phone
call to another cell and another radio frequency as needed.
- Coverage Area
The coverage area is the area which a wireless network company offers service
for their cell phone subscribers.
Information represented by non-continuous values or signals sent between cell
phones is referred to as digital.
- Dual Band
A wireless phone which is capable of operating on two different frequencies is
known as dual band.
- Dual Mode
A wireless device that can be operated on analog or digital transmission
networks is said to be in dual mode.
Encryption is a method of encoding data for security.
The FCC is the Federal Communications Commission, the Government agency
responsible for regulating telecommunications in the United States, located in
Though not available in all cities, this system allows you to roam in other
calling areas, cells, or area codes, and have your calls automatically forwarded
The frequency of a signal is determined by the number of times a wave-like radio
signal changes from the very positive to the very negative charge per second.
GHZ is a commonly-used acronym for GigaHertz. One GigaHertz is equal to a
- GSM or Global Standard For Mobile
GSM is a digital communications standard for cell phones, used in over 60
Hertz expresses cycle frequency.
- Home Coverage Area
One may make cellular calls without incurring long distance or roaming charges
if they’re situated within their home coverage area
- Interconnection Fee
An interconnection fee is charged if a wireless call is routed through a
- Off-Peak Hours
Off-peak hours are the hours cheaper hours, such as after the business day and
during weekends when the wireless networks have less transmission.
- Peak Hours
Peak hours are the most expensive hours, such as during the business day when
wireless networks have the most transmission.
- Personal Identification Number, or PIN
Your PIN number is used together with SIM card technology to place calls using
prepaid cell phones.
- Prepaid Cellular
Prepaid cellular is a payment method often used by people with a specified
budget, allowing them to pay for cellular service minutes in advance.
Protocol refers to the special set of rules for communicating that the
transmitting receivers use in a telecommunication connection when they send
signals back and forth.
When you use a cellular phone outside of your cellular or PCS company's service
area, your said to be roaming.
Satellites orbit above the earth and send and receive signals sent by the
- Standby Time
Standby time is the length of time that a cell phone is completely ready to send
or receive calls, but is not being used in a call.
A subscriber is a user of wireless service bought from a service provider.
- Talk Time
Talk time is the length of time a person can talk on the cell phone without
recharging the battery, usually expressed in minutes.
TDMA is the acronym for Time Division Multiple Accesses, referring to a digital
transmission format used for D-AMPS and GSM format.
- Termination Charges
Termination charges are made when a cell phone call is completed by a different
UMTS is the acronym for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System.
Voice-activated dialling allows the user to dial a telephone number by speaking.
- Voice Recognition
Voice recognition allows cell phones to be operated by spoken words.
- Vibrating Alert
A vibrating alert is a cell phone feature whereby a vibration mechanism alerts a
user of an incoming call, as opposed to an audible ring.
WAP stands for Wireless Application Protocol. WAP is an open, global
specification that empowers mobile users with wireless devices to easily access
and interact with information and services instantly.
A watt is a basic unit of power. The formula is: voltage multiplied by the
WCDMA is Wideband CDMA. This is the technology for wideband wireless access
supporting 3G cell phone services, and allows very high-speed multimedia
services like Internet access and videoconferencing.
- Wireless Data
Wireless data allows you to send digital information on a cellular phone.
- Wireless Internet
Wireless Internet grants access to the World Wide Web or Internet e-mail via
- Wireless Provider
A wireless provider provides communication services to cell phones, PDA's or wireless web modems via a wireless network.
WFM, or Wireless Message Format, sends data through wireless means to mobile
So there you have it. Now you’re informed. Now you’re educated. Now you’re qualified to make the best decision for you
in choosing a cell phone. This glossary of cell phone terms and definitions has
provided you with all the information you need to make a qualified choice in
cell phones. Now you can face that salesperson with the ammunition you need to
fire a fully-loaded gun and get exactly what you need! Go for it!
About The Author
Gareth Marples is a successful freelance writer providing tips and advice for consumers purchasing cellular phone associate programs, e-commerce hosting plans and long distance rates plans. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.
The "Glossary of Cell Phone Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.
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